The Gingerdead Man
Psychotic killer Millard Findlemeyer decides to rob a diner one afternoon. While holding up the joint he shoots several patrons, including father and son duo, James and Jeremy Leigh. But for whatever reason, he seems to grow a sudden conscience when it comes to shooting the last witness, a young Sarah Leigh, and instead decides to let her live. Bad idea, Millard. As the only living witness, Sarah’s testimony condemns Findlemeyer to death, and several years after witnessing her family’s murder, his execution is finally carried out. But Millard isn’t done with Sarah yet. With the help of his witch mother, a fake box of flour and a drop of blood, Millard is reborn…. As a hideous cookie in the Leigh family bake shop. No matter. Surely he’ll figure out a way to get his half-baked scheme to work.
Seems to be going really well so far.
So I was trying to figure out something to watch in the month of December that was sort of Christmas-y, without being too Christmas-y, and remembered this strange series of films, which, as it turns out, aren’t even remotely related to Christmas, despite the gingerbread inclusion, which is often associated with said holiday. Oh well, my bad. Live and learn. Knowing this was a Charles Band production, who is the same guy who brought us Tourist Trap, and the Puppet Master and Demonic Toys series of films, AND that the movie featured Gary Busey, I already had an idea of the quality of the film I was about to get into. But while I went in with fairly low expectations, I was still expecting a fair bit of cheesy goodness. Because come on, it’s a movie about a killer talking pastry. Surely there would be enough ridiculousness in here to keep me entertained, or at least give me a couple of laughs.
Boy was I wrong.
So much for my low hopes.
The film’s largest flaw is that the entire movie is just completely and inexcusably…. boring. Now, you wouldn’t think you could make a movie about a killer cookie boring, but boy, would you be wrong. The movie spends most of its runtime focusing on the poorly acted plight of Sarah and her mother as they deal with the aftermath of the deaths of Sarah’s father and brother. One of her employees is an amateur wrestler that we never see wrestle. A local sleazy businessman is opening a new eatery right across the street and trying to buy Sarah and her family out. Oh, and Sarah’s mother has become an alcoholic with a penchant for shotguns and shooting down “Opening Soon” banners. And the businessman’s daughter is the town’s ‘mean girl’ who thinks her father’s methods of running the competition out of business are too slow, so she sneaks into the bakery and drops a bag of rats near the bread. And she and Sarah have never gotten along. And she’s dating a guy Sarah kinda has a crush on. And by this point I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of a very dumb high school drama and the damn cookie boy hasn’t even shown up yet. Like, what the hell, movie? I don’t give a one flying fig about all these people or their petty-ass problems, I came to see the killer cookie. Except when the Gary Busey voiced treat does finally show up, it’s often just to say a quick quip and disappear again. Our little dough-boy friend, who’s the whole draw of the film, is probably only in it for about ten minutes, tops. Maybe. He comes and goes so fast, and the few deaths that are there are just so mundane, that there’s no time or even attempt to leave any kind of an impact. The moments just are. And when we’re not watching him, we’re forced to watch a bunch of strung together, poorly constructed scenes that are trying desperately to form a coherent plot that just never emerges, and the end result is an excessively, and surprisingly boring, 70-minutes.
“I see dull people…”
I couldn’t even count on the dumb-ass characters or questionable acting to save this film for me. As far as Charles Band films go, most of the acting here was poor, but not atrociously so. Sure, Busey is a bit over the top, but that’s just Busey being Busey. And some movie veterans like Margaret Blye and a (very) brief early appearance by Broadway, movie and TV actor James Snyder actually manage to temper things a bit. So while the acting can suck, it never reaches high enough suckage levels to be amusingly mock-able. Luckily the character’s actions during the film DO reach that level, but unfortunately most of them are just so obnoxiously and repetitively stupid that by the time the movie is over you’ll have gone from laughing at their idiocy to being perpetually annoyed by it, because they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again. Having your characters follow dull and overused horror cliches is bad enough, but having them repeat the same one multiple times in the same film will cause you to develop an eye tic.
STOP GOING BACK INTO THE BAKERY!
If you’re hoping the effects can possibly save the movie for you, I’m here to tell you…. don’t. What little blood and gore there is is bright red and hokey and cheap as hell, much like the rest of the film. The puppet for the Gingerdead Man is actually worse than the movie posters make it out to be. Even for a Band production I thought this one looked unimpressively cheap. Pretty sure the whole thing is just one big rubber puppet. It does have a barely moveable mouth, so at least it’s not static, but that’s about all you should expect from it. And then there are the eyes. The quality of the version of the film I watched was pretty poor, especially considering it came out in 2005, but even from screenshots I still can’t tell if the eyes are tiny little food beads, or if they’re in fact tiny little google-y eyeballs that got stuck while they were making the puppet, because the thing constantly looks like it’s giving you the side-eye, but that may just be the lighting.
Can you tell what he’s looking at? I can’t.
The only upside to my viewing of this movie is that I watched the 13 Nights of Elvira cut of this film, because of course there’s more than one version of this thing available for streaming. If you don’t know, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (played by Cassandra Peterson,) has a couple of different series available on streaming services. The first is a partial selection from her Movie Macabre series from the 80s, but the second is a more recent selection of films released in 2014, among them being Puppet Master, Seed People and The Gingerdead Man. These versions contain opening and closing host segments, as well as moments throughout the films where Elvira will “POP!” up to add her own unique brand of color commentary. So it’s kind of like watching a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, but with much more sporadic jokes. Her occasionally jumping in and making corny commentary when something ridiculous happened actually made the movie somewhat bearable. Sure they were super cheesy, but they were still funnier than the jokes in the movie, and for that, I thank her.
Elvira is not impressed with your businesses health and safety standards.
Watching The Gingerdead Man actually made me sad. Not because it had any moments of touching drama or anything, but because it’s the kind of movie that had the potential to be a big ball of cheesy fun and the movie ended up dropping the ball down a sewer pipe. What made it worse was that there were actually glimmers of stupid goodness found within, like the random 20-or-so seconds when the Gingerdead Man starts trash-talking a rat, but for some reason the film just couldn’t stick with it and decided to focus on all the boring, stupid humans instead. I went in expecting the movie to be something hilarious, or at least hilariously bad, but instead the whole thing just feels like a huge lost opportunity. I’m really not looking forward to the sequels….
The Gingerdead Man is available on a variety of streaming services, including free on Tubi TV.
It is also available on DVD.