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A Moral Tale of the Single Parent.
Oh man, it's totally stupid how much I'm looking forward to sharing this movie with you guys (and girls). This one's been on my plate for literally years and, for whatever reason, I'm only getting to talk about it now. Rumpelstiltskin, from 1996, is a film that obviously cashes in on the "make a horror movie about something that totally isn't material for a horror movie" formula. We've seen it before...killer baby movies, murderous leprechauns, dolls possessed with the spirit of serial killers...the list goes on. Some of them are awesome and others, such as a certain Killer Sock movie, sort of fall flat. But this one's actually directed by the writer of all the Warwick Davis Leprechaun films...which, if you're into that sort of thing, tells you this movie is already going to be something special. (It's also co-written by the creator of the old Dynomutt cartoon, but that's neither here nor there.) Rumpelstiltskin is one of those movies that, while terrible, is spectacular enough that even people not into terrible movies will be entertained. Sorry for sounding so positive, but yeah: You need to see this movie. There are a lot of reason for this but mostly due to the fact that Rumpel meanders between trying to be corny and trying to be a legitimate horror flick. It's a weird place to be and even worse, the film follows a 1980's horror formula which is....trust me, it's bizarre. Let's just walk through this bitch of a movie. Oh, and be warned: I'm going to use the F-Word in this review. It's a quote from Rumpelstiltskin and, to be fair, PG-13 movies are spared one obscenity as long as it's not too obvious. So with that in mind, let's spin some gold and talk about my favorite hunchback. This review is going to leave out a few things because, if it's anything, it's a rant on why you need to see Rumpelstiltskin. There will still be spoilers everywhere, but I'm not going to spoil everything. Let's start spinning (and spoiling).
The movie starts the way you would expect a film based on the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale to start: An evil hunchback has stolen a baby (or traded for it...to be honest even in the fairy tale, the mother offers up her baby in trade for gold and then later reneges on the deal) and is being chased by villagers, complete with torches and pitchforks, "somewhere in Europe." That's a quote, by the way...the film establishes that the opening scene is happening "somewhere" in Europe. This is pretty funny, mostly because of the way it implies how Rumpelstiltskin gets to Los Angeles. But I digress.
Villagers surround Rumpel and demand he gives back the baby. When cornered on a cliff, he puts down the baby and makes a declaration:
Rumpel is a masochist. Literally. Of all the monsters that can't be killed by normal means, Rumpelstiltskin seems to take almost erotic pleasure in surviving what horrible things people do to him. Hell, he even hurts himself when the opportunity arises. Making his declaration, the pain does indeed arrive.
Some witch sets him on fire and curses him (using his real name). The curse basically turns him into a little green turd statue and he won't be free until he hears a mother's wish and her tears fall on his statue. The statue is then thrown into the ocean (of Europe). The film then jumps to present day L.A. and we're soon going to find out that the statue apparently found its way from the bottom of the European ocean to the West coast of the United States. Don't try to think about it too hard. Really. Your brain might just explode.
Say hello to "Helpless Mother", also known as Shelley. She's played by Kim Ulrich; if you're fanatic about television actors you might recognize her. In fact, most of the actors in this movie are straight from doing guest appearances on television shows. Very few of them appear on a show more than twice, with the exception of the man playing Rumpel. Shelley is a single mother as, in a scene presented earlier in the film, her husband gets shot down by a car-jacker. She's sad, but has a goofy comic relief friend named Hildy (the secretary from Moonlighting) that makes the film not a complete downer from the get-go. Hildy is in the movie for two reasons:
1. She's in the film to take Shelley to a haunted antique store where she can buy a hideous Rumpelstiltskin statue that'll come to life and make the film interesting/filled with murder.
2. Hildy is in the film to die. I don't know why, but this movie follows the formula of only 1 funny character per scene. A few minutes after Hildy gets murdered by a hunchback, Shelley replaces her with a sleazy talk show host/stand-up comedian. Go figure.
The other comedian is Max Bergman of "Max Talks", a sleazy fictional television show that's based off the early years of the FOX network. Not everyone remembers the early years of FOX, but if you do, you might remember that the station made an early name for itself by producing some of the sleaziest programs around. My favorite: STUDS. This unabashedly sexist nightmare of late-night television was about 3 guys who each took out these 3 strippers/models/actresses and then gossiped about which one of them went "all the way." They never out and out said "I porked her rotten," but it was a show based on a bunch of guys smirking and high-fiving each other over getting laid. It. Was. Awesome. Jaw-droppingly so.
Anyway, Max is just plain annoying but he is the film's real hero. We learn early on that girls = helpless as the mother doesn't do a damn thing except run away the whole movie. Anything that helps her ends up actually having been done by Max, who, despite being a coward, knows his place is to do manly things, like protect the baby of someone he doesn't really know. Yeah. It's not as sexist as it sounds, but it's still true according to the story.
