Scooby-Doo and the Curse of the 13th Ghost, now available on DVD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, is one of the best “Scoob and the Gang” stories in recent memory. Rather than pair the classic team of sleuthing teens and their snack-happy Great Dane with the pro wrestlers of the WWE or a gathering of gourmet chefs, this original tale goes back to the franchise itself for inspiration. In fact, it acts as a concluding installment to the 1985 animated series, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo which left viewers hanging after 13 fun-filled episodes but only 12 ghosts on the books. But before we get to the 13th ghost as promised in the movie’s title, it’s worth revisiting the 80s series for a moment to lay some groundwork.
Originally premiering back in 1969, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears‘ animated series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? introduced viewers everywhere to Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo. A number of spin-offs and reimaginings popped up over the years, introducing new characters like Scrappy-Doo (for better or worse), but it was 1985’s The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo that shook up the core team. Fred, the team’s de facto leader, and Velma, the brains of the outfit, were sidelined in order to focus on Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby, with Scrappy-Doo and newcomer Flim-Flam leading the quest to capture (or recapture) 13 ghosts. They were guided in this adventure by Vincent Van Ghoul, a mystical sorcerer (voiced by the late great Vincent Price) who often appeared via crystal ball. Things were going swell over the series’ 13 episodes except for the fact that the 13th ghost was never apprehended … until now!
Scooby-Doo and the Curse of the 13th Ghost oddly finds itself arriving at a perfect time in our social climate. In the movie, the whole gang is reunited again (minus Scrappy-Doo, thankfully; don’t worry though, the beleaguered pup gets a shout-out of sorts). Fred and Velma are obviously out of sorts, so the others bring them up to speed on their spooky but fun-filled adventures with Vincent and Flim-Flam; this also acts as a nice catch-up for viewers who might not have any clue that the 13 Ghosts series even existed. What might have been a way to capitalize on characters’ popularity in the 80s also serves as nice power shift for 2019, because when Fred screws up and the gang gets busted by local law enforcement for meddling in a case, Daphne takes over and leads the charge.
It’s an interesting chance of pace to see Fred having to take a backseat to just about everyone in the gang and it really freshens up the storytelling. Daphne changes her hairstyle, her clothing, and even their ride, since Fred is forced to sell the Mystery Machine when the gang gives up their mystery-solving ways. Now, they ride around in the “Ms.-tery Machine”, a suped-up red van that’s more like a Bond vehicle than a Shaggy wagon. But none of this is made from whole cloth. Instead, these story elements are all nods back to the animated series itself, they just happen to dovetail into our modern social climate quite well. Unfortunately, the writing is also a little heavy-handed, not necessarily with the progressive storyline but with how much it hammers on Fred. It takes him down quite a few pegs, harder than is necessary, but the big palooka takes it in stride and ultimately finds his place on the team once more.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in this rollicking, globe-trotting adventure. The gang gets to stop by Vincent Van Ghoul’s house of horrors, which is more of a funhouse than a anything, and they encounter some road-trip drama thanks to a villain that’s reminiscent of Frank Welker‘s Turbo Teen baddie, Dark Rider. But the real fun happens once the team gets to the Himalayas. There are callbacks galore to the original series and to the lore itself, along with musical numbers, tons of puns, and some good, old-fashioned chase sequences. It’s just plain fun and a wonderful concluding chapter for The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and the fans who love it.
The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo
- “To All the Ghouls I’ve Loved Before” and “Horror-Scope Scoob”
- The series’ first and last episodes, respectively.
- There are lots of cute callbacks in the main movie, like the fact that the van’s inflatable device was a giant rubber duck; it was also in lace of Scooby’s parachute; Flim-Flam, the quick-talking kid, sells Lotsa Luck Joy Juice to the villagers to erase curses and evil spells.