Saturday Morning Mystery (USA, 2012)
Everyone knows Scooby-Doo. It is one of the cultural touchstones that link generations and nationalities. While we may have been exposed to it through different incarnations, the Scooby Gang, the Mystery Machine and the loveable mutt himself are as much a part of our shared cultural consciousness as Ronald McDonald, Coca Cola and genocide.
While the Scooby-Doo connection is present in Saturday Morning Mystery (AKA Saturday Morning Massacre) from the title to the VW camper van as mobile HQ to the templates for the characters themselves (including a dog which, sadly, does not talk), people expecting a Scooby-Doo parody will be disappointed and quite possibly repelled. Once we get past the light dusting of pastiche, Saturday Morning Mystery is an average splatter-fuelled slasher film with a surprisingly grim tone. The latter half seems to owe more to the remake of The Hills Have Eyes than anything from Hanna-Barbera
The set-up, as explained in the opening scene and voice-over for the titles, is that a group of friends from college banded together to investigate paranormal events, but discovered each time they got to the bottom of one, it turned out to be someone in a mask, covering up some kind of nefarious activity. Now the friends have turned to exposing these activities, pulling the masks off malefactors and turning them in to the authorities.
The problem, they discover, with this line of work is that it does not pay the bills. This drives them to take a commission from a bank to debunk the dark rumours surrounding an old foreclosed house that the bank is unable to sell. Cue stories of cults, dark rituals, hauntings and disappearances, and an eventful night in the creepy old house itself.
While there are comedic moments until the last twenty minutes or so of the film, the content gets darker and considerably bloodier once night falls. There are still flourishes which remind us of the cartoon inspiration, including lots of running around in corridors, which, frankly, becomes tedious.
With the Scooby-Doo elements stripped away, Saturday Morning Mystery would be an average slasher film. It offers a reasonable build-up of tension, with plenty of bloodshed and frights. This is slightly undermined by some poor pacing, which makes the action drag at times.
Given that the nods to Scooby-Doo are what elevate Saturday Morning Mystery from mediocrity, it is a shame that the film-makers did not make more of them. By cleaving closer to their inspiration, they could have made the eventual gore and brutality all the more shocking, while making the comedy elements keener. As it stands, Saturday Morning Mystery is entertaining enough, but falls short of being memorable.