Last year Full Moon Entertainment graced the world with The Gingerdead Man, a movie with no redeeming factors that tried to cash-in on the fad of having the always bizarre Gary Busey playing a criminal who's turned into a murderous gingerbread man cookie. It sucked.
So here we are just under a year later and it took an independent director from Calgary, Alberta to get the goofy premise right. Blaine Wasylkiw, marking his second effort after the equally tongue-in-cheek Rotten Shaolin Zombies, and scripter Anders J. Svensson deliver a dopey and agreeable forty minutes with The Muffin Man, and they don't have to rely on a washed-up actor or familiar company name to try and make people interested in seeing it.
When unkempt detective Hank (Michael Shepherd) and his partner enter Drury Lane Bakery to take down serial killer Desmond Bailey things don't turn out the way they planned. Hank's partner is killed by a muffin pan (which is tossed ninja star-like into his chest) and our killer ends up getting his head shoved into a baking oven.
Flash forward to five years later as we're introduced to the employees and the brand new coffee shop, GoNuts Donuts, where the employees are less than thrilled to be there slinging caffeine and jelly filled goods to the general public. But all that's about to change when Hank pays them a visit with a warning about Desmond Bailey - who just so happens to have been transformed in the oven accident into a giant, muffin headed monster who has glowing red eyes and has vowed revenge on baked good sellers across the country.
From there The Muffin Man takes a turn for the ridiculous (not that it wasn't already) as the sarcastic Chad (Chris Ippolito) has to try and stop the killer as his co-workers start getting killed in silly, and incredibly amusing, ways - including his boss, who gets flattened out with a rolling pin.
If the thought of a guy wearing a Styrofoam muffin head dipping people in grease and brandishing rolling pins and a jelly filling machine doesn't appeal to you, then The Muffin Man should probably stay on your "skip it" list. But if you're looking for a breezy, often chuckle inducing, indie effort then you could do a lot worse. It never wears out its welcome (it was probably wise to keep this to under an hour long) and it's made well enough to not annoy with any real technical flaws or amateurish filmmaking.
Svensson does what he can with the premise in the running time allotted and even manages to get off some rather witty dialogue at times - especially with his Kevin Smith-like Clerks style off-the-cuff ramblings like when Shepherd's character relays a over-the-top story about a fire juggler while keeping a completely straight face.
As a director Wasylkiw shows some improvement over Rotten Shaolin Zombies and seems to have been able to wring a few good performances to go with the decidedly so-so ones (let's just say I was glad to see Hank's partner and his wooden line delivery get offed). Shepherd plays the kind of cheap, trench coat wearing detective you'd expect in this kind of flick and Ippolito generally steals the movie by making his character feel like the kind of smart-assed, unmotivated guy you'd expect to see in such a job.
As of this writing, Wasylkiw was submitting the short to various film festivals and has relocated to the States. For information on how to get a copy of this, and his previous film, be sure to visit his Dancing Monkey Productions - and tell them we sent you! (Chris Hartley, 10/11/06)
Directed By: Blaine Wasylkiw.
Written By: Anders J. Svensson.
Starring: Chris Ippolito, Allison Lynch, James Ireland, Michael Shepherd.
Dancing Monkey Productions - August 1, 2006
Picture Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen.
Picture Quality: Shot on DV, The Muffin Man generally looks solid on disc. However, it does seem that things look a bit too washed-out and blurry in brighter scenes and while it's not overly distracting (and I'm not sure if it's a flaw in the encoding), it's still a minor gripe.
Extras: Dancing Monkey give you good value for the ten bucks you're going to plunk down on their disc. First we get an introduction by Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman (who could probably do these things in his sleep now), there's a photo gallery, a trailer for Rotten Shaolin Zombies, cast auditions, a "behind the scenes" featurette, and three commentary tracks (plus a fourth, not very well, hidden one).
The first track is Wasylkiw's and it's a decent little listen with enough info about the making of the flick to keep you interested, second is writer Svensson who spends most of his time joking around, third is cast members Shepherd and Ippolito who seem to get along well and have fun with it, and last up is the "easter egg" track with sound designer Beau Shiminsky which is mostly just pointless attempts to be funny as he complains about how everyone kept messing up the sound effects.
And for those of us who are persistent (and have nothing better to do) than click around the arrow keys on our DVD player remote, there's an easter egg that has our "muffin man" singing "The Lions Sleeps Tonight".