If you are a fan of spooky Halloween viewing that can appeal to the entire family but have run through all of the old favorites more times than you can count, there is a charming new tale to add to your rotation. The new film Little Vampire finds French director Joann Sfar adapting the first volume of his own Petit Vampire children’s book series first released in 1999. While firmly targeted towards children, the story contains a universal message of choosing your family, finding your place in the world and dealing with loneliness that should speak to older audiences. Add in the fact that there is an admiration of classic horror films that aims to educate the next generation of genre fans, and you have something worth your time no matter your age. 

Little Vampire has not always been the Little Vampire. 300 years ago he was a normal ten-year-old boy living with his mother, Pandora. Unfortunately for this woman, toxic masculinity reared its ugly head when she was nearly forced to marry a man she did not love before the Captain of the Dead answered her cries for help by absconding with her and her boy on his flying pirate ship and turning them into one of his souls of the dead. Pandora fell in love with The Captain and married him, moving into a haunted house with his eccentric crew of lovable undead misfits. While the crew love one another, after 300 years Little Vampire desperately wants to go to school and make a friend. When Little Vampire breaks the rules and sneaks out into the world, he soon becomes fast friends with Michel, an orphan school boy who helps Little Vampire do all the things he never got to do as a boy. With the breaking of the rules come some consequences, though, such as a nefarious figure named The Gibbus locating his old nemesis The Captain to settle old scores once and for all. 

The real joy of this story is the approach it takes towards making poignant themes relatable for all. When Little Vampire expresses his sadness and boredom from doing the same things every day for the past 300 years, you completely get from where he is coming. It is not that he does not enjoy the inventive game of hide-and-seek that he and his ghoulish friends play by running in and out of framed paintings, or even watching classic horror films via an old projector – in a fun twist the director uses actual footage from vintage films – but such things get old after a while. While not a unique idea, this theme definitely resonates during a pandemic era where many still find themselves at home constantly. Even though he still has a pulse, Michel is not much better off emotionally because everyone in his life looks at him with pity due to his status as an orphan. With his new friends, he is surrounded by a group of people who do not find his “abnormality” the least bit abnormal. Even the “evil” Gibbus is worthy of a deeper analysis – he is a figure who has never been taught how to love someone properly and learn the value of consent. 

Little Vampire does a truly wonderful job of mixing important messages into a story that never lacks in fun. Even the animation itself injects a bit of extra wonder into this tale. Every character has a distinct trait which is supplemented by a visual component that allows them to stand apart. The Captain wears an outlandishly large pirate hat that fills up the screen atop his skeletal body, and his enemy Gibbus presents with a giant crescent-moon head  that moves swiftly through the night sky as he tricks humans into being part of his army of villainy. The ensemble of undead friends that accompany Little Vampire around are as memorable as anyone you would find in a Pixar film. A Frankenstein’s monster named Marguerite proves to be a gentle giant who cowers at movies he has watched hundreds of times because he is still afraid the monster is going to lose. Little Vampire is gently guided by the red, floating French bulldog named Phantomato who tries to appeal to his best impulses. There are a number of other fun personalities that are beautifully realized against a visually lush background. 

Little Vampire is a film with copious scenes of excitement and adventure that keeps you transfixed by the screen at all times, but it is in the quieter character moments that reveals it to have a beating heart that makes you emotionally invested. You will definitely laugh while also feeling quite moved by the themes the film so deftly tackles. This is a fully realized world that leaves you hoping that many more films can be inspired by these characters. It is important for audiences of all ages to be exposed to animation outside of the traditional Hollywood studio system, and this feature is one of the finest examples we have seen in some time. This is the perfect lighthearted diversion for the Halloween season. 

Video Quality

Little Vampire comes to Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory with a stunning and vibrant 1080p transfer. The colors present in this transfer are practically leaping off the screen with the wide range of hues permeating every inch of the frame. The textures, from the character designs to the environments, are extremely impressive and give the film a real sense of depth. One of the areas where the film really shines is the fluidity of the character designs as they sleek throughout the world in the most untethered manner. The subtle details that are added to each individual help to show the care put into the animation. Each environment has a personality that shines through in the best way. Black levels are incredibly strong with no hint of compression artifacts or digital anomalies of the sort. The only very minor flaw is the occasional spot of banding, but it is not a massive issue. This is simply a beautiful looking Blu-Ray presentation.

Audio Quality

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track is presented here in its original French and an English dub with optional English subtitles. The track is a lovely sounding experience that brings the movie to life in a really pleasing manner. Dialogue comes through crystal clear at all times without being overshadowed by any of the worldly sounds or the pleasing score. The latter is precise in its placement throughout the room as it envelops the audience. The track employs occasional activity in the low end to give a bit of weight to the more kinetic moments. There is also a nice amount of sonic detail in the surround channels as the sounds of a bustling ship creates a world fully realized. The English-language cast does a fine job, but I would recommend sticking with the original French track for creative purity. This is a stellar sounding release that should more than please fans of the film. 

Special Features

  • Theatrical Trailer: The two-minute trailer is provided here. 

 

Final Thoughts

Little Vampire is a perfectly charming family film that handles mature themes in a really palatable, entertaining manner suitable for all. The animation is truly gorgeous with inventive character designs and fully realized personalities that are quite endearing. If you appreciate a family film with a hint of melancholy such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, this will probably be a big hit for you. Shout! Factory has released a Blu-Ray featuring a stunning A/V presentation but not much in the way of special features. If you find yourself wanting something new for the Halloween season, add this to your watch list. Recommended 

Little Vampire is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack and DVD.

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids have supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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