With the forty-fourth Scooby-Doo feature film, SCOOB!, now available on demand, and so many of us finding ourselves with so much time on our hands these days, I figured what better time to curate a handful of five-or-six hour quadruple features! Each of these blocks features a healthy dose of hardcore violence alongside a sanitizing refresher course of Mystery, Inc. hijinks to take the edge off. It’s your call what order you wanna do these in–two splatter flicks followed by two Scooby’s, the other way around, or a mix and match–but then again, we’re talking about a quarter of a day’s worth of mind-numbing media burn; you do you.
So go ahead and fix yourself the most cartoonishly towering sandwich you can possibly muster with whatever you’ve got left in the cupboard and hunker down; it’s gonna be a long night.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
If you ever wanted to see David Carradine pilot a rocket car or Sylvester Stallone run over innocent bystanders for fun–and let’s be honest, who among us hasn’t–this bleak but exhilarating vision of the future is part It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and part Killdozer. And thankfully, for those of us who’ve actually seen those movies, it’s less than half the length of the former and flies by about a thousand times faster than the latter.
With an all-star cast, a novel concept and lightning-quick pace, Death Race 2000 is about as gory, nihilistic and un-PC as a seventies grindhouse movie can get while still actually being fun to watch. This isn’t Smokey and the Bandit, but it certainly isn’t Bloodsucking Freaks.
The Jason Statham remake is fun, too, though at present I’ve still only gotten to the first of its three DTV sequels. I’m so sorry.
Death Race 2050 (2017)
Forty-two years, a remake and two sequels to the remake later and at the spryly age of one hundred and ninety-seven, Roger Corman blessed us with a direct follow-up to the original classic, and Malcolm McDowell came along for the ride!
With a pretty similar set-up to the original film, the primary appeal of this movie is a ninety-minute haze of blood, sparks, twisted metal and burning rubber. Which, to be fair, is the primary appeal of any Death Race movie, so I suppose congratulations are in order. Way to go, ‘Rog. Can I call you “’Rog?”
Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf (1988)
A cheap and silly mix between The Monster Squad and a quadruple-length episode of Wacky Races, the fourth Scooby feature isn’t as tightly written as later entries, but flies by in a flash in comparison to its predecessors Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School and Meets the Boo Brothers.
Like the previous two flicks, this is a Shaggy / Scooby / Scrappy adventure, with nary a mention of the rest of the Mystery, Inc. crew, though Shaggy does inexplicably have a cheery new girlfriend named Googie, who barely gets an introduction and hasn’t shown up in another movie since.
It’s weird that Shaggy seems to be a well-known racecar driver at the start of this one, but just as strange is the appearance of Dracula as the primary antagonist, who doesn’t even seem to know Shaggy, despite the fact that he personally thanked him for teaching his daughter phys ed in Ghoul School, which had premiered barely a month prior. Character consistency’s important, guys.
Scooby-Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon (2016)
Easily one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen, conceptually speaking, the plot of this one concerns the Muscle Moto X Off Road Challenge, a long-distance race for WWE superstars, and the attempt on the part of a demonic rider named Inferno to sabotage it. Scooby and the gang team up with the Undertaker to defeat and unmask the titular speed demon, while trying to outrun the likes of Goldust and Dusty Rhodes in a monster truck Mystery Machine.
Generally speaking, this is far from one of my favorite Scooby flicks, and pales in comparison to the previous WWE tie-in movie WrestleMania Mystery on the level of, you know, mystery. But I’ve never seen another movie like this, even when considering the racing flick similarities to Reluctant Werewolf. Hearing Vince McMahon personally thank Mystery, Inc. for trying to keep his bizarre monster truck rally afloat while Michael Cole provides color commentary and Triple H snarls at Shaggy for whatever reason is easily the most brazen bit of kayfabe since No Holds Barred.
[Note: If you’re unfamiliar with “Kayfabe,” it’s basically what the pro wrestling industry calls the plotting / soap opera-y nature of its story arcs; how it’s “Real” on a character level. And if you’re unfamiliar with No Holds Barred, you’ve gotta fix that. Like now.]
All Superheroes Must Die (2011)
Originally premiering on the festival circuit as Vs. (not to be confused with the exquisite samurai / sci-fi / zombie epic Versus or its extended director’s cut Ultimate Versus), this amusing mix of Justice League and Saw 6 is a true indie delight.
The brief runtime and clever plotting get this one up and running quick, and over before you know it. More importantly, watching a devious Jigsaw-by-way-of-The-Riddler bad guy tear the bargain bin Superfriends apart through a series of brutal team-based deathtraps is exactly as much fun as you think it is: “Very, very.”
