Who didn’t want a Bunyan-centric horror film?
There are times in your life when you see something so majestic, so beautiful, and so mysterious that you just can’t help but stare with your mouth agape. This movie’s title was that for me. I mean, I remember the period in the 90s when they churned out a bunch of fairy tale-themed horror movies like Pinocchio’s Revenge and Snow White: A Tale of Terror or the video game American McGee’s Alice, but I definitely didn’t think we’d reached the point of doing a folk hero horror film. It’s kind of brilliant, because Paul Bunyan is exactly what this film’s title promises: A giant with an axe. He’s basically a villain from a D&D campaign but wearing the clothing of a Midwestern dad. My biggest question is whether or not this is going to be the start of a folk hero horror shared universe. Will we soon be talking about an undead Pecos Bill gunning down teens and cyborg John Henry taking revenge on humanity? Will this lead to the horror version of that movie Tall Tale in which all of them battle to the death? As this movie is now eight years old, I’m guessing not, but hope springs eternal.
The movie starts off with a flashback of a group of loggers whose outfits definitely don’t match the time period eating a massive wall of meat. If you can’t guess where this is going, don’t worry, the movie only gives you about 90 seconds before a giant man (Chris Hahn) murders all of the loggers. It then jumps to the modern day where a bunch of kids in a reform program for first-time offenders are being sent into the woods under the supervision of Sergeant Hoke (Tom Downey) and guidance counselor Mrs. K (Kristina Kopf). The five kids are Marty, Trish, Zack, Rosa, and CB (Clifton Williams, Jill Evyn, Jesse Kove, Victoria Ramos, Amber Connor). Their personalities range from bad boy to bad girl to generic horror protagonist (CB). If you’re looking for depth, good news, other movies exist. These characters are here to die in interesting ways involving a giant man and they don’t need to be believable for that.
While in the woods, the group encounters local crazy hermit Meeks (Joe Estevez), but after he earns his cameo money as the only name in the film, he is driven away. While hiking the next day, two of the teens find a skull from a giant ox and steal a horn. Naturally, this was Babe the Blue Ox’s resting place and they’ve just pissed off Paul Bunyan. He follows them and kills Trish by bisecting her vertically, which is admittedly the kind of stuff that makes these movies worthwhile. When Hoke tries to fight back, Bunyan kills him by splitting him in half horizontally, because he’s not an axe giant if he doesn’t use that axe. The survivors escape to a cabin, but Bunyan destroys their van. They’re joined by Meeks who tells them that Bunyan was born with a condition that makes him gigantic and also long-lived. He was imprisoned for murder when he killed the loggers for eating Babe. He got bigger since then.
They try to return the horn, but Bunyan just uses it to kill one of the teens, because he does NOT care anymore. Bunyan smashes up the cabin and kills yet another of the teens, so now we’re just down to CB, Marty, and Mrs. K. They’re joined by CB’s dad, who is the sheriff of the town, and he incapacitates Bunyan with tranquilizers. Meeks takes Bunyan’s side and shoots Marty, but Bunyan continues not to care and murders Meeks. The giant chases all of the remaining cast over a bridge in time to be shot to death by a militia. Turns out that a big human still doesn’t do well with hundreds of bullet holes. And now he’s dead, since, again, sequel unlikely. Also, since the writer/director, Gary Jones, hasn’t done anything since, I’m guessing he’s not building his own cinematic universe.
This isn’t the worst B-movie I’ve seen by a long shot, but it definitely was trying a bunch of stuff that it did NOT have the budget for. Some of the scenes of Bunyan holding people or interacting with them look super fake. I will say that Bunyan himself actually looks pretty good for the money. The design looks like a person who is both deformed and also has been suffering from living outdoors for a century. The characters are mediocre, but at least the kills are kind of fun.
Overall, it’s not a top-tier B movie, but it’s fun.
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.