The fashionable ghouls are back with another misadventure involving misunderstandings, sinister plots, and the passion for dreaming big in 'Frights, Camera, Action!' And like the previous installment to the popular doll franchise, this spirited venture takes the kids of Monster High to some far-away and fantastical destinations in order to solve an ancient mystery. I'm still relatively new to this property, which features characters inspired by classic horror monsters, but from what I can gather thus far, the little fiends are essentially the Scooby-Doo gang for the 21st Century. Only, whatever mystery they set out to uncover is more by accident to save their school or reputation rather than a mission or some business enterprise.
For their third full-length feature — or at least a story that runs over an hour long — the ghouls try to solve the case of a 400-year-old legend about a missing vampire queen and a long-lost stone called the Vampire Heart. Apparently, the vampire community has been without a queen since the only remaining heir, Elissabat, ran away on the day of her coronation, and the reasons for that are also part of the mystery. In this ghoulish fantasy, the legend has inspired speculation and used as the source for a vampire romance movie in the quirky vein of the histrionic 'Twilight' series. One of the movie's more clever aspects are these very faint jabs at pop culture and the horror genre in general.
Opening inside a movie theater, the tale's heroine is the pint-sized Draculaura upset the film adaptation of the legend is exaggerated melodrama where two boys fight for the affection of the queen. Meanwhile, parallel action shows the vampire council, suddenly now upset after 400 years of existing without a queen, demanding Lord Stoker produce the missing heir within a week. It's not difficult to see where this is going, but of course, this is geared more for audiences too young to figure it out so quickly. Stoker seizes the opportunity to convince Draculaura that she's the heir so that he can manipulate her into decisions he wants. Upon learning this, the young vamp searches desperately for Elissabat with the help of her friends, Robecca, Cleo de Nile and Hoodude Voodoo.
As they discover clues about what really happened to the queen, the journey takes the group to New Goreleans where they meet southern belle Honey Swamp, an aspiring cinematographer who joins the kids on their next getaway. When they travel to Londoom, they meet Clawdia Wolf, who is studying screenwriting and also decides to tagalong. Afterwards, they head over to Barcelgroana where they make friends with girly-girl makeup artist Viperine Gorgon, and as you might already guess, she enlists herself for solving the case of the missing vampire queen. Again, it's easy to see where this is all headed, especially when the group makes their final trek to Hauntlywood where the famous actress Veronica Von Vamp is rumored to be best friends with Elissabat and might know her whereabouts.
In the end, 'Frights, Camera, Action!' is not quite as catchy as the previous installment, in spite of all the creative vampire lore the plot invents and tries to explore. Some of the more amusing moments are in the first act and overall, the story finishes strong with several funny scenes when characters arrive in Hauntlywood. However, the middle section, as the ghouls travel from one place to another, the narrative is general slow and almost inconsequential given the final reveal in the end. But as stated earlier, the animated movie is ultimately geared towards younger viewers, so from that perspective, it's sure to entertain and satisfy the fans and collectors of the 'Monster High' fashion doll franchise.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action!' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. A Region Free, BD50 disc sits opposite a DVD-9 inside a regular blue keepcase with a glossy, embossed slipcover and a small catalog for collectors. After a couple skippable trailers, viewers are taken to a menu screen with full-motion clips, music playing in the background and options along the left side of the screen.
Like the previous direct-to-video installment in the 'Monster High' series, the animation work in 'Frights, Camera, Action' is of the economical, Saturday-morning-cartoon variety, and this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode looks and feels like the result of a cost-effective and inexpensive animated TV special. The overall design is very simplistic but a few rather intricate arrangements provide some appreciable moments. There are also hints of mild banding in the shadows and the faces of some characters, but thankfully it's nothing too distracting.
Although the animation is largely plain and ordinary, fine lines around various objects are sharply detailed and very well-defined. The hair and clothing of characters are the most elaborate, exposing the distinct meticulous work that went into the movie's design. Colors are richly saturated and vibrant, giving the 1.78:1 frame a glitzy and dazzling appeal from beginning to end. Blacks are inky and true while contrast levels are brilliant with crisp whites throughout, making the overall presentation an attractive watch which fans are sure to enjoy.
The next entry in the franchise debuts with a good and satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that displays a wide and welcoming soundstage. Off-screen effects are convincing with smooth panning across all three channels while dynamic range is surprisingly extensive and detailed. Low bass is equally surprising with excellent response and weight, giving the action and music some appreciable weight. Vocals are intelligible and well-prioritized in the center. Although this is mostly a front-heavy presentation, the design does employ a few discrete effects in the surrounds with good directionality and a couple immersive moments. Overall, it's a pleasing lossless mix.
The fashionable ghouls of Monster High are back for another misadventure full of sinister plots and the passion for dreaming big in 'Frights, Camera, Action!' Although not quite as catchy as its predecessor, this next installment in the popular kids franchise will still entertain loyal fans and collectors. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation but a disappointingly small assortment of supplements. The overall package is ultimately for the most devoted.