Vincent (1982)

Starring: Vincent Price
Grade: A-

This had to have been about Tim Burton himself, right?


Completely through spoken rhymes, the narrator (Price) tells the story of a good-natured 7-year-old named Vincent Malloy, a boy who longs to be just like his hero Vincent Price. He has a pretty normal life living with his mother, sister, a dog named Abercrombie with whom he does experiments on to try and turn into a zombie, and his pet cats, but he’s obsessed with the fantasy life he’s created in his head. Though his mother tries to speak sense into him, and his family can momentarily bring him out of the trances he can find himself in, reality intertwines with Vincent’s imagination like roots into a rich soil, and he descends into madness.

My Thoughts:

In a six-minute stop-motion animated film, Burton wrote and directed this brooding tale about a child who’s obsessed with horror and the cult surrounding the persona of Vincent Price. It’s well scored, and it’s richly animated in Burton’s signature dark and imaginative style, giving off the look of a creepy silent film from the 1920s. Basically, think German Expressionism meets Dr. Seuss. This is Vincent. It hooks you from the opening scene of the black cat crawling into Vincent’s house, and it keeps your attention. You may not get all the references, but the message of the kid losing his mind is well done, though more time could have been given in-between lines to appreciate the script as well as the action unfolding as its spoken. From an artistic standpoint, the black-and-white was an excellent choice too. Considering this a homage to Price and the horror movies he starred in way back when, this was the only way to go. It wouldn’t have had the same effect from a storytelling perspective without it.

In just six minutes, the always unconventional Burton is able to encapsulate the influence film has on an imaginative young mind, how we can gravitate towards visionary features, actors, and characters, and how dark it can get for a lonely child looking for someone or something to latch onto. Experimenting on his dog, imagining dipping his aunt into hot wax simply because of a movie he saw, or even reading Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and thinking he has a dead wife to dig up, it becomes clear that this is not an individual inspired by creativity in the media he consumes but rather an unguided soul on the brink of madness, with a powerful imagination that is engulfing him and not letting go. Delusions and a serious detachment from reality has broken Vincent to where he can shift easily in and out of his mania, and it seems to be a daily struggle for the boy. Is he looking for help? Is he looking for a way out, or does he enjoy the fruits of what he cooks up in his psyche? From the beginning, Vincent looks to be enjoying himself when he fancies himself a young Vincent Price, but he becomes more scared as time moves on, with his thoughts getting darker and more wicked. The kid is still in there somewhere, as we see the entire mood and tone come to a halt when his mother explains to him that he’s just making things up, but he goes right back to it when she leaves the room, begging the question of what his goal is, if he has one, or if he wants out entirely now that his descent has begun.

Interestingly enough, there’s nothing that has led Vincent to this moment in terms of an internalized problem or a traumatic event of some kind. Vincent is just a story about a boy who is starting to fully believe he is the mad scientist he’s seen on his television screen. No one in his family can tell him or save him otherwise. He has fallen into the deep end in the most poetic sense. At the same time, the true terror of this realized reality starts to set in, as our protagonist seems to succumb to the shadows and visions he has created in his own house. It all ends with a stage-inspired finale and a zoom-out that really finishes things on a high note.

With excellent voice work by horror icon Vincent Price, Tim Burton’s Vincent is a glimpse into the mind of the eclectic director and tells more of a story in minutes what most can’t do in an hour and a half. Short, sweet, and to the point. Disney needs to let this one out of the vault.

What else do they got back there besides Walt Disney’s head?

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