Tiki (DVD)

Tiki reviewStarring Joelene Smith, Wesley Deitrick, Tanya Morton, Maria Caprile, Angela Dierdorff Petro, Holly Pugsley, Daniel Anderson

Directed by Ron Ford

Distributed by Image Entertainment

I’d been really looking forward to this one for quite some time, so much so that I actually plunked down good hard cash to purchase a copy of Tiki after I couldn’t find it in any local video stores. A bad omen? I even waited patiently after it was placed on backorder. Another omen perhaps? Finding any info on Tiki – let alone any reviews – has been damn near impossible. I can’t even find a listing for it on IMDB. Yet another omen? I finally stumbled across the first online review describing it easily one of the worst movies of the year and a new low for the particular puppet-horror subgenre. The omens just kept on coming.

It may have taken forever but my backordered DVD finally arrived for me to make my own judgment. My verdict: Not guilty by reason of insanity. Parts of this movie are so catastrophically bad that it’s damn near impossible not to be somehow entertained. The budget was obviously quite miniscule, the killer tiki doll effects are consistently laughable, and the acting takes bad acting to a whole stratosphere. When I say there’s bad acting in this movie I mean "Holy shit! That’s some bad acting!" Tiki is total trash cinema, about two steps above being someone’s backyard production, but not a film that I feel compelled to totally trash. This is the sort of film that’s an acquired taste, and while some of it tastes rancid, there are moments worth savoring.

As to why a tiki doll has decided to go on a killing spree, it all has to do with a young girl named Amy. Far be it from me to critique the physical unattractiveness of another person, what with I being the Playgirl centerfold I am, but she’s not exactly a classic beauty and the way the film sets out to further nerdy her up, well, she looks like a young female version of "The Daily Show"’s John Hodgman. I dare say it’s actually rather refreshing to see a movie where a filmmakers didn’t just cast some teen beauty queen, dressed her down, and tried to pass her off as the homely girl who is obviously just a hot chick made to look frumpy.

Her full name is Amy Connelly; that’s a good Irish name for a girl of supposedly Polynesian descent that grew up in the South Seas. The only thing about her that looks even the slightest bit Polynesian is the huge, unsightly tribal sun tattoo on her upper back.

Amy’s just moved to a new Pacific Northwest town and within two seconds of walking in the room, the mean girls in the school instantly decide to hate her just because she doesn’t look like a beauty queen. Then Amy scores the lead role in the school production and the mean girls declare war. Realizing that Amy has the hots for her drama teacher (who has no interest in any such student-teacher relations since he’s already bopping the drama department’s make-up lady), the mean girls and their dimwit boyfriends play a cruel practical joke on her. The stress of embarrassment induces a seizure that sends her into a coma. Despite still being in a coma brought about by excess blood in the brain, the doctors send Amy home to be cared for by her Aunt Maylea. Translation: Hospital sets cost more than that of a random bedroom.

Aunt Maylea’s all about the old South Seas spiritualism, something Amy never shared a belief in. Island witchdoctor Aunt Maylea decides the best medicine for her comatose niece is to use some island native mojo to bring to life a tiki doll totem and send it out to kill those responsible. Every death will supposedly heal Amy a little bit at a time. How will it know who is responsible when the truth about what caused Amy to go into a coma is completely unknown to everyone except those that played the prank? Do not question Polynesian mojo. In fact, it’s best not to try and question a lot of stuff in Tiki because there are logic chasms are so enormous Evel Knievel couldn’t get across’em on his rocket-cycle.

In the same spirit as the killer Zuni doll from Trilogy of Terror, this film boasts a homicidal tiki doll that runs around with a tiny weapon and emits a gurgling growl that sounds like a cross between Peppermint Patty’s teacher and either Gloop or Gleep from the old "Herculoids" cartoon. Seeing people killed by this tiny, feral-sounding, puppet monstrosity is the whole point behind the film’s existence and on that front the killer tiki is basically a one-note fiend, but what a note. A foot tall Tiki doll hops through the air and strangles a guy to death with a chord … Now that’s a sight you don’t see every day!

But even at a mere 80-minutes Tiki still felt like it would have been better served to have been about 10-15 minutes shorter. Too much of the second half is bogged down with a pair of detectives investigating the trail of bodies the Tiki leaves behind. Even when the police aren’t investigating the drama teacher is trying to play police inspector. And the same doctors that sent a comatose girl suffering from excessive blood in the brain home from the hospital keep showing up at the Aunt’s house to plead with her to let them take Amy back to the hospital to perform life-saving surgery. There’s even a lesbian three-way sex scene so un-erotic that I suspect even Howard Stern would be turned off by it.

I was with Tiki for about the first 40-minutes; the second half drags considerably. Tiki is never scary in the slightest and only sporadically fun. Unfortunately, the novelty wears off long before the closing credits roll.

Despite this being a movie about a murderous puppet fiend, Charles Band had nothing to do with it. Those honors belong to writer-director-producer Ron Ford, a veteran of Z-grade cinema who isn’t quite as well known as many of his schlock cinema cohorts, such a Fred Olen Ray, whose Retromedia is behind the production of Tiki. However, a very nice extra on the DVD does a nice job introducing him to those that aren’t all that familiar.

Any budding filmmakers out there may want to pick up a copy of Tiki just for the four-part "Behind the Scenes" featurette that not only gives you a making of the movie, it also gives away a lot of how-to secrets as to making a film of this sort. It’s definitely a bit more instructional than the typical DVD extra of this type.

One last thing about Tiki worth noting; below the title on the DVD box art is the phrase "KILLING SOON." Did they really recycle the advance promo art for the DVD without bothering to eliminate the "coming/killing soon" teaser line?

Special Features
Making-of featurette
Ron Ford video profile

2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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