Chris Jordan was clearly too sober to appreciate Charles Band's sixth entry into the Evil Bong franchise.
|"We really hope you have these - they'll|
make the next 70 minutes a lot less painful."
I've written several articles about my nostalgic love for the early-to-mid-1990s films of Full Moon Entertainment. In its prime, the studio lead by Charles Band was the king of straight-to-video horror: cheesy and low-budget, but with a likable charm, distinct personality, and a very clear ambition to make movies that were better than the usual video fare. With impressive (for the budget bracket) production values and awesome practical effects, not to mention a strong sense that their movies were made by genuine lovers of horror and sci-fi cinema, Full Moon could almost always be counted on for a good time, if not always a good product. What on earth happened to them? I drifted out of touch with the studio's work by the late-'90s, when their quality was obviously slipping in the budget-starved years following their split from Paramount, and just from looking at their more recent DVD covers I had a sinking feeling that their movies had only gotten worse since then. Nonetheless, when I was given the opportunity to watch an early press screener of their new movie, Evil Bong: High-5 (out on blu-ray on June 22nd), I couldn't resist the chance to get a first look at Charles Band's latest. Band co-wrote and directed this one himself, so surely it would at least have some redeeming qualities, I thought. I was wrong. Evil Bong: High-5 is horrifically bad, in the most unentertaining way. Granted, it is clearly a movie intended for viewers who are baked out of their minds, but even then it underestimates its target audience's intelligence so much as to be insulting. This is unrecognizable as the work of the same studio that gave us Subspecies and Puppet Master III; if this is reflective of Full Moon's current quality, then the once-awesome studio has sunk nearly to the levels of modern Troma, to whom they were once unquestionably superior. This movie is so awful that I need a medicinal marijuana prescription to dull the pain.
I'm not really in Evil Bong: High-5's target audience: I haven't smoked weed in years, and I also haven't seen Evil Bong 1-4, or the crossover spinoff Gingerdead Man Vs. Evil Bong. But neither of those things should really matter. A good stoner comedy will still be funny regardless of your state of mind (case and point, Super Troopers), and this movie has such broadly-written, almost development-free characters that I don't think knowledge of the franchise would be particularly helpful to give them any more depth. I'm sure this movie is marginally more entertaining if you're high, but it would still be absolute garbage. The problem is that the script is so bad that one of the following two explanations must be true: either Charles Band himself was completely baked during the entire production process, or he has such contempt and disregard for the movie's audience that he just didn't feel the need to put in any effort. There's a scene in which two painfully cliché stoners stagger through the film acting like idiots, which makes me suspect that option B is true. It's like Band is being completely open about thinking his viewers are morons, but he thinks he can get away with it because they'll be too high to notice.
|"Oh no, we're trapped inside a Nintendo 64!"|
The film consists almost entirely of its flat characters standing around having structureless conversations in dialogue that sounds like it's supposed to be a rapid-fire series of one-liners, except almost none of them are funny. Dialogue like, “I'm higher than Jesus right now! Achievement unlocked!” and “it's got me feeling like a Kardashian at a BET party!” It's embarrassing. The scenes tend to drag on in a directionless way; unfunny skits that don't add to any plot momentum, or even justify their existence within the film. The plot, such as it is, involves the nefarious Evil Bong – literally a sentient bong with an animatronic mouth and a bad attitude – holding a group of characters (including the Gingerdead Man) hostage in a CGI “bong world,” and then returning them to the real world to sell brainwashing weed at a dispensary. Bizarrely, however, the characters never really deal with the fact that the weed they're selling will turn its smokers into zombies; it basically just turns into a “how will we possibly sell all this weed in just a week?” plot, with no serious attempt to raise the stakes with the Evil Bong's quickly-forgotten threat of world domination. Meanwhile, the film attempts to find humor by scraping the bottom of the barrel of deliberately tasteless gags, out of the assumption that self-consciously shocking is the same thing as funny. The movie gives us a series of button-pushing stereotypical characters like The Gook, The Butt-Pirate, and the sexualized lesbian Poon-ishers, all of whom are merely cringe-inducing, since – unlike something like South Park which uses stereotypes to create very funny social satire with a thought-out message – the movie is incapable of using them for any purpose, or with anything to say. It's all just thrown together in the least thought-out way possible, and ultimately the content is not nearly as offensive as the total disregard for good writing.
Several of the characters in this film, including The Gook, The Butt-Pirate, and The Gingerdead Man, are crossovers from other Full Moon properties. Bizarrely, the movie is totally up-front about this being a shameless marketing tie-in. One of the supporting characters is literally on a quest to sell Full Moon action figures in the film, and every time he makes his sales pitch, the web site where the toys can be bought appears on-screen. These are the same figures that you actually can buy in real-life, at the very web site given. It's bizarrely meta, though again, Charles Band doesn't do anything clever with the conceit to make it actually funny; more than anything, it just lays bare what a lazy cash-grab the movie is. Maybe you can award it points for honesty?
|Functional Evil Bong replicas - coming soon|
to a head shop near you.
In addition to its terrible script, it also isn't very well-made. The Bong-World setting is a very cheap-looking CGI backdrop, and the actors are superimposed into it using some truly horrendous green-screen work. The edges of the actors too-often shimmer with the flaws of bad matte work, and in some cases the green of the green-screen can still be seen through their hair. Bad CGI compositing is also to blame for the utterly ridiculous effect of The Gingerdead Man's mouth; it is so obviously an actor's mouth superimposed onto a puppet that it conjures up images of Clutch Cargo. Even in the more real-world setting of the dispensary there are some bizarre low-budget flaws, like a shot in which actors leaving the store cast obvious shadows on the cityscape backdrop just outside the door. About the best you can say about the film is that some of its stylized lighting (color accent lights everywhere!) gives some fun personality to the over-the-top atmosphere, and a couple of the actors give reasonably entertaining performances. The stand-out is Sonny Carl Davis, probably best known as the customer in Judge Reinhold's “I'm going to kick 100% of your ass” scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Still, these are very minor positives amid an overwhelming sea of negatives; just enough to make me think that at least I've seen worse, but not enough to elevate the film above terrible.
Evil Bong: High-5 is the worst movie I have seen in a long, long time. It is painfully unfunny, poorly made on nearly every level, and half-assed and directionless to a staggering degree. Even by the standards of a strictly watch-it-while-you're-high comedy, it is unacceptable. It is genuinely difficult to believe that this was made by the same Charles Band, and the same Full Moon, who just over twenty years ago were making some of the best stuff on the straight-to-video market. How the mighty have fallen. Skip it – you won't find a good buzz here.
- Christopher S. Jordan