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Tip of the Week

'Frankenweenie' Pays Homage to Classic Horror

Julie Samrick
Kid Focused

"Science isn't good or bad, but it can be used for both," warns a schoolteacher to his eager student in Tim Burton's latest dark film Frankenweenie.  Set in the 1950s when kids' recreation meant undivided time for lots of imagination, young outcast Victor Frankenstein's world is shattered when his one true friend, dog Sparky, is struck by a car and killed.  Victor's passion for science and invention, and especially Sparky, spawns the idea to bring his beloved pooch back to life, but when others learn of Victor's plan, things go terribly wrong.

Ninety-nine percent of Frankenweenie is a compilation of all the favorite classic scary movies. The premise is the same as Stephen King's Pet Semetary.  When the animals come back to life, they are just like the creatures in King Kong at times or the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park at others.  The most benign animals turn as devious as those cute little monsters in Gremlins when they went bad.  Above all, the clearest tie-in is to Mary Shelley's classic gothic novel, Frankenstein, which is considered the first science-fiction novel and the beginning of the horror genre. From the boy's name being the same as the scientist in Frankenstein who brings the monster to life ("Frankenstein" is the inventor's name, not the monster's), to the isolated nature of both main characters, the similarities abound.

Frankenweenie is set in a bleak, black-and-white world. "It's not funny at all," said my first-grade daughter after viewing it (I should've left her at home, but the film's PG rating misled me).  As is typical for Tim Burton films (Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline), this movie is dark. In fact, it's really scary for kids under 10.  For older children, the ethics of science could be a good point of discussion, and for parents who'd like to take the learning opportunities even further, I suggest reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein aloud with your child before or after watching Frankenweenie.  You can enjoy comparing and contrasting the two stories with them.

Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of 4 young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues.  Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too.  Permission granted for use on

Tags: Family/Relationships - Parent/Child, Halloween, Holidays, Movie Review, Parenting, Stay-at-Home Mom
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