Any filmmaker who sets out to make a movie that's deliberately campy or cultish is facing an uphill battle. For every Nurse 3D, there are a dozen Snakes on a Planes or Sharknados that feel cynical and calculated and which, worst of all, fail to entertain.
I'm not somebody who gets a lot of out watching terrible movies and laughing at their terribleness. I have seen and been amused by stuff like The Room and Birdemic, but have no need to go back to them. I got everything they had to offer the first time. I don't begrudge those movies, either, because their respective directors weren't setting out to make cult classics embraced for their badness. They were trying to make good films, and the appeal lies in their complete failure to achieve that goal. No such effort/result gap exists with films that are engineered to be "bad," meaning they need to work overtime to be entertaining. We know the filmmakers are capable of better but deliberately aiming for less. That shit won't fly for some of us.
This brings me to 2005's The Gingerdead Man, the first entry in one of the more famous and lucrative franchises in the Full Moon Features stable. The movie has a lot of things going for it to make it a self-aware cult success. It has a funny title and a crazy premise. It has the ironic casting of Gary Busey. It is a movie that knows it is silly and tries to do "bad" on purpose. But The Gingerdead Man either isn't interested or isn't able to be the kind of movie it should be. There is a difference between "good" bad and bad bad. The Gingerdead Man is the latter.
But the joke is on them! The mysterious gingerbread seasoning was actually the ashes of Millard Findlemeyer (who was executed in the electric chair), left by his mother, who is supposedly a witch. When the blood mixes with the ashes, it resurrects Findlemeyer in cookie form -- the GINGERDEAD MAN is born. He spends the rest of the movie (which, if you're keeping count, is only about 35-40 minutes) stalking Sarah, her boyfriend Amos (Ryan Locke), her drunk Mom Betty (Margaret Blye), her co-worker Julie (Daniela Melgoza) and bitchy Lorna (Alexia Aleman), a spoiled brat whose father owns the competing bakery across the street and who has eyes for Sarah's boyfriend. Can they survive the night trapped in the bakery? Because they're not trapped in the bakery. They could leave at, like, literally any point.
Film is a visual medium. We should have seen Sarah in her hospital bed. We should have seen Gary Busey strapped into the electric chair, swearing his revenge before the switch is thrown. We should see Mrs. Findlemeyer packing the ashes into a box and leaving them on the doorstep. Not only would it make all of this exposition clearer and connect us more to the events that transpire, but it would make Gingerdead Man feel more LIKE A MOVIE. Because in its current form, it does not.
I've only seen a handful of modern-era Full Moon movies, but they have all problems similar to ones apparent in The Gingerdead Man. Yes, the budgets are considerably smaller than the ones Band was working with in the '80s and early '90s, but little attempt has been made to work around those limitations with invention. Instead, we get movies shot on one or two interior sets, a cast of only five or six and a monster or monsters (usually small in stature so that toy replicas can be produced and sold) that's rarely glimpsed in the movie. Gingerdead Man sports a pretty cool creature design by FX great John Carl Buechler, but doesn't know what to do with it. He pops out from time to time and says a one liner (though rarely are they the clever baking puns I think it's fair to expect), but he's not on screen a whole lot. Even having the voice of Gary Busey doesn't help. It could be anyone speaking for the little killer.
It's another example of the many ways that The Gingerdead Man plays it safe and, I hate to say it, boring. Beyond the concept and the title, the movie fails to embrace its own ridiculousness (ok, maybe it does when one character figures out how to defeat the cookie, but by then it feels too late). The gore gags need to be way over the top. Hell, they need to exist at all. The script needs to be self aware in a way that's funny. Too many scenes involve characters standing around making illogical decisions or talking about their own relationships when they should be focused on a killer cookie. This movie is about a killer fucking cookie! All I want is for it to be the best possible movie about a killer cookie it can be.
Just three entries into this Full Moon Madness experiment and I'm realizing that much of my affection for Charles Band's work is from his Empire International Pictures days. That's when Band was responsible for movies like Re-Animator, Trancers, From Beyond, Crawlspace and Robot Jox. These later Full Moon Features don't just suffer from budgetary restrictions; they suffer from a lack of imagination. Once the monster and poster design is chosen, it feels like no one tries as hard. I hope I'm wrong. I've got a lot of these still to go.
The good news is that I did watch the trailer for Gingerdead Man 2: The Passion of the Crust, and not only does it have an even more inspired title than the first film, but also appears to be an improvement over the first film in every way. I know it's just a trailer, but it really looks like exactly the movie they should have made the first time around. I can't wait to see it.
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