A man’s childhood toy doesn’t like competition in this dark comedy.
I was told about this movie last year, but apparently it got delayed due to the world shutting down. It was pitched as “what if Elmo from Sesame Street was a psychotic ex-boyfriend” and I cannot help but laugh at that dark image and how accurate it is to the plot of this movie. This film actually comes off as a bit of a Muppet movie not so much because of the living puppet, but because the human characters are all weird and exaggerated in the same ways that films like The Muppet Movie or Follow that Bird! It gives the film a surreal quality that’s only enhanced by many of the ridiculous visuals, like the fact that Benny’s movements are clearly puppeteered (his feet don’t even touch the ground much of the time).
The premise of the film is that there is a kind of magical force that enables toys that are thrown away to come back to life, but almost exclusively for the purpose of enacting horrible revenge upon those who wronged them or the ones their former owners now love. The targets can range from children to adults, provided that the adult only just threw out their toy. The main character, Jack (Writer/Director Karl Holt), is turning 35 at the beginning of the film and is revealed to almost completely still be living in his childhood. He stays with his parents (Catriona McDonald and Greg Page), his toys and posters from the 90s are still on display, and he shows no desire to do anything other than try to design toys for a living. Unfortunately, at work he is constantly thwarted by his nemesis Richard (George Collie) and tormented by his a-hole boss Ron (James “Not Jim” Parsons). Things take a turn for the worse when both of his parents die and Jack is forced to “grow up,” which means throwing out his toys… including a stuffed dog named Benny.
Benny quickly comes back to haunt him and starts to violently kill all of the people in Jack’s life that annoy him, but then starts murdering anyone, or anything, that Jack shows even the slightest affection towards. This becomes much more complicated when Jack manages to turn Benny’s creepy nature into a toy line and exploit the toy to his own gain, only for him to realize that Benny is going to make it impossible for him to explore his feelings for co-worker Dawn (Claire Cartwright), who might have some inner demons of her own. Oh, and he’s being investigated for an increasing number of missing persons cases by two local cops (Anthony Styles and Darren Benedict).
The key to this movie is that it really is well-crafted in terms of dialogue and visual humor. Despite how over-the-top grotesque and bloody most of Benny’s murders are, they’re still treated with a certain slapstick humor that borders on the cartoonish. The dialogue, character interactions, and even soundtrack often serve to subvert the horror tropes that the movie invokes. Throughout it, though, the film does a good job of exploring the main character and his perpetual refusal to abandon childish things. I have repeated ad nauseam that horror is at its best when the horror serves to act as a metaphor for something else and this film manages to do that with the extended adolescence that the modern world allows. Jack has, until the beginning of the movie, never been forced to grow up and, once he tries, Benny is determined to sabotage all of his adult relationships. It works pretty well.
I will give one caveat: Through part of this movie, a microphone was busted and apparently it did not get removed in post. If you have a problem with high-pitched static, there are a few scenes that may drive you nuts. They are few and far between, but man, that really did take me out of parts. Probably caused by the low budget.
Overall, solid film, aside from that one error.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.