"Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare": It'll Doo
Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare is the best Scooby-Doo DTV I’ve seen in a while. It perfectly captures everything that made the TV show work, while still having a scale that makes the whole exercise worthwhile. It’s one of the only modern Scooby ventures I’ve seen that successfully modernizes the franchise, which has always been very much a product of its time. Previous attempts, like What’s New Scooby Doo!, the detestable live-action films, and what I’ve seen of the more recent Mystery Inc., have tended to be either too bland or too irreverent, but Camp Scare finds a nice balance.
The story is simple stuff. The gang is on its way to visit Fred’s childhood summer camp, Camp Little Moose, but the camp is being haunted by “The Woodman”, an axe-wielding figure from a famous local ghost story. Scooby and the group try to catch him, and along the way Fred tries to mentor the only three campers left: a fat, asthmatic boy named Deacon, a quiet girl named Trudy, and Luke, who is basically a younger, even blander version of Fred. There is also an elderly camp counselor, a sleazy park ranger, a ridiculously scary convenience owner, a beautiful counselor from a rival camp (Camp Big Moose, of course). Basically, every possible suspect you could imagine in a “haunted summer camp” story.
The plot is nonsensical and gets worse as it goes on, but that’s nothing new for this series and it’s not exactly a complaint. There are a lot of chase sequences—around the middle mark there are three stuck right on top of each other—but they’re expertly timed and exciting enough to doubtless enthrall at least the target audience. Outside of the main plot we get the usual silliness: Shaggy and Scooby are hungry, Daphne is vain, Velma is nerdy. But this is at worst endearing, and at best hilarious, and there are a few great visual gags in here.
I said of the last Scooby Doo DTV, Abra-cadabra Doo, that the visuals were quite impressive for the franchise, and Camp Scare continues that trend. The movie opens with a fantastic little stylized musical number, and while I’m still not wowed by the human designs there are some surprisingly expressive moments. The “monster” designs are also well crafted, although a little too familiar; The Woodman is sort of like a more athletic Creeper, and a witch that appears later on is a shameless retread of the banshee from Abra-cadabra Doo. The only big flaw in the visuals is the grating use of really, really obvious CGI. Some of the sequences involving the Mystery Machine stand out like a sore thumb.
The DVD comes with a couple of extras, most notably a live-action “Scooby Doo: Camp Stories” bit that consists of a man literally telling ghost stories, lightly entwined with choice scenes from the movie. (Younger kids may like it). There’s also the first episode of the new Mystery Inc. show. I recommend Camp Scare for hardcore Scooby fans or, really, anyone with a child in the house.