Scooby Doo! Camp Scare Review

Try not to think too hard about the canon in Scooby-Doo's history.

While I was watching my screener copy of Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare, a friend bewilderingly asked if they still make Scooby-Doo cartoons after all these years. I didn't want to explain the chronology of these characters at the time, so I just said yes. I'll elaborate here. To date, there have been 11 television series and 27 movies/specials starring the hungry Great Dane with a speech impediment. Camp Scare is the 15th entry in an annual direct-to-video movies line by Warner Bros that started in the late 90's.

I have not seen all of them, but I believe I've got a handle on the primary gist of the concept.

The goal of these standalone movies is to simply return the gang to their roots. Past TV series have attempted to rejigger the concept: from teaming them up with assorted celebrities (The New Scooby Doo Movies) to giving Shaggy a mad scientist mansion (Shaggy & Scooby Doo Get a Clue!). The latest incarnation has the Mystery Machine gang living in what is supposedly the most haunted town in America (Mystery Inc.). The refreshing thing about Camp Scare and its predecessors is that it's the familiar premise of the gang on the road, rolling up into town in their anachronistic van and immediately stumbling into a mystery at hand.

Camp Scare is a mix of campfire spook stories and slasher movies, the latter so obviously inappropriate for the movie's target audience that it's a slasher where no one gets slashed. The Jason Vorhees analog in this, a cackling axe-wielding terror called The Woodsman, doesn't exactly use his axe to chop anyone up. He just carries it around to scare people to leave the campsite. Naturally, it just so happens that Scooby and the gang have signed up to be counselors at this camp for the summer. But these teens don't do drugs or have sex, so they should be okay, right? Although there are plenty of Daphne, Velma and other girls doing pin-up poses in bikinis near the camp's lake, so you can forgive a maniac for mistaking this for Crystal Lake.

It'd be a neat departure if they'd continue on referencing slashers, but somehow a monstrous Fishman and a ghostly shrieking Specter are stalking the campsite, as well, which once again cuts the mystery short for the inevitable extended sequence where the gang's chased around by a (presumably) supernatural monster, until they capture and unmask him/her.

The story is what it is, mildly enjoyable as it may be, but it's told fashionably well. The animation looks great and vibrant. It's cast and directed by Andrea Romano, WB's top-flight voice director and one of the best in the biz, who brought her usual troupe of familiar voices (Mark Hamill, Phil LaMarr, Tara Strong), as well as greats like Frank Welker and Stephen Root. As an added bonus, Matthew Lillard, whose career fizzled after portraying Shaggy in the live-action movies, is now officially the new voice of Shaggy, voicing him in this and the new Mystery Inc series. In the bigger picture, it's just another milking of the Scooby Doo franchise, but it's not so bad.

DVD Bonus Features

Included is the pilot episode of Mystery Inc. If you haven't seen it already, it's a good way to get acquainted with the show. In some ways, it's actually better than Camp Scare. The voice cast is the same, though the art style is different.

The only other feature is a silly one where you get to listen to a camp counselor telling "spooky" campfire stories. Best skipped, but maybe the kids can memorize one to tell at their next outdoor outing. Although he'll risk being known as that kid who tries to pass off something from a Scooby Doo DVD extra as his own scary story.

"Scooby Doo! Camp Scare" is on sale October 14, 2010 and is not rated. Animation, Children & Family, Comedy, Mystery. Directed by Ethan Spaulding. Written by Jed Elinoff, Scott Thomas. Starring Dee Bradley Baker, Frank Welker, Grey Delisle, Mark Hamill, Matthew Lillard, Stephen Root, Tara Strong, Mindy Cohn.

Oct
11
2010
Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.

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