There was a time when Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man were all legitimately scary. That time, unfortunately, was 80 years ago. Nowadays, films like Paranormal Activity dominate the horror genre every Halloween. So what has happened to the iconic horror monsters of old? They’re relegated to poorly made children’s films.
Hotel Transylvania came out almost a month ago, but Halloween’s approach will make it a target for those who won’t flock to see the new Paranormal Activity. Adam Sandler lends his voice to Dracula, who in this version runs a hotel for monsters to escape from human persecution. His daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) is celebrating her 118th birthday, and while the Count prepares for the party he gets an unexpected visit from a human (Andy Sandberg,) who Mavis falls for.
It’s pretty clear that Dracula is going through the tired story of an overprotective father who learns to let go of his daughter. Original stories are hard to come by these days, but I would think that the monster angle would make things fresh.
The film does nothing interesting with its large cast of monstrous characters, including Frankenstein, Wolf Man, The Mummy and the Invisible Man. They are only here as part of the classic movie monster package deal, and don’t progress the story in any meaningful way. Even Sandberg’s human Johnny is uninteresting. Sandler and Gomez are convincing as a father and daughter, but that’s the only real development we get.
Characters move around constantly to keep kids’ attention, but it’s also to disguise how thin the story really is. While there are some creative ideas about a monster-run hotel, it isn’t explored as well as it should be. Hotel Transylvania is great Halloween counterprogramming for kids, but that’s all it’s good for.