Friday, December 23, 2016

'Parasite Dolls' in an underdeveloped disappointment

Dangerous Worry Dolls (aka "Parasite Dolls") (2008)
Starring: Jessica Morris, Cheri Themer, Dilio Nunez, Deb Snyder, and Meridith McClain
Director: Charles Band
Producers: Charles Band, Joe Megna, and Dana Harrloe
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

When incarceration in a women's prison ruled by a corrupt warden (Snyder) and a violent gangleader (McClain) becomes unbearable for Eva (Morris), she wishes her troubles onto a set of "worry dolls" that her daughter gave her while visiting. The dolls, however, are more than just vessels for wishful thinking, and they swiftly begin to eliminate all of Eva's troubles.

Like so many Full Moon movies, "Dangerous Worry Dolls" is brimming with potenial and overflowing with promise... potential and promise that for the most part remains unrealized. Quite honestly, it feels like they used a partially fleshed-out outline as their shooting script and even then didn't bother completing all the scenes.

We are introduced relatively well to Eva, the main character, but no other character gets even the slightest bit of development; everyone is a cookie cutter "women in prison" stock character--and even Eva's character is paper thin in the depth department. Worse, however, is the fact that only one of the worry dolls in Eva's box gets to do anything in the film. Why only that one is magical is never explained... although one gets the feeling that they were ALL supposed to be magical if the film had been compelte.

With the overlong opening and end credits are removed, the movie barely runs more than hour... and what happens in that hour feels incomplete and there are a number of severe continuity issues, such as a confrontation that was supposed to happen at 10:30pm ends up taking place after an event that was supposed to happen at Midnight. There's also an issue with Jessica Morris' make-up once she becomes possessed by the worry dolls and goes on a rampage; the discoloration on her skin that can be seen in the still above comes and goes for no real reason other than maybe scenes are not in the order they were originally supposed to be according to what passed for the script.

The only bright spot here is Jessica Morris, and possibly Dilio Nunez. Morris gives a decent performance all around, considering what she has to work with, and Nunez does some nice foreshadowing of the "big reveal" regarding his character's secret. None of the other cast members give bad performances, but they aren't especially good either. Then again. one has to excuse them to some degree, because they are spitting out some of the most cliched dialogue imaginable while portraying characters that are woefully underdeveloped.

"Dangerous Worry Dolls" is only for people who absolutely must see every single movie in the "women in prison" subgenre of trashy films, and for those who enjoy that off-kilter, undefinable quality present in almost all of Charles Band's films--even the ones that feel as unfinished as this one. It's not his worst effort, but it is far, far from his best.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Killjoy's back... and he's brought the funny!

Killjoy's Psycho Circus (2016)
Starring: Trent Haaga, Victoria De Mare, Robin Sydney, Al Burke, Tai Chan Ngo, Victoria Levine, Stephen F. Cardwell, Lauren Nash, and Tim Chizmar
Director: John Lechago
Producers: Charles Band and John Lechago
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

After escaping from Hell, the demonic clown Killjoy (Haaga) and his fellow clown demons Batty Boop (De Mare), Punchy (Burke), and Freakshow (Ngo) have been keeping themselves busy as hosts of a late-night variety show called Psycho Circus. But life on Earth is proving tougher than expected, as the pressures of running a business starts to tear the group apart... and things go from bad to worse when the arch-demon they humiliated by escaping his grasp (Cardwell) comes to drag them back to the Netherworld.

The Principles of Psycho Circus: Killjoy (Trent Haaga, bottom left),
 Samantha (Victoria Levine, bottom right), Punchy (Al Burke, top left) and Freakshow (Tai Chan Ngo)

"Killjoy's Psycho Circus" brings back not only the majority of the stars from the last entry in this long-running Full Moon series, but writer/director John Lechago is once again at the helm. As with the previous two films in the series, Lechago and his cast take viewers on a wild four-color ride of insanity and hilarity. There's very little left of the Killjoy's horror roots here--except for the macabre deaths he visited upon the guests who appear on his show--but in its place is a steady stream of foul-mouthed humor and biting satire directed at the entertainment industry at large and Full Moon's own products in particular. There's a solid belly laugh every few minutes, and long-time Full Moon fans will be smiling throughout the picture.

Once again, Trent Haaga is spectacular as Killjoy, and he's hilarious playing a caricature of himself as a guest on Killjoy's TV show. Victoria De Mare is once again lots of fun as Batty Boop, even if her role is somewhat reduced... but it's not a bad thing as Full Moon mainstay Robin Sidney turns in an excellent "fake" Batty for the initial parts of the film. This "recasting" is one of many commentaries on the film and TV business scattered throughout this entry and it's one of the best. When the "fake" Batty first appeared, I was a little annoy by the obvious body suit that had replaced the body paint, but once it became clear was was going on, I loved every bit relating to the "replacement" that followed.

I also loved the references to other Full Moon properties, even to the Killjoy series itself as merchandise, as Lechago dealt with the ever-present element of product placement in blatant and hilarious ways (while still fulfilling what I assume were actual product-placement deals with companies outside Band's operation). What would probably have had me rolling my eyes instead had me wiping away tears of laughter. The emphasis on a Hell and demons centered in a world of pulp-magazine style sci-fi in place of the usual mysticism and fire-and-brimstone that was introduced in "Killjoy Goes to Hell" continues here and is ratcheted up even further, as the film's climax unfolds in space, with Killjoy and his clowns serving as the crew on their own rocket ship. It's crazy, and it works beautifully, especially the way it sets up future sequels that can either bring the series back to its horror roots, or spin it even further off into psuedo-sci-fi tomfoolery.

The only complaints I have with "Killjoy's Psycho Circus" is that some characters and their stories are left dangling at the end of the movie. I would have liked to have seen a wrap-up of some sort involving Killjoy's agent and business manager (played by Victoria Levine), not to mention a real pay-off for the running gag of her insisting that Killjoy needed to start selling ice cream on the show. I also wanted to see a better resolution to the "fake" Batty storyline, other than the confirmation that Sidney was playing her "Evil Bong" character playing Batty Boop. A publicity still for the film seemed to indicate that there would be the sort of resolution I would expect the real Batty Boop to visit upon an imposter, but such a scene is not in the film. (There is a confrontation, but it's a disappointingly mild one.)

Real and Fake Batty Boops! (Victoria De Mare, left, and Robin Sydney)

This scene does not appear in the film, but should! (Sydney, left, and De Mare)
In the final analysis, Killjoy's Psycho Circus isn't quite as good as "Killjoy Goes to Hell", but anyone who's enjoyed the previous Lechago-helmed entries in the series will still get a huge kick out of it and should consider it a must-watch release from Full Moon.