Don’t get me wrong — I’m as much a fan of killer puppets as the next guy, but Devil’s Junction: Handy Dandy’s Revenge is just as confused as its title. Case in point: IMDB categorizes it as a horror film, while Rotten Tomatoes calls it a comedy. Is there a “crapedy” category?
As the film begins, your typical group of twenty-somethings emerge from a theater after seeing something (a concert or a movie? — it’s not clear) and stroll down the street. In Detroit. After dark. This is already a risky thing to do, but rich boy Steffan suggests they visit the huge creepy building his father had just purchased to get them to invest in an after-hours club he wants to open. And did I mention it also happens to be “super blood moon” night?
When they go inside the gated facility, they find themselves in an abandoned television studio populated by a bunch of old ventriloquist’s dummies. The ever-knowledgeable Stef tells them that this is where a 1960s kiddie show was broadcast. The host, Mr. Jolly, was accused of being a child murderer (paging Freddy) and hanged himself before the cops could nab him — in the very place they’re standing. Gasp!
To those who didn’t get what Stef meant in the first place, either the screenwriter or the editor helpfully has him repeat this information twice. This happens a few times in the film.
They play around with the dummies and make fun of them, which raises the hackles of some guy wearing a mask like that little Saw creep who is watching them on closed circuit television. Of course, the dummies come to life to do his murderous bidding.
The Saw-masked guy has Stef’s father, Richard (Texas Chainsaw alumnus Bill Mosely), tied to a chair in some room in this endlessly labyrinthian building and pulls off his mask to reveal that he’s — you got it — Mr. Jolly! What follows is a lo-o-o-o-o-ong dialogue sequence with huge scoops of exposition that border on the hilarious. Okay, it doesn’t border. It scores!
Meanwhile, the youngsters are desperately trying to flee the building, which has been locked up solid by Mr Jolly’s security system. And on another floor, big burly men wearing leather masks keep marching around with chainsaws, killing and carrying people around who don’t seem to be part of the original cast.
Mr. Jolly stages his comeback TV show with tied-up Richard and Stef as his guest stars. Turns out they’re all related (don’t ask), but Richard attempts to fight against the puppet master with the dodgiest digital effects we’ve seen since those hilarious direct-to-video movies made in the 1980s.
This film is too ridiculous to judge whether it’s a spoof or horror. But it’s playing in L.A. on Oct. 18 and 19, and I can imagine a theater full of people reacting with hilarity at its supreme ineptitude. It’s not The Room, but it’s pretty damn bad. It will be available on DVD Nov. 5, so judge for yourselves.