Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Brice Kennedy, Dave Fife, Brian Berry, Ken Van Sant, Kristen Wiltse, Todd Carpenter
Directed by The Polonia Brothers
The advent of the digital video camera has been a godsend for low budget filmmakers. The achilles heel of this technological advance is that now just about anyone can make a movie. The Polonio Brothers are anyone. Likewise, just because you can make a movie doesn’t actually mean you should and just because you did doesn’t mean it deserves to get legitimate distribution. Are you listening, Sub Rosa Studios?
On the back of the box for Peter Rottentail it claims that the movie is meant to be "in the tradition of Jack Frost and Leprechaun". First of all, that’s not exactly aiming high. Secondly, I now have newfound respect for the level of professionalism that went into making the Jack Frost and Leprechaun films.
Take a look at the box art for Peter Rottentail and you’ll see the title character in all his glory. The novelty of a man in a cheap Easter bunny costume dressed up like a magician, wielding a meat cleaver, and making a constant "boing" when he hops that sounds like Qbert on steroids wears off real fast. The fundamental problem here is that they have come up with an amusing idea for a character without coming up with anything even remotely amusing for him to say or do. Most of the one-liners and sight gags are so weak that if you didn’t know going into the movie that it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek then you probably would not even realize what he was doing was supposed to make you laugh. I think Rottentail’s gimmick is to get his victims so annoyed by his painfully unfunny antics that they welcome the sweet embrace of death that he soon graces them with. Or was that just me?
I knew when I sat down to watch this movie that it would either be a pleasant surprise or brutally bad. It only took about 10 minutes to realize the latter was going to prove true. This is the kind of movie that people who like it will tell someone that did not that they just didn’t get the joke. Problem is, I don’t think there is any joke here to get.
A bottom of the barrel magician runs into a mysterious vagrant offering him a bottle of elixir said to contain mystic powers that will help his make his pathetic act a success. Bombing while performing at a child’s birthday party, he drinks the elixir proclaiming it to be his ultimate trick that will transform him into a half-man/half-rabbit named Peter Rottentail. Nothing happens. He seemed to come up with this concept right there on the fly so why he thinks it will work is never explained. This last dud of a magic trick prompts extreme heckling that leads to him getting uncerimoniously booted from the house.
Immediately afterwards, the vagrant’s voice is in his head telling him that he is now under his control now. A hat and a meat cleaver materialize before him while the birthday boy looks on in, well, frankly he looks bored out of his mind or at the very least, semi-comatose. Bad child acting aside, the magician begins to go nuts and, well, the movie decides to not show us what happens next. We don’t get to find out until a flashback scene ¾ of the way into the movie and I’m still not sure why they chose to do this since virtually nothing of signifigance comes from that scene anyways. Next thing you know the magician is in his house listening to a radio report about the police looking for him after "assaulting" the family. He promptly puts a shotgun to his chin and pulls the trigger.
13 years later, two stoner characters clearly inspired by Jay and Silent Bob, although Jay looks more like Where’s Waldo?, break into the magician’s still unoccupied home looking for some pot (Don’t ask!) only to find the Necronomicon’s cliff notes. They recite a chant inscribed inside the thin book and suddenly the magician resurrects from his grave in the form of psychopathic half-man/half-rabbit Peter Rottentail.
Who exactly was the vagrant? Why did he want to control this down on his luck magician? Why were the magician’s belongings still down in that basement 13 years after his death? Where did that Book of the Dead thing even come from? I must say that the origin for the title character is one of the sloppiest, most poorly conceived ideas I’ve ever seen. Why even bother giving us any sort of explanation for the character if so little thought is going to be put into it?
Peter Rottentail apparently seeks revenge against the kiddies that heckled him into evil servitude at that infamous birthday party all those years ago and so he sets out to kill off those now grown-up children. At least I think that’s what he’s supposed to be doing. I’m not exactly sure who the other characters were that got introduced just so they could be killed off since we only saw two kids at the party. His primary targets are the birthday boy Jimmy, who for some reason spends most of the movie dressed like a grocery clerk, and his burnout cousin Lenny, who was the other kid at the party, at least the only other kid that we were shown. I understand the budget was next to nothing but could the production really only afford to get two kids for the birthday party scene?
There is also a lonely young woman living next door who becomes the object of desire for the psycho man-rabbit. Her character only seems to exist in order set up the final punchline and sequel teaser that is as predictable as it lame. Peter Rottentail 2? Don’t even kid about such things.
Mostly what you have here are non-actors overacting badly, desperately trying and failing miserably to force humor from dialogue that isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Given the film’s gimmick the kills are surprisingly uninventive. A carrot through the skull is about as clever as it gets. If the unfunny antics of Peter Rottentail weren’t bad enough even the score is quite irritating due to it being so repetitive. Much like the one-joke movie, it just keeps repeating the same notes over and over. If you are a fan of slasher movies with plenty of red stuff then you will have another reason to be disappointed. However, if you are a fan of strawberry jam masquerading as blood, well, there’s still probably not enough here to satisfy you. Movie blood should never look like it is in gel form no matter how low the budget is.
I’ve always been of the opinion that the worst kind of bad movie is the unfunny comedy. Witless comedies can be excruciating to sit through and Peter Rottentail scores a double whammy by failing at being either funny or scary thus making it hell to sit through even at a scant running time of only 65 minutes, a fact I find rather hard to believe because by the end it felt like hours and hours had gone by. Even at barely over an hour in length there is still a bit of padding to the film designed to stretch things out. How else can one explain a prolonged montage of the two lead characters raking their front yard?
The only seemingly inspired gag in this entire ordeal comes during the finale when Peter Rottentail and Jimmy engage in a Three Stooges-esque showdown that I might have found slightly amusing had this movie not already sucked all the joy from my life and left me a bitter shell of a man.
Peter Rottentail also deserves some sort of credit for being the first modern movie in history to have a scene set in a strip club where we never see any strippers, not even in the background. The budget for this thing was apparently so non-existent they could only afford to show us one of the characters sitting at a table, having a beer, and looking in the general direction of the camera and reacting as if he were watching a woman on stage taking off her clothes. For crying out loud, there isn’t even a stage for us to see. I’ve heard of no budget filmmaking but this is just pathetic. This is like having a scene set in a library but you never seen any books or bookshelves.
During the first 20 minutes of the movie there are numerous references to pot smoking which almost leads me to believe that perhaps maybe this was supposed to be a less than subtle instruction on the part of the filmmakers to light up before trying to watch the flick. I chose to go it the sober route and frankly I can’t think of a single drug I could have smoked, snorted, injected, or ingested that would have made this film seem even remotely funny or scary.
The plot synopsis on the back of the DVD case ends with the line, "Watch at your own risk." Well, I certainly can’t accuse them of false advertising.
0 out of 5 Mugs O' Blood
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