Charles Band triple-bill

Charles Band is coming to town! Yes, one of low-budget horror’s best-known names is bringing his Full Moon Horror Roadshow to Phoenix on September 16th. We’re excited to be helping them out with organizing the event – as an appetizer, we made some popcorn and settled in for an evening of some of Charlie’s latest works…

Doll Graveyard (2005)

Rating: B-

Dir: Charles Band
Star: Jared Kusnitz, Gabrielle Lynn, Anna Alicia Brock, Kristyn Green

In 1911, a little girl breaks a vase while playing with her dolls; as punishment, her father makes her bury them in the back-yard, only the girl ends up dead and buried there too. 90+ years later, one doll is dug up: when it rescues its friends, it goes out for revenge on anyone nearby – which happens to be modern residents Guy (Kusnitz) and DeeDee (Gabrielle Lynn), left alone in the house by their father. The latter has invited some friends over, of both sexes; meanwhile Guy subconsciously directs the dolls to punish anyone who has been mean toward him – basically his sibling and said friends. He’s slowly being possessed by the spirit of the dead little girl, an oddly disturbing concept when you think about it.

Not that you really get a chance to think – the whole film is barely an hour, excluding a very slow credit-crawl that lasts nine minutes. So things gallop forward at a pace, and you don’t have much opportunity to think about the idiocy of, say, no-one leaving the house. The first thing I’d do, if attacked by a posse of psychopathic mannequins, is head for the streets, especially since these aren’t exactly quick-moving monsters. They’re certainly creepy looking, and vicious little ankle-biters too, which adds to the fun. Despite a surprisingly-low body count, it helps that thought went into characters and dialogue; both are a cut above the usual cliches one might expect. For example it’s amusing, given the title, when Guy pouts that his collection aren’t dolls, they’re “action figures”. I guess Action Figure Graveyard wouldn’t have sold as well…

The Gingerdead Man (2005)

Rating: C-

Dir: Charles Band
Star: Robin Sydney, Ryan Locke, Alexia Aleman, Gary Busey

The title, concept and cover are just fabulous. I mean: an executed killer’s spirit, returns as a revengeful psychopathic cookie? Brilliant. However, the actual film comes off…ah, half-baked. Unlike Doll Cemetery, this lacks the loopy logic that made sense at the time, playing within its own rules. I think we finally cracked when Gingerdead mowed someone down with a truck – “A cookie. That can drive,” said Chris (with so much sarcastic disbelief, I fell in love with her, all over again). If the film had concentrated on the mayhem caused by said murderous confection, it could still have worked. Or even if it had interesting or engaging human characters, to occupy the time between the ginger snaps. No such luck. Instead, there’s lame subplots about a struggling bakery run by Sarah (Sydney), a rival chain, its owner’s bitchy daugher (Aleman), a colleague who wants to be a pro-wrestler, and an unnecessary love-triangle too.

It’d help if the script covered all the bases, like the apparently necessary fluke of blood getting into the dough – hello, health department violation – or why people don’t simply leave the bakery. [A vague booby-trap explanation, which provides 1/3 of the film’s body-count, doesn’t really make much sense. Since it’s now set off, why not use the door?] I understand perfectly why, for budgetary reasons, they skimped on the monster, but a well-thought out story doesn’t cost more to make. I don’t really see the need for Busey, and wonder what budget percentage went to him. I mean, how many people will think, “The Gingerdead Man. You gotta be fuc…hang on – Gary Busey! Oscar-nominated in 1979 for The Buddy Holly Story. Here is my hard-earned cash, Mr. Video Store Clerk.” The concept should be the star here – when it is, this film is great; otherwise…less so.

Decadent Evil (2005)

Rating: C+

Dir: Charles Band
Star: Debra Mayer, Raelyn Hennessee, Jill Michelle, Phil Fondacaro

It’s nice to see a Charles Band film that doesn’t rely entirely on killer puppets for its impact. Of course, there still is an “action figure” present in the lineup here – Marvin the horny homunculus, former lover of the lead villainess, whom she now keeps in a cage – but the central figures here are a trio of vampires. They’re led by Morella (Mayer), closing in on the 10,000 kills which will set her free from her master; her two acolytes, Sugar and Spyce (Hennessee + Michelle) work at a strip-club, luring victims back for their mistress. However, Sugar has fallen in love with the club DJ, and wants to head off on her own, much as Morella did [the film starts with ten minutes of footage summarising The Vampire Journals, illustrating this point]. Adding to the situation, midget vampire-hunter Ivan (Fondacaro) is now close to Morella.

For what this is, especially given it was shot in six days, it’s not bad; vampires, strippers, midgets and puppet sex will always get our attention. The main problem here is, there isn’t quite enough of them, or anything else – if you discount the recycled footage and by now, traditional, long, slow end credits, there’s barely 50 minutes of actual new material. Band also seems a little at a loss regarding the nudity, something not that often seen in his films: more could certainly have been made of the strip-club scenes, for example. [We wonder why vampires always work in such places, never more prosaic night jobs, like the late shift at 7-11] Given the amazing shortage of actual content – it’s barely half a feature – I can’t really recommend this unreservedly. However, if you see only one film this year where a midget hunts down stripper vampires, Decadent Evil should probably be it.