All Superheroes Must Die II: The Last Superhero (2016)
To say this movie was a massive disappointment after my enjoyment of the first installment is to give it just a bit too much credit, since I’d barely classify it as a movie. Told mostly through dull, hokey news broadcasts with the occasional short effect sequence breaking them up, it’s basically an extended epilogue more than anything else.
With an even shorter runtime than the first, a micro budget of $5,000 and an official release on director Jason Trost’s YouTube channel, this reads more like a thank you to the fans of the original than a true sequel, but all that also makes it kinda tough to truly hate. If you find yourself liking the first, there’s no reason not to kill an hour with its weirdo follow-up. It’s a bit of a frustrating mess, but the finale is impressive and the heart is there.
Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon (2012)
Adam West had already continued his late career campaign of Adam Westsploitation—See also, Family Guy, Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt—withan appearance in 2005’s lackluster Aloha, Scooby-Doo!, or very likely would’ve shown up in this slick, fun little knock at superhero super-fandom.
Scooby and Shaggy drag the rest of the gang to Mega Mondo Pop! Comic ConApalooza to meet their heroes Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, crossing paths with the likes of Space Ghost and Zorak along the way, and fighting a fearsome monster from the old Blue Falcon show named Mr. Hyde. The movie’s got some of the better animation work of the later Scooby flicks, with bright splashes of color that heighten the superhero hijinks and help it all fly by in a flash. The movie’s terrific time killer, and a far more organic use of the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt characters within a Scooby-Doo narrative than what we got in SCOOB!.
Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold
The team get mixed up with a ghostly adventure in Gotham, intersecting with the caped crusader early on. More familiar faces pop in as the story speeds by at breakneck speed, with ample action and derring-doo.
A dazzling array of DC hero and villain cameos offer some spectacular set pieces, but unfortunately can’t quite save this novelty from one of those annoying half-baked mysteries that leaves you feeling unfulfilled. Still, it offers the kind of thrills very few of the other Scooby movies do, and seeing Mystery, Inc. team up with the likes of Plastic Man to take on the merry band of misfits that populate Gotham’s absurd underworld is a rare delight.
The Living Dead
Burial Ground (1981)
I first saw Burial Ground when I was thirteen or fourteen, after finding it on an old big box VHS at a video store that was selling off its stock. It was about four AM when I started it—a frustratingly common occurrence when I was a kid—and the picture was so dark, I could barely make anything out for the first five minutes. The whole thing was grainy, washed out and nightmarish, but captivating and exhilarating, and as the credits came up over one of the greatest endings in cinema history, the first light of dawn came pouring through my window, and chills ran up my spine.
On a purely technical level, Burial Ground is one of many hastily thrown together Zombi 2 cash-ins that poured out of Italy in the early eighties; cheaply shot, largely plotless and poorly dubbed. The central performance by wide-eyed little person Peter Bark as a young boy with an incestuous infatuation with his mother is the stuff of nightmares, the gore effects are inconsistent and the whole thing feels stitched together with paperclips. But it flies from exhilarating set piece to exhilarating set piece, it’s hysterically funny and not always by accident, and has easily one of the most underappreciated scores of the era.
I love Burial Ground. I love it so much. It sent me down a deep, dark rabbit hole of Italian zombie schlock I still haven’t reached the bottom of nearly two decades later, and I never want to.
Graveyard Disturbance (1989)
The film I’ve discovered most recently on this list, Graveyard Disturbance feels aesthetically and tonally similar to Burial Ground, but functions as much more of a funhouse kind of flick than your typical Italian zombie romp. The setup involves a group of youngsters venturing through a subterranean labyrinth beneath a cemetery, which in and of itself seems a bit off the wall for this kind of thing, but there’s a faint air of self-satire to the proceedings here, and a lot of surprises along the way
This movie delighted me in more ways than one: there’s a Peter Jacksony approach to the creature effects and some light Texas Chain Saw Massacresque family unit riffing, but on the whole, it feels unique. Graveyard Disturbance was off my radar for far too long, but it’s definitely well worth tracking down if you’ve burnt through your copies of Hell of the Living Dead, Nightmare City, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and Zombi 3, 4, and 5, like so many of us have, I’m sure.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
For the four of you out there who haven’t seen this one, a brief synopsis: Strange goings-on are afoot on a Bayou island supposedly haunted by a nefarious pirate, and only Mystery, Inc. can get to the bottom of it . . . but surely, this isn’t anything they haven’t tackled before, right?
What’s left to say about Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island? It’s the best in a series of more than forty films, and likely always will be. The mystery is solid, the animation is spectacular, and it feels as intricately thought out and cleverly realized as most big budget theatrical Disney flicks. Even more astounding is that this was actually the first Scooby-Doo movie featuring a traditional Mystery, Inc. mystery, with Scooby Goes Hollywood and Arabian Nights serving as fleeting anthology films and Meets the Boo Brothers, Ghoul School and the Reluctant Werewolf existing in a Daphne, Fred and Velma-free void.
