My childhood circulated around a few cartoons, one of which was Scooby-Doo. As an adult, it is not my cup of tea as my tastes have darkened, it has left the gang and their dog behind. Recently, I discovered the best thing the franchise ever did, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, was on Netflix, which brought me to rewatching an old favorite of mine. While some things don’t hold up for a grown man who can see some dicey flaws, it still gave me all of the nostalgic emotions I need to feel.
Fair warning, this is a straight to DVD movie from the 90s, so expect spoilers. Also, if you have never seen this classic, then shame on you.
The gang has split up after Daphne Blake (Mary Kay Bergman) has grown tired of not finding real monsters, so she and Fred Jones (Frank Welker) start-up a reality series that is like Ghosthunters, but real, which does not go according to plan. After getting a tip and gathering Scooby (Scott Innes), Norville “Shaggy” Rodgers (Billy West), and Velma Dinkley (B.J. Ward) head South to find ghouls and other horrors. A woman, Lena Dupree (Tara Strong), takes them to an island where spirits creep to the surface, and the dead begin to rise; finally, the crew meet a threat that not only makes the hottest member regret her decision, it makes fans like myself thankful for this darker turn.
The cast is small but quite strong in both its actors and characters. The chemistry between the members of Mystery Incorporated is what I remember with some of the best villains they have faced. Simone Lenoir (Adrienne Barbeau) and Lena are both intriguingly devilish. Meanwhile, you get a questionable Cajun accent from Jim Cummings as Jaques, the boat driver who helps Simone and Lena suck the life out of others with their cat rituals. I heard a mix of influences, mostly Danny Trejo, but I got used to it.
The biggest missed opportunity is to utilize Mark Hamill’s wild talents. Snakebite Scruggs is the only character who goes nowhere except for an antagonist for the sake of being an asshole who wants a catfish, yet sucks so bad he cannot catch it. Nonetheless, Luke Fisherman Skywalker is still a treat once I realized he starred in this iconic Scooby-Doo adventure.
Detective Beau Neville (Cam Clarke) is a generic suspect who turns out to be an undercover cop, but I have always liked him. He will easily fool the children, or me, a man who remembers everything in this movie except for the twist of him being one of the good guys. I just hope he bangs Velma, they had that type of chemistry.
Speaking of sex, Daphne certainly is bisexual with a weird comment when Velma is floating by tormented ghosts. She wants Fred yet has desires for her nerdy friend. Let’s get this relationship going if we ever can get anything good out of Scooby-Doo again.
Another miss that my dumb child brain paid attention to is that somehow even the confederate shamblers are good guys too. I buy the zombies not being the villains but not that. Come on, David Doi and Glenn Leopold, you two could have written it as dead Union soldiers instead of racists who betrayed our country.
I wish the climax went a little longer. It felt shortly cut with the action. An extra 15 or so minutes would leave me satisfied to see more of the zombies fight off the cats who are trying to sacrifice our heroes.
I know the music in both the shows and movies has always been cheesy, but some here hit or miss in what it is trying to achieve. Some songs hit the right mark, then others go too deep for me that takes me out of certain moments.
The art style sadly declines in future iterations, but Zombie Island still looks fantastic. It has creepy elements with its darker tones. The classic characters look fantastic, with some revisions to some of their outfits like Fred’s. The issue I ran into is the aspect ratio being so small on my TV as it is 2020, not 1998.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is everything I remember as a kid. Sure, the darkness does not hold up entirely, but it is the perfect introduction into horror or to the monster hunting gang. If only we could get more of this and less of the overly family-friendly adventures that the world is subjected to today.
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Image via Warner Home Video