Finally, this is Baby Johnny. Johnny was cast in this film for one major baby talent of his. It's his blessing and his curse and I'll reveal his dark infant secret soon enough. But you were warned. (Baby John is played by Brianna Ferrero and Brittani Ferrero, two babies I can't find anything else about besides their names.)
Don't ask me why, but when Shelley sees the above statue she decides she simply must have it. I mean, I know I want it but I'm pretty maladjusted. Shelley? Shelley seems pretty normal. Well, sort of:
I don't think it's normal to put tumor-based sculptures next to pictures of your dead husband. Long story short (too late), she cries on the Rumpel-Puke Statue and he comes to life. He grants her wish: One more night with her husband. Dead Husband walks in that night and initiates a slow softcore sex scene, as dead husbands often do. When it ends, her husband is replaced by a mutant gnome with a hunchback. Beer Goggles joke aside, the movie is ready to really begin.
The main reason this movie is worth your time is the actor who plays Rumpelstiltskin. It's Max Grodenchik, a man most famous for playing OTHER freakish characters, also with weird ear attachments. If you're a Star Trek fan, you'll know him as Rom from Deep Space Nine:
I might not be a DS9 fan, but when I was younger I watched enough of it to remember Max's character and dear God, Rumpelstiltskin is very, very similar in comedic eloquence. In other words, Max makes a very one-dimensional character, namely a gnome that steals babies, interesting. It's bizarre, but you really do end up rooting for the stitch-faced bastard more than you should. Then again, that might be due to how annoying the other characters are and less how awesome Max is. But I digress. While Warwick Davis as the Leprechaun was played totally batshit insane (with a smile), Rumpelstiltskin is played like a Shakespearean actor having fun with a role that he took on a dare. He seems too classy for this movie, although he's obviously not, because he played a Ferengi. I don't know what I'm talking about anymore, so let's move on.
Shelly is confronted by Rumpelstiltskin, demanding the baby Johnny. Instead of keeping her end of the contract (fine, she didn't realize she had made the wish but whatever) she stabs Rumpel with a knife (which does nothing) and then assaults him with a broom. No, the attack isn't implicative at all.
Nope, that's not phallic at ALL.
After penetrating Rumpelstiltskin with a broom (man, I love typing sentences like that and meaning them honestly), Shelley jumps into her car and drives away. She comes back, Rumpel kills her friend after he jumps through a bookcase (don't ask), and she drives away again. Instead of repeating this process until she runs out of friends, this begins what is pretty much best described as a half-hour long chase scene/musical montage. I'm exaggerating but not by as much as you'd think. From here on out, both the heroes and villain run around in a variety of vehicles for the purpose of....I don't really know why. Maybe in the mid-90's it was cool to have as many modes of transportation as possible...or this film was sponsored by the Department of Transportation or something. I don't know. What I do know is that it's ridiculous.
Shelley's just driven over him and now a biker is harassing Rumpelstiltskin in the middle of the street. I wonder what will happen?
I love this movie.
Rock and Roll Rumpelstiltskin. Awesome.
The chase scene is really, really silly. Rumpel jumps on a motorcycle, which starts a biker theme song as he drives after Shelley. Shelley, who doesn't know that Rumpelstiltskin has wheels now and is after her, accidentally hits a fire hydrant because she's petting her crying baby and not watching the road. This fire hydrant ends up causing Rumpel to crash....and then he steals a big rig truck. So the biker scene/song? Lasts about 60 seconds. The moment he gets in the truck? A NEW song starts up. I...I don't get it. Was there a minimum number of "vehicle songs" needed in films in 1996? I don't know. I keep saying that but this movie stumps me on so many levels.
Meanwhile, Shelley's car has broken down and she's traveling with Max (the sleazy talkshow host mentioned earlier). He's on vacation so he has a trailer behind his truck that has a motorboat and a go-cart on it. The boat ends up sliding down the highway on it's own and exploding, and, well....
To escape Rumpelstiltskin they end up jumping into the go-cart. Don't ask, it's very, very stupid. Through sheer luck, Max dodges the truck causing it to drive over a cliff and explode.
This explosion causes the best line in almost any movie. As Rumpel drives over the embankment he realizes how screwed he is. And, since he's from "somewhere in Europe" he finds a clever way of expressing his disdain for his impending immolation:
I don't care if I've just broken my policy on language for the site but that's worth it. Just look up from your computer and declare that as loud as you can to the nearest person. I promise you'll get a laugh. Well, I'd laugh at least. Promise. If you ever meet me in real life and wonder why I say that expression, this is the movie I picked it up from. Fun fact, I know.
