The Gingerdead Man

Run, run as fast as you can!

As anyone who reads this blog (Hi, Mom!) or knows me in person can tell you, I’m a sucker for weirdness.  I go to the carnival, not for the rides, but to stare at carnies that run them.  And what of the sideshow?  You couldn’t drag me away.  The beach? I don’t tan.  I go for the fat chicks and old people who’ve stuffed themselves into  inappropriate swimwear .  Walmart?  Screw low prices! I go to see The Hills Have Eyes family buy tube socks and frozen waffles.  I even go to the local strip club for “Amateur Night” because each and every dancer is a total train wreck.  Ever see a midget climb the stripper pole?  I have.  That little lady could dance! She was awesome!  I’m just a freak like that.

The other day I came across a movie titled The Gingerdead Man.  Eh?  GingerDEAD Man?  Somebody actually made a film called The Gingerdead Man?  Holy Macaroni!  That’s great!  I must see this!  Oh, and lookie, it stars Gary Busey AND it’s directed by Charles Band!  There is no way this can fail!

If you came to The Gingerdead Man hoping for a story unlike any you’ve even heard, you certainly came to the wrong place. Let me give you a thumbnail sketch and you tell me if it seems familiar.  Millard Findlemeyer (Gary Busey) in the course of sticking up a restaurant murders everyone, staff and patrons alike, except Sarah Leigh (Robin Sydney), whom he leaves alive after gunning down both her father and older brother.  Later, Findlemeyer is caught by the police and Sara testifies against him, resulting in Findlemeyer getting the electric chair for his crimes.  Before Findlemeyer dies, he swears that he’ll get revenge from beyond the grave.

We flash forward a few years later to find Sara running the family business, a bakery, while her mother, Betty (Margaret Blye ) descends into depression and alcoholism which is played for laughs.  Betty at one point gets ripped and starts firing at the new chain restaurant that is preparing to open across the street. Betty has reason to be angry.  Jimmy Dean (Larry Cedar) owner of the new restaurant wants to put the Leigh family out of business so he can knock down their bakery for parking space and he’s not nice about it, repeatedly mocking Betty and Sarah with ridiculous lowball offers for the bakery.

Wait!  There’s more!  Findlemeyer’s mom is a witch.  After Findlemeyer is executed and cremated, Ma Findlemeyer does some hocus-pocus on the ashes and leaves them in a box label “Ginger Bread Seasoning” at the back door of the bakery.  While opening the box of “seasoning” Sara’s assistant, Brick (Jonathan Chase) cuts himself, spilling a bit of his blood in the gingerbread mix.  Uh-oh.  Sarah takes the dough and makes a large gingerbread man and places it in the oven.  Uh-oh.  If cursed gingerbread made from a dead serial killer, human blood and witchcraft wasn’t enough, we have an electrical charge fly through the oven, jolting the gingerbread man in the best Frankenstein tradition.  The result?  A murderous, foul mouthed foot high Gingerdead Man with the voice and mental stability of Gary Busey who rampages through the Leigh family bakery in a spree of pop n’ fresh mayhem.

Does any of that sound familiar?  Writers William Butler and August White must get their plots at The Salvation Army Store, because the idea behind The Gingerdead Man is positively threadbare from overuse.   Once the spirit of Findlemeyer awakens in the body of the Gingerdead Man, the film shift into a 1980’s styled slasher horror-comedy movie set in a confined area.  On the other hand, any film titled The Gingerdead Man isn’t going to be the next Silence of the Lambs, is it?  Hello, Clarice, I ate his jelly donut with icing and a cup of coffee . . . Slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp.

The Gingerdead Man does have some redeeming features: First of all, it’s about a murderous gingerbread man.  How fun is that?  Next, all the effects are in camera, genuine honest to goodness practical effects, complete with Karo syrup blood and latex Gingerdead Man suits, puppets and the like.  Lastly, The Gingerdead Man features Gary Busey, who is one of the few actors crazy enough to deliver his lines with such utter mad conviction.

The rest of the cast is mediocre, but then again, they aren’t given much with which to work.  The characters are cookie cutter (ha!) which is fine for a shortish horror-comedy if the lowest denominator is all that’s wanted.  I’m not asking for Hamlet here, but a little more juice in the characters would have gone a long way.  The humor, for the most part is derived from the Gingerdead Man concept and follows visually from that.  The Gingerdead Man itself is just plain funny looking. The balance of the humor, largely puns and camp, fell a bit flat, like an unfortunate fallen souffle.

If I seem to be of two minds on this, it’s because I am; on the one hand, The Gingerdead Man is a fun bite of grotesquery but on the other it could have been more engaging. I think that the movie’s deficiencies are mostly with the writers.  One very obvious opportunity, both in terms of plot and in marketing, that the filmmakers missed was using Christmas as a backdrop for movie.  Why else would a bakery make gingerbread men if not for the holiday season?  The contrast of horror and Yuletide joy might have opened some avenues for comedy.

The Gingerdead Man, while tasty enough, does get a little stale in the middle and lacks sufficient bite.  As a horror film it’s nothing special; as a comedy it’s nothing special; as a bit of dark holiday humbuggery The Gingerdead Man is a welcome treat.  If nothing else it’ll get the saccharine taste of holiday schmaltz out of your mouth.  If you enjoy the schlocky offerings that are typical of Charles Band and Full Moon, you’ll want to see this.

WTF Moment: A middle aged white guy from the suburbs whips out a switch blade knife, then charges a gun wielding Gary Busey.

Gary Busey
Robin Sydney
Ryan Locke
Larry Cedar

Charles Band

William Butler
August White

Two of five Vincents

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