09th Oct2013

‘Dear Dracula’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars (the voices of): Ray Liotta, Emilio Estevez, Nathan Gamble, Ariel Winter, Yuri Lowenthal, Marion Ross, Tara Strong, Matthew Lillard | Written by Brad Birch | Directed by Chad Van De Keere

Dear-Dracula-1

I’ll admit, when the email came through asking if I’d like to review Dear Dracula I was a little skeptical. From the synopsis and the DVD box art the film looked, for all intents and purposes, like a wannabe Hotel Transylvania. After all it features a classic movie monster in the lead character of Dracula and he even interacts with kids a la Dracula and his daughter in the aforementioned Adam Sandler flick. However Hotel Transylvania this is not… Instead we get a delightful love-letter to the monster movie characters of old, reminding us that vampires used to be scary, not sparkly!

Dear Dracula tells the story of Sam, a young monster movie buff who lives with his grandmother and whose best friend is a spider called Webby. One day, when Sam asks his grandmother for a Dracula figurine, she suggests that he write to Santa to ask for one as a Christmas gift. Sam, however, has a better idea – since Halloween is around the corner, he’s going to write to Dracula instead. Dracula is overjoyed to receive Sam’s letter and eager to meet his fan, he gives Sam the surprise of a lifetime by showing up at his house.

However, Sam quickly learns that Dracula isn’t what he used to be – he’s lost his confidence and he can’t even scare people anymore. Sam makes it his mission to help Dracula regain his mojo and learn to scare again. Dracula has a great opportunity to try his brand new skills at the neighbourhood Halloween party, where he realises that self-confidence is enough to make him as scary as he ever was. Meanwhile, Sam learns that he might not be such an outsider as he gains some new-found self-confidence of his own – with a little help from Dracula of course!

Running a brief 45 minutes, Dear Dracula is (obviously) aimed at a very young audience – even it’s “be true to yourself” message is the kind of thing normally found in kids productions, but… and this is will come as a surprise to those who write this off as a “kids movie”, there’s a lot for adults, horror fans in particular, to enjoy about the film. The voice acting is solid, and not just in the child cast – Emilio Estevez is almost unrecognisable as the voice of Dracula’s assistant Mirroe (think Frankenstein’s man-servant Igor), whilst Ray Liotta channels the spirit of Bela Lugosi for his role as the titular Dracula, really giving it his all in a role many would consider somewhat “beneath” him.

And speaking of Lugosi, Dear Dracula has a lot to say about vampires and the horror genre as a whole – lamenting modern-day interpretations of the vampire legend, in particular the likes of Twilight’s sparkly vampires; and poking fun at the likes of Saw and its gore-filled ilk, explaining that they are the reasons kids don’t scare easily these days. For a kids film the film has a lot to say to the older generation.

The CG animation isn’t Pixar quality - after all Dear Dracula doesn’t have the budget – but it does the job very well and it’s not as badly designed as some of the other kids animations that have hit DVD this year – it will certainly please those that will no doubt watch this over and over every Halloween, myself included!

A true family-friendly animation perfect for the Halloween season, Dear Dracula is out now on DVD from Kaleidoscope. Look out for the follow-up A Monster Christmas, also starring Ray Liotta, Emilio Estevez and Ariel Winter, later this month.

**** 4/5

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