The movie that truly kick-started the Scooby film series and re-popularized the franchise for a new generation, on Zombie Island deserves every bit of praise it’s gotten over the years, and probably more. It’s darker than just about anything else in the franchise’s fifty-plus year history, even more than two decades and nearly thirty films later, but it still serves as a great horror stepping stone for kids, and marvelously spooky fun for just about anybody.
Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island (2019)
Well, I’ll give it this much: this movie certainly doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s certainly in the better half of the series, and functions well as a self-aware sequel. Scooby and the gang win an all-expense paid tropical vacation, but something seems . . . familiar about this island, and they can’t quite put their finger on it. For, like, a while.
From a lot of the reactions you’ll find online, you’d think this flick was specifically designed from the ground up to ruin your childhood, but it’s honestly a hilarious twist on what you might expect, with one of the strongest first acts in the series and lightning-quick pacing even when it loses a bit of steam towards the end. As far as long-awaited follow-ups go, it’s no Scooby-Doo and the Curse of the 13th Ghost, but there are about twenty-five worse ways to kill an hour and twenty minutes in this series.
Legends and Phantoms
Madman tells the tale of Madman Marz, a towering, lumbering farmer who just up and snapped one night. The legend is told around a campfire, with a warning never to speak his name above a whisper . . . and then, of course, some dumbass kid shouts it out, a smarmy grin plastered on his face.
Madman is a ghoulish, moody, beautifully shot summer camp slasher flick, with a killer who’s beyond imposing and drowns the screen in shadow whenever he’s glimpsed. Similar in imagery and style to the more obscure Just Before Dawn of the same year, but with less unbelievably stupid characters, the film is deservedly remembered for its haunting vibe and earwormy credits theme. It does have a bit of a “Wash, rinse, repeat” motif in regards to separating and offing its characters, but it’s never anything less than chilling for a second, and the flick holds up well to repeat viewings.
While not as propulsive as Suspiria, nor as coherent a mystery as the likes of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage or Deep Red, Dario Argento’s take on the cursed opera house subgenre features some of the most glorious cinematography in the director’s canon. Anyone who’s seen it should remember the big aerial shot centerpiece, and anyone who’s even seen the poster art should be squirming just thinking about it, but the whole “Nails under the eyelids” key art is more than a marketing ploy; it’s a palpably terrifying set piece as gripping as anything else in Argento’s filmography.
Like the doomed performance of the jinxed opera Macbeth upon which Opera is centered, the film itself had a historically troubled production, ranging from freak accidents on the set to the end of Argento’s engagement to frequent collaborator Daria Nicolodi, but you’d never know it from watching the film. It’s a stylish, immersive house of horrors with more than its share of eye-opening highlights.
Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare (2010)
Scooby goes Friday the 13th! A campfire tale of a deranged counselor known as The Woodsman has forced the closure of Fred’s boyhood summer camp just as the gang have stopped by for a visit, and predictably grim slasher-type hijinks ensue.
The tone is just right here, tiptoeing the thin line between the 80s slasher vibe and kid-friendly scare gags. Like a lot of the Scooby flicks, it tapers out a bit by the end even with the seventy-five minute runtime, but it’s easily in the top fifteen or twenty movies in the series regardless . . . and yeah, I’ve seen them all. And Mark Hamill is there! Hooray!
Scooby-Doo! Stage Fright (2013)
The gang is lured into a dubious reality TV show being shot in a creepy old opera house, and surprise, surprise; it’s got a phantom. Peter McNicol, Vivica A. Fox and Wayne Brady fill out one of the better casts in the post-Zombie Island Scooby flicks, and there’s a stronger mystery here than usual to unravel.
Narrowly ahead of Camp Scare on the strength of its raucous finale, Stage Fright makes good use of its well-worn Phantom of the Opera premise, with particularly vibrant animation and some nice character moments between the Mystery, Inc. crew. Nice to see them, ya know, try that kinda thing out every once in a while.
Easily one of my favorite slashers, Popcorn isn’t just one movie; it’s five! A movie marathon of fictional horror schlock Mosquito!, Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man and The Stench goes murderously awry when a deranged indie filmmaker / druggie cult leader appears to return from the grave to finish his accursed, acid-washed experimental short Possessor.
Released well over half a decade after the decline of the slasher boom, Popcorn could easily be seen as a dark satire of the genre, despite its fun, lighthearted tone. That said, it functions as one of the cleverest of the bunch, and precedes the likes of Scream by five years as far as self-aware meditations on the slasher film go. It’s got a fun cast, terrific effects work and a great soundtrack, along with amusing clips of its four movies-within-the-movie. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this one, but like its snack food namesake, you just can’t help going back for more.
