While I don't think it's a super unpopular opinion, I argue the 1980s Scooby-Doo movies are pretty underrated. These three films, Boo Brothers, Ghoul School and Reluctant Werewolf, are generally pretty well-liked among most Scooby fans, but I definitely have gotten some surprised remarks from some fans for calling these three among the best of the best that Scooby films have to offer. Something about these three films has remained pretty much unparalleled (except the 1998-2001 films) throughout the entire franchise. In this article, I will share my opinion as to why these films remain at the top of my favorites list despite several new Scooby films coming out each year.
In general, I think Scrappy is more toned down in these films, which puts them as a lot of people's favorite Scrappy material in the franchise. Specifically with Boo Brothers, it brought the franchise back to the mystery-solving roots that it had been lacking with previous 80s content featuring just Shaggy, Scooby and Scrappy. One could also argue that the large amount of villains in Boo Brothers makes it not focused enough, but honestly, I feel the numerous villains makes it better. I look at it as "you can't begin to imagine the horrors around this house" kind of way. We also really have no idea which of the ghouls are real, and which are fake, even at the end of the film, and this provides room for some deeper thinking/analysis when trying to determine which of the ghosts' appearances were real and which were fake. I still believe that the Skull Ghost was real that first appearance he showed up, and that many of Uncle Beauregard's appearances were his real ghost.
One thing I really appreciate about Boo Brothers is its soundtrack. Even if you hate the movie, I feel you have to admit that this movie has top-notch background music all throughout. Lastly, I think the plot point of the scavenger hunt also provides almost a mystery-within-a-mystery, because we don't really realize that the ghosts have something to do with the scavenger hunt (and they may not have, if they were real some of the time) until towards the end of the film.
Moving on to Ghoul School, which is my favorite Scooby film to date. Hands down. Nothing compares to it. I think the amazing thing about Ghoul School is how well they integrate new characters into the plot and make us warm up to them quickly. All 5 ghouls, in my opinion, are very sweet, likable characters who many of us find adorable (especially Tanis). Though the first half of the film mainly focuses on the girl ghouls, the second half causes a questioning of everything Shaggy and Scooby have ever believed: that not all monsters are bad when Revolta and the Grim Creeper ends up capturing the girls for her evil plans, and they realize that the girl ghouls actually are the "good guys." It's a really neat plot point IMO, that I explore a bit in my fanfic Fangs for the Memories (shameless plug alert), that not all monsters are necessarily bad. In my opinion, this would have been even cooler if this was the first time Shaggy and Scooby met real monsters, as it would have caused a crisis of beliefs of sorts for them realizing that some real monsters are good. All in all, this film just has a really fun, spooky vibe to it with very relatable new characters in an intriguing situation.
Reluctant Werewolf seems to get the least attention of these three. I'll admit, Dracula turning Shaggy into a werewolf to participate in a car race is a very wacky plot, but once it gets going, I find myself really enjoying this one almost as much as the others. It's a very fun, different comedy romp that isn't afraid to be a bit dark and spooky at times (particularly in the scenes with Dracula's castle, and the escape at the end). I'd say this one is probably the least memorable of the three, and Zombie Island and Witch's Ghost for sure overtake it. As for whether Zombie Island and Witch's Ghost overtake Boo Brothers and Ghoul School, I would say no. They don't overtake them, they're just like 0.0000001% below Boo Brothers and Ghoul School personally for me.
A common theme within these three films is that they are a bit scarier in tone, and the stakes are far more real because the gang is literally dealing with real ghosts and monsters. Boo Brothers in particular has a very scary, dark tone to it I think, especially since most of the film is the gang walking around outside in the middle of the night, but Ghoul School kind of gets dark too in the second half with Revolta. Reluctant Werewolf is more silly, but the scenes within Dracula's Castle (especially when they wake up from their trance, the part where they're going through the secret passage, and their escape from Dracula at the end) are pretty spooky in tone.
It would be amiss not to say that some of this is personal nostalgia. These three were the first ever Scooby movies I saw as a kid, so I have very fond memories of watching these when I was little. I think Reluctant Werewolf is especially nostalgia-driven for me, as it's definitely a bit more of a zany plot than the other two.
In this age of sequels coming out like Curse of the 13th Ghost and Return to Zombie Island, would I like to see sequels to these? If they could stay true to the source material, sure. I don't think Boo Brothers particularly needs a sequel since most of it's wrapped up (and I think it arguably makes it spookier to not know whether the ghosts were real in certain instances or not), but I'd be down for one if they could come up with a compelling, non-forced plot and kept it true to the original. In terms of Ghoul School, I think a sequel where Revolta returned, since we don't really know what happened to her, could be fun. Reluctant Werewolf is an absolute yes for a sequel, because it ends on a cliffhanger where Dracula and the Hunch Bunch appear at Shaggy's window saying that they're back. Again though, all of these would need to stay true to the source material. I don't want anything like Return to Zombie Island or Curse of the 13th Ghost done with these three movies, as IMO these two direct sequels have done enough damage already.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and that it maybe took you on a trip down memory lane! I try to watch these three every Halloween, even though they're not specifically Halloween themed (2 of them at least, I guess Ghoul School has a Halloween scene), so I thought this would be a fun one to do given the time period. I'd be interested to hear others thoughts on this, so if you have any, feel free to share in the comments!
~ WildwindVampire ~