Speaking of awesome, let's look at one of the best monster murders around. Now Rumpelstiltskin has just survived a fiery explosion and our heroes, for whatever reason, get the police and hang out next to the crash site to....see Rumpel's dead body? I think? Anyway, he climbs out of the cab and decides it's cop killing time. How to do it though?
For those murdering actors pretending to be cops at home, here's the Rumpel Recipe:
Let's start by removing your own head. Having sharpened teeth is preferred for step 2 but it's unnecessary if you're strapped for time. Now that you're head is in your hands and no longer on your neck, gentle lean forward and apply severed head vigorously to jugular of actor.
Yep. Rumpelstiltskin murders a cop by removing his own head and then gnawing out the cop's throat. I'm thinking the "remove your own head" step could have been skipped but you have to give the man points for style.
Rumpel's head gets knocked away by our heroes (as they escape in yet another vehicle, this time a cop car) which brings us to the severed head playing "hot/cold" with his body telling it where to find his noggin. I'm not sure what his headless body is listening with, but it's funny all the same.
You might remember that I mentioned that baby Johnny has a special ability. That ability:
He cries. A Lot. If I thought the director was making the baby cry on purpose, you could call this film abusive...but the damn thing cries in almost every scene. Mom's trying to feed the kid? It cries. Mom's talking to her friend? It cries. Mom's stabbing an intruder in the brain with a knife?
And while you might think that this is good for a baby in a horror movie, even the scenes where the baby isn't supposed to be crying you can see he's on the verge of tears. I swear the actors in scenes with the baby rush their lines just so they can finish the scene before the baby starts to explode with noise yet again. The child continuously stares at its mother just off-camera who I think is desperately trying to stop her baby from ruining yet another take of the same scene. That's a guess, but there's one scene where the baby's affinity for crying as loudly as possible is really obvious:
The only scene where Rumpelstiltskin has to talk to the baby has the actor not talking in-character...or at least that's how it seems. Yeah, I know a guy dressed like that is pretty scary but there's a reason these babies never got a role in any other movie. In this scene Rumpel pretty much begs the baby to not cry and then rushes through the rest of his lines desperate to finish the scene. Maybe I'm crazy but most of the people I show this to seem to agree: That kid is obnoxious. Even scenes where it's just the mother holding the baby are goofy as the actors are torn between actually playing their roles and keeping the infant bomb from going off while the cameras are rolling.
On the plus side: This movie has a LOT of very believable baby crying in it. So much so that you might want to call Child Protection. Oh wait...I found this while watching the credits:
Um...yeah. I get that dolls were used during the "drag the baby from the go-cart being chased by a giant truck" scene but....I can't believe they were pretending the audible cries AREN'T actual sounds of a baby crying. No babies were placed in traumatic situations? A man dressed as a monster with blood dripping down his face isn't considered to be traumatic to a kid?
You mean to say that baby isn't crying? I don't know why but that disclaimer and its lies makes me love this movie all the more. I guess their argument was "the damn baby cries all the time whether we scare/shake it or not" so technically they're totally right. Man, if a baby's natural state is bawling at the top of its tiny lungs, you can keep them the hell away from me. You heard me breeder, back the hell away and take your youngling spawn with you.
And there you have it. Rumpelstiltskin is a movie about mutant gnomes, crying bastards (see, Daddy's dead so it applies), and far too many vehicles (7 or 8 if memory serves). Oh wait, I forgot to mention the film's finale. How could I do that...in involves a bulldozer, of all things.
Not only does the film's conclusion involve a bulldozer, but it's a bulldozer filled with burning straw (Rumpel hates fire and straw) chasing Rumpelstiltskin through a graveyard at night. Since overkill is the name of the game, our hero scoops up Rumpel with it, sets him on fire, and then electrocutes him by driving into a power line.
I told you this movie was fantastic. How many fairy tale-centric movies have you seen where they combine immolation and electrocution?
Some magic words get spoken, Rumpel turns back into his Tumor scuplture, and we get a conclusion where another mother with a baby finds the statue and decides that the hideous, filthy thing is "really interesting" and that she'll keep it. It's a classic horror movie finale that implies a sequel that will never come, which is a shame because Rumpelstiltskin has a lot of charm you don't see in films like this. Of course, that charm falls on the shoulders of Rumpel himself (or Grodenchik the actor) and the film's ability to unabashedly suck so hard it's hilarious. There's a lot wrong in this movie but somehow it works out. I think.
I don't know if I'm making sense anymore. It's late, I'm tired, Rumpelstiltskin rocks, hide your baby. We're done. Hopefully now you understand why I put this film on my Must-See list. Thanks for humoring me and until next time, Happy Halloween.
"too tired to write a clever final paragraph"
"so stop reading"
"seriously, there's nothing clever here."
"huh. that's a terrible slogan for my website."
Copyright 2008 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman. It depends. Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me.
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