Muffin Man, The (DVD)
Starring Chris Ippolito, Allison Lynch, James Ireland, Michael Shepherd
Directed by Blaine Wasylkiw
Have you seen The Muffin Man? Probably not because if you had, then you'd be dead right now.
Serial killing baker Desmond Bailey is killed in the process of being arrested in his bakery kitchen. But as we all know from watching countless horror movies, death is rarely the end of the line for an occultist serial killer. Sure enough, Bailey rises from the dead. Oh, does he ever rise.
Five years later Gonuts Donuts ("You'll go nuts for our donuts!") now takes up residence in the building that used to be Bailey's little pastry shop of horrors. Populated by characters from a donut shop version of Waiting, most notably the perpetually cynical and motor-mouthed Chad, none of the employees are aware of the evil that once called their current dwelling its home base and will soon make its return. That is until hardboiled ex-detective Hank, the cop that killed Bailey, pops into Gonuts Donuts dressed like Inspector Gadget and talking like Inspector Columbo to warn them that Bailey rose from the dead in the form of a supernatural psychopath with a giant muffin for a head and will soon return to kill every one of them. Hank has spent the past few years pursuing the muffin-headed madman’s path of carnage all over the world - Bailey's newest m.o. is murdering the employees of bakeries worldwide. Naturally, Chad and company think Hank is half baked in his own right. Perhaps he is, but he's not wrong, and soon the Muffin Man makes his presence known.
Now some of you are thinking, "Oh, lord; this sounds like The Gingerdead Man all over again." Speaking as the one person on the planet that actually dug the hell out of The Gingerdead Man (God help me, but I was actually entertained by Gary Busey as the voice of a foul-mouthed killer cookie), I can definitely say that The Muffin Man is not The Gingerdead Man, and I mean that in a way that is meant as good news for the 99% of the movie-watching public that thinks I must have been insane to give The Gingerdead Man a glowing review. This is a very different movie with a very different mentality behind the material. A more clever film, if you ask me. Where as The Gingerdead Man was a crass, nonsensical film, The Muffin Man is also nonsense, but nonsense with more imagination behind it, and its sense of humor owes more to an Adult Swim cartoon. Even the pastry-themed kills rely less on gore and more on cartoonish sensibilities. Perhaps it's due to this being a Canadian-produced film, but I found it far more good natured then you'd expect from this sort of goofball horror comedy.
The Muffin Man himself looks like something that I could imagine popping up on an episode of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" to terrorize Master Shake. It's basically a guy dressed like a baker but with monstrous hands and a head that is indeed a giant muffin - a giant muffin with vaguely human facial features and huge glowing eyes. The visual sight of the Muffin Man is a visual treat; utterly preposterous yet oddly charming. It's definitely one of the goofiest looking things you'll ever see. I feel a little bad for the guy having to wear the prop head because it looked so bulky I can't imagine it having been incredibly comfortable.
I'd provide you with a pic of the Muffin Man himself, but the producers have asked me not to completely give away its appearance. They want to save that treat for people that pick up a copy of the film, and what a treat it is. You'll just have to settle for a rearview shot of the Muffin Man in action. As you can see, his head is indeed a giant muffin. Trust me; it's even funnier from the front. The light-up red demon eyes are what sell it.
But where the Muffin Man truly stands out, and what makes it work as a character, is when he talks. Unlike the vulgar insults that the Busey-voiced Gingerdead Man hurled, the Muffin Man likes to taunt his victims with a variety of hilariously inane diatribes about the eternal agony the victim is going to experience in the bowels of hell, which all sound like the ramblings of the stoner frontman of a Eighties death metal band. And all of it is spoken in an electronically-altered satanic-sounding voice. An example of the Muffin Man's demonic declarations of damnation:
"Your god has forsaken you! Your eyes will be clawed out by winged demons in the eighth ring of hell!"
"Your lungs will burn with sulfur. Your pleas for mercy will be etched on your bones with the red hot blade of suffering."
Essentially, you have a cartoonish-looking, homicidal man-muffin that rants and raves like David "the Demon" DeFalco on a bad PCP trip.
The Muffin Man's biggest drawback may also be its biggest saving grace. It clocks in at a scant 40 minutes, really closer to 36, plus the closing credits. This could potentially hurt its chances of ever getting wider distribution. On the other hand, I don't know if the amusement would have been able to sustain itself at a feature length. Things do get off to a shaky start due to some not-so-stellar acting in the film's opening prologue, but things take an upswing once we're introduced to the likeable denizens of Gonuts Donuts. Add in Hank's loopy dialog exchanges with Chad and the antics of the titular terror (whose first on-screen appearance comes around the 20-minute mark), and you got your self a recipe for fun little flick. I'm just not sure it could have remained so with another 40+ minutes tacked on.
The Muffin Man is currently only available through its official website; and for a $9.95 DVD-R, one cannot say that they aren't getting their money's worth. This disc is loaded. You get an annoying introduction by Troma honcho Lloyd Kaufman who sets out to see how many bad pastry jokes he can squeeze into a few short minutes. The answer: a lot; most of which are beyond groan inducing, which, admittedly, is intentional. There's also a behind the scenes and cast auditions feature.
This thing also comes with not one, not two, but three (Three!) audio commentaries: one with director-producer-editor Blaine Wasylkiw, another with writer-producer Anders J. Svensson, and yet another with actors Chris Ippolito and Michael Shepherd. With all due respect to all involved, there’s no justifying three separate audio commentaries for this 40-minute short film. I listened to about 1-1/2, and it became quite apparent they could have done one group commentary that would have been far more entertaining than three individual ones. This is a very low budget short film, not Lord of the Rings, guys.
There is one thing that I really do have to deduct points for. I don't know if something got screwed in post-production or in the manufacturing of the DVDs, but the chroma is completely blown out. Anything white, whether it be sunlight outside or the interiors of the bakery, is almost blindingly white at times. If someone is wearing white against a backdrop, their torso is practically absorbed by the whiteness. When I initially watched the DVD on my laptop, it didn't prove to be a problem because my laptop's screen doesn't display quite as bright as it should, but when I popped it into my regular DVD player ... I know Canada is called the Great White North,but I never realized it was that white. There were times when the whiteness was so bright it looks as if the film was shot on location in heaven. Seriously, I don't know what caused this technical error, but they really do need to fix it ASAP, especially since they're already marketing the film.
Despite the threat of possible white blindness, it’s still worth a look for people that enjoy this brand of humor. The Muffin Man's live-action cartoon mindset actually gives it an almost, dare I say, endearing quality. At least as endearing as a horror comedy about a homicidal half-man, half-pastry that doesn't mind smashing a rolling pin through your face can be.
Three audio commentaries (Four? Who said that? Is there an extra one hidden somewhere?)
Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman
Trailer for Rotten Shaolin Zombies
DVD-ROM features: MP3s, screenplay in PDF format
3 out of 5
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