John Goodman stars in this atomic age send-up as a William Castle-type filmmaker, always looking for a hot new gimmick to sell tickets. As usual, his traveling road show brings him to a typical small town, besieged by fear of the bomb dropping, populated by sci-fi geek kids and their commie-spooked parents. But could this be the last stop on Lawrence Woolsey’s trip?
Quick-witted and quirky in that wonderfully Joe Dante kinda way, Matinee actually touches on some resonant social issues, and packs some touching little coming-of-age character moments in there along with the yuks. It’s pure camp by design, but far darker than it appears on the surface, and hits just the right notes to stick what might typically be a pretty tricky landing. Goodman is tremendous, as is the rest of the supporting cast, and the art design is memorable; the whole thing feels kinda like a fifties scare PSA, in the best way. And like Popcorn, it’s got some enjoyable tongue-in-cheek movies-within-the-movie, most notably the sensational Mant!, upon which the story is centered.
LEGO Scooby-Doo!: Haunted Hollywood (2016)
The first, and superior, of the two LEGO Scooby-Doo adventures—thus far—concerns Shaggy and Scooby winning a tour of a Roger Cormany film studio in a hamburger eating contest, and the duel with a kooky headless horseman type fellow that goes down there. Cassandra Peterson (Elvira, for the uninformed) makes the most of her featured guest spot, pushing the limits of the PG rating on this direct-to-DVD sixties cartoon show / CGI toy brand crossover flick to the breaking point with a double fistful of her typically wry sexy horror comedy schtick.
The gags in this one make especially strong use of the LEGO art style, and it narrowly edges out its follow-up, LEGO Scooby-Doo! Blowout Beach Bash on the novelty of its location. Both LEGO flicks in the series are strong entries, though, their roughly seventy-five minute runtimes each flying by painlessly. And when you’ve done more than forty of these things, you know something about pain, like Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, once Scooby-Doo meets the Boo Brothers.
Scooby Goes Hollywood (1979)
Often considered a television special as opposed to a movie due to its forty-five minute runtime, this quick-witted anthology flick is technically the first bit of Scooby-Doo media to qualify as a feature presentation. The New Scooby-Doo Movies don’t count, despite their similar length, as they’re all episodes of a TV series—and, ironically, not movies—or there would currently be sixty-eight films in the series. What we have here, though, is a rather hilarious sort of sketch comedy thing in the vein of Kentucky Fried Movie and“The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase.”
Great fun. Great, great fun.
The Power of Rock
A trippy, shot-on-video obscurity running scarcely fifty minutes, Horrorgirl may have a typically cheap SOV look, but it’s got more going for it than you’d think. The story of a girlrock band trying to make their mark, Horrorgirl features demonic possession, the living dead, and an unreal exorcism-by-rock finale.
The music is intense, the plotting is surprisingly coherent and the visual style makes great use of the strengths and limitations of the shot-on-video medium. Take it from someone who’s seen more than twenty SOV horror flicks over the years: you could do far, far worse.
KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)
Part music video, part superhero flick, all KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. The end-all, be-all, gotta see it to believe it great-great-grandaddy of made-for-TV glam rock kung-fu haunted amusement park flicks, this otherwise indescribable vehicle for the leather-clad harlequins utterly defies standard classification and simply demands to be experienced.
I really don’t have any other words here; I’ve already fully summarized this mesmerizing branding exercise as best as I’d expect anyone possibly could, short of researching a book or master’s thesis on how and why it came to be. Or, alternatively, quickly spooling through the Wiki.
Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)
A g-g-g-ghost is haunting Salem, and only Mystery, Inc. and a sassy girlrock band straight outta Horrorgirl can put a stop to it! This is one to look out for if you get your kicks from that whole cackling witch thing. And who among us doesn’t?
The immediate follow-up to on Zombie Island, this Olde New Englandy spook show sports a typically lively supporting role from Tim Curry, but doesn’t reach the heights of his later appearance in and the Goblin King. That said, this is far from the worst of the bunch, despite a predictable twist. The lighthearted horror rock keeps things energetic, and the location is certainly well suited to the franchise. Kind of amazing it took Hanna-Barbera thirty years to set one of these in Salem, to be honest.
Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery (2015)
Borrowing the haunted amusement park setup from KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, the twenty-fifth Scooby flick sees the gang visiting Kiss World and teaming up with the rockers to do battle with a demonic entity known as the Crimson Witch.
Easily a top five series entry, Rock and Roll Mystery features a genuinely awe-inspiring ultra-psychedelic finale rivaling any laser light show or rock concert pyrotechnic extravaganza you’re ever likely to see. The band keeps its kitschy superhero angle going here, making this function surprisingly well as a sequel to Phantom of the Park, and another unforgettable experience in both the powers of rock and multimedia branding opportunities.