”There’s no time like bro time, am I right my dudes?”
Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights (Blu-ray) is an interesting addition to the Monster High canon of straight-to-DVD releases. For some reason though it was produced in 2013 and distributed internationally it’s taken a couple of years to get the product released here in the United States. Internet speculation is pretty much non-existent as to why that is so we’ll leave it alone.
The general theme to this installment in the Monster High universe is “be true to yourself.” After Clawdeen (Salli Saffioti) hosts a “flashion mob” of her designs at Monster High the video Ghoulia (Audu Paden) makes of the event and puts on FrightTube goes viral. That attracts the attention of the one and only Moanatella Ghostier (Cindy Robinson), legendary fashion designer and Clawdeen’s idol, who is looking for new blood. She reaches out to Monster High and offers Clawdeen the chance to come to Scaris for a week and study under her tutelage. It’s a dream come true. But of course Clawdeen can’t go anywhere that cool without her ghoulfriends, so Draculaura (Dee Dee Greene), Frankie (Kate Higgins), Cleo (Salli Saffioti), Abbey, (Erin Fitzgerald), Ghoulia (Audu Paden) and Lagoona (Laura Bailey) pack up and go with her, with native Parisian Rochelle Goyle (Laura Bailey) and her grandmother acting as hosts for the week. On the plane ride over we learn Toralei (America Young) has stowed away on board and she becomes a burden the ghouls have to figure out how to deal with.
Once the monsters are in Scaris they split up for their own adventures. Cleo, Draculaura, Lagoona, Abbey and Toralei get stuck together and are at cross purposes, with Toralei not at all interested in any of the historical or cultural sites Scaris has to offer. Frankie decides to help Rochelle find out what happened to her former boyfriend Garrott DuRoque (Evan Smith), a local artist who abruptly stopped sending Rochelle beautiful rose petals and love letters. Searching for lost love is a cause Frankie is happy to help with. And Ghoulia decides she should try out being a performance artist after her scooter is damaged beyond repair, leaving her no alternative than to buy a new one. While Clawdeen is making friends with new monsters Jinafire Long (Stephanie Sheh) and Skelita Calaveras (Laura Bailey), her competition for the coveted protégé spot, it soon becomes clear Moanatella Ghostier has a hidden agenda, one she advances by forcing the finalists to only draw the things she herself wants to see, with no regard for the students’ own input and inspiration. But Clawdeen wants to stay true to herself and the designs she created which landed her the role, not just draw whatever Madame Ghostier tells her to. When we learn what happens when Moanatella chooses her protégé things take a turn and it becomes necessary to stop Madame Ghostier by exposing her to the world for the monster she actually is, not the one she pretends to be.
As with most Monster High offerings this one has a universally applicable moral: by staying true to yourself and the people (or monsters) who accept you for who you truly are there’s no limit to the heights you can reach. It’s backed up by the foundation of learning what the rules are and then letting your imagination take you beyond the limits. At this point in the run you know what to expect from a Monster High release and you can feel good about leaving your kids to soak it all in.
The disc is actually two stories. As Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights ends “From Fear to Eternity” begins. Half the runtime of the main story this is a little side adventure detailing how the gang arrives back at Monster High after getting split up at the airport, er, scareport. It features a quick round-the-world tour of places we may see in upcoming Monster High releases including Fangladesh and Doombai and even features a return to the setting for 2012’s Monster High: Escape from Skull Shores. It’s a cute add-on.
The technical specs are a step behind the more recent releases in the Monster High oeuvre but still solid. The 1.78:1/1080p HD widescreen video transfer holds its levels well. There are some dark scenes, particularly in the catacombs, and the blacks never obscure anything. This is one of the more colorful installments as well, which isn’t a surprise considering that fashion is the subject matter. All the ghouls get Parisian makeovers and Clawdeen’s purple hair and gold belts look especially vibrant. As with most releases in the series Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights (Blu-ray) offers more audio than the expected. There is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in English as well as DTS Digital Surround 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish. This isn’t a release which requires the dense soundscape such tracks offer yet it means the soundtrack, ambience, dialogue and Foley all play well with each other. Lots of subtitle options mean your little one can learn to recognize foreign languages as they watch, if you’re looking for a new way to interact with these discs.
This release is pretty light on special features in comparison to others in the canon. We have DVD and digital copies of the film and then in an attempt at cross-promotion there are a couple of webisodes from fellow Mattel series Ever After High, the story of the next generation of fairy tale characters who are the sons and daughters of the most iconic heroes and villains.