Presenting the Mystery Gang in a feature-length capacity is, in its glory days, a supremely good time. It is comfort food that preys on nostalgia and utilises the quickfire approach of the show, extending it to just over an hour of competent, engaging joy. Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost is a light and breezy affair, one that even my alcohol-paggered brain has some semblance of memory for. There is much love and leniency for this series of feature films, and those old VHS copies I used to own are out there in a trash heap somewhere. Who knows where they are, but I do know where my heart is. Right here, in the hands of director Jim Stenstrum. He helmed many of the nostalgic classics that many of my generation are fond of, and there is great reason for it.
A similar trait for many of these features appears to be the inclusion of some pop culture icon or celebrity with weight to their name. In recent days, a reliance on wrestling and comic book heroes has been the overwhelming desire of this series, but Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost shackles Tim Curry to proceedings. He is a significantly interesting draw, not just for how much love Curry has for the Scooby-Doo franchise, but also because of his role. He portrays horror writer Ben Ravencroft, a thinly-veiled knock at Stephen King and the other horror writers of the time. It is quite endearing, and it shows some of the stronger humour on offer throughout this Stenstrum piece.
But the humour is where Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost begins to falter. That, and its lack of real consequence or interest. The story stumbles around through passionless, confused moments of no real meaning. They are introduced to The Hex Sisters and have a back and forth with that trio, but of no real substance or consequence. Something that looks rather similar to the Book of the Dead from Evil Dead makes an appearance and the mandatory twist toward the end does much to destroy the beauty of Scooby-Doo. At its core, the show and films were bumbling kids solving mysteries by uncovering sudden bouts of silly corruption. Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost tries to implement supernatural elements, and it feels surprisingly odd.
Amicable twists and nice, slight changes to the usual motions of the mystery-cracking gang, Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost provides the dark horse of the Stenstrum era. Tapping into that slight realm of vague nostalgia, there are flickers of my memory rekindled here. It is nice and good-natured, an enjoyable experience, but not the cream of the crop. Far from it, in fact. By that final third, it feels clunky and confused. An aimless villain plagues the town which must pay for its sins, and it all feels a bit heavy for a film where Velma screeches “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” when being thwarted by a flying witch. Still, that is what we are here to engage with, and enjoy it while we can, for it shall not last long.