Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Paydin LoPachin, Rocky Marquette, Katie Chonacas, Brian Krause
Written and irected by Mark Jones
Distributed by Dimension Extreme
The man who gave us Leprechaun (and the lesser known but every bit as dopey Rumplestiltskin) is back with a brand new creation, and it’s every bit the idiosyncratic mix of tepid horror and lamebrained humor you’d expect. But don’t go in expecting your typical killer ventriloquist dummy movie.
Triloquist is one very peculiar movie, though I’m not sure if its peculiarity ultimately works to its benefit or detriment. Most of the time Triloquist feels like just another sardonic indie road trip flick about sociopathic characters (a sexy blonde psycho and her mute retard brother), the kind of violent independent movie that plays film festivals where it’s met with more apathy than anything else, only this one happens to also involve a living ventriloquist dummy that kills people on occasion. Jones even goes for some indie cred as a filmmaker with sporadic use of artsy black & white footage, other times comically speeding up the film to an almost Yakkety Sax degree. Repeated use of a woman crooning what sounds like a bad torch song with “Fuck you” as an oft repeated refrain should tell you exactly where the movie’s mindset is located. Imagine if Gregg Araki and Charles Band got together to make a quirky comedic thriller that wants to be Natural Born Killers meets Magic.
Triloquist centers on a brother and sister duo and the ventriloquist dummy named Dummy that they regard as a living, breathing sibling. After their ventriloquist mom died of a drug overdose in a seedy Hollywood hotel and they found themselves getting bounced around to varying foster homes, including an uncle who molested the girl until Dummy suffocated him with Saran Wrap, they now find themselves all grown up and seriously screwed up.
After Dummy kills a kid on Halloween, sister Angelique places the blame on her simpleminded mute brother Norbert, resulting in him getting sent to a mental institution and her heading off with Dummy to live the life of a psychopathic sexpot armed with a maniacal puppet. This leads to scenes like when she offers oral sex to a guy who turned her down for a job only for Dummy to perform the act on the unsuspecting perv and then biting his genitalia off.
Paydin LoPachin plays bitchy psycho blonde Angelique like Kelly Bundy and Juliette Lewis from Natural Born Killers crossbred with a fetish for snapping pictures of her victims with a cheap disposable camera. She carries herself with much aplomb, and her irascible temperament leads her to commit many a murder at a moment’s notice; sex appeal is a weapon she wields even as she constantly bemoans being looked upon as an object of desire.
Angelique’s mechanizations seem almost stream of consciousness: break Norbert out of the institution, start heading to Vegas so that he can do his amazing ventriloquist act like their late mom, rob and kill whenever need be, have Norbert continue the family bloodline by kidnapping a young woman for him to impregnate, if that doesn’t work out there’s always room for good ol’ incest, and murder anyone that gets in their way, such as Brian Krause of “Charmed” as an ill-fated cop in pursuit. Oh, and complain an awful lot. Complaining and killing is about all she does for an hour and a half.
Her diffident mute and possibly mentally handicapped brother Norbert as played by Rocky Marquette, looking very Jim Carrey-like adorned in a Buffalo Bob Smith cowboy outfit with a perpetual look on his face as if he’s trying to swallow his own lips, gives a fittingly strange performance. Whether or not he’s supposed to be a sympathetic character at the mercy of his sister’s insanity or a willing accomplice is something the script never settles upon. It’s hard to feel bad for him when you watch the guy dance like a court jester in approval as his sister commits yet another coldblooded murder.
Then there’s the cartoonishly voiced Dummy, a decrepit-looking ventriloquist dummy that also serves as the film’s narrator. The focus really isn’t on the dummy though. It’s just a third wheel, a contributing factor to the overall strangeness. Dummy serves as Norbert’s de facto mouthpiece, speaking on behalf of him and even offering him advice, usually incurring Angelique’s wrath for doing so, especially when it tries to talk Norbert into ditching her. Dummy’s backstory and how it seems to be very much alive is a mystery unto itself. Hints are dropped along the way that their dad taught them magic, not that it’ll really matter all that much in the end. Dummy also makes a lot of lame jokes, perhaps intentionally so.
The only genuinely funny moments came in the form of a sight gag involving Dummy’s use of a shotgun and a very brief cameo by Larry Mannetti of “Magnum P.I.” fame playing himself just long enough to get murdered. The comedic aspects are more of the quirky-strange kind than the straightforward funny variety. The horror aspects are just sort of there.
Aiming for comically warped though never sleazy, unsettling, or sublime enough to fully register any real impact, it’s like Mark Jones wasn’t himself sure of what it was he was making or how far he wanted to take it. Definitely a mess, but a mess I found myself at first oddly curious to see where it was all going and why it was going there. However, after about the first half hour the tone of it all started to play increasingly shrill and the protagonists’ eccentricities grew tiresome. The movie is little more than a series of random events and encounters that almost always culminate in murder-robberies committed extempore, and that they often involved a talking, walking, stalking ventriloquist dummy didn’t mean much. I found it hard to rate the performances of the two leads since they’re acting was every bit as schizophrenic as the material they were working with – sometimes effectively so and sometimes almost embarrassingly bad. Heck, the whole movie might be terrible; after a while I honestly couldn’t tell any more how much of it was intentionally so. Maybe Mark Jones set out to make a conceptual clusterfuck and the burden is on the viewer to make hide or hair of it?
A very difficult movie to rate, I have to give Jones and company some credit for at least trying to make something different. Triloquist‘s oddness kept me watching, but when it was over, I was ready for it to be over, and when it was finally over I was left with a profound sense of “What the hell was all that about?”
2 out of 5
0 out of 5