Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hollywood Video Memories: Rumpelstiltskin (1995)

Ah yes, Rumpelstiltskin. This is a very obscure yet relevant “horror” movie from my childhood. Every time I walked into Blockbuster I would see this VHS box of a freaky looking man smiling and hiding behind a stone door. I kept avoiding for some reason and I guess that’s because I kept finding other movies I wanted to watch. Eventually I caved in and decided to rent it out and as I sat in my dad’s bedroom watching the ridiculously cheesy story unfold, I realized that this would be one of the first in a long line of favorite horror movies for me. At a young age I knew that a lot of fairy tales were dark in their original form and when I saw Snow White (the one with Same Neil and Sigourney Weaver) it further convinced me that perhaps this version of Rumpelstiltskin would be darker and scarier. To my surprise it was neither scary nor set in the appropriate time frame, at least not for the majority of the movie. In fact, I saw it as a fun movie with the occasional scare to it.

The beginning of the movie takes place in the 1400s as Rumpelstiltskin is making off with a baby who he kidnapped after feeling betrayed from spinning the golden yard. Nearly killing the baby, he is imprisoned into a small figurine by a witch for hundreds of years until somebody wishes upon it. Unfortunately, in present day Los Angeles, a grieving windowed mother wishes her husband returns (from the dead). Rumpel comes back, as the husband at first, only to attack the mother and try to steal the baby to make up for the last time he failed. Now, the mother is on the run from Rumpel but he’s not willing to give up. He followers her wherever she goes and destroys anybody that gets in his past that is unless the mother finds a way to destroy him before he gets to her baby.

I was pretty much fresh off the line from seeing Leprechaun so I was ready to watch something of similar ideas but darker. Rumpelstiltskin quenched my thirst for something campy. I always liked how ‘Uncle Rumpel’ reacted to the many modern inventions that were in present day (1995) Los Angeles. Case in point: calling a motorcycle a black steed or noting the amount of blacksmiths it took to create an 18-wheeler semi truck. More importantly, for a movie that was based on a fairy tale it was quite graphic. Rumpel claws somebody’s eyes out, gets a broom shoved down his throat, gets runned over, pulls his head off and gets sliced in half. For a little guy he sure endured and loved pain. I loved how his lingo was sort of some weird modern English/Medieval hybrid. He would say, “Fucketh me!” and I would grin in pleasure knowing what it meant and how they chose to hide the word beneath the lingo. As I grew older and started to explore newer movies, three scenes from the film always stuck out to me and remained in my memory until now. The first was seeing Rumpelstilltskin choke some big guy, in the beginning, and hoisting him off a cliff. The second was seeing Rumpelstiltskin driving a truck and the last scene was seeing somebody running and having their head blown off. Obviously this movie meant a lot to me.

You could only imagine how surprised and pleased I was when I found it available for Netflix Instant. I couldn’t believe that another childhood classic was within a click away from my viewing. This movie is a perfect example of how my film taste has progressed throughout the years. Yes, this movie is awful but not unwatchable. I found myself cringing over the lines I once found humorous and cool. I shook my head over scenes that would put a sparkle in my eyes and I shrilled at the ‘gore’ when I realized that it wasn’t that gory at all. I didn’t expect much from a straight-to-VHS movie and to be honest… I went in thinking that I would find it mediocre. I came out of the movie thinking that it was slightly below mediocrity. I’m convinced that this movie, unlike the last two childhood movies I watched, knew how bad it was so it decided to have fun. The problem is that it’s fun only to the person having it. In other words, you might find banging your head into a wall fun but to the rest of the world… it looks stupid. To show you just how ridiculous this movie is, here some scenes that I couldn’t believe.

Here is Rumpelstiltskin driving a motorcycle and laughing for no reason on it.

Here is Rumpelstiltskin driving a truck while smoking on a cigar. Stating, “Just what I need. Another bad habit,” before taking a big puff.

Here is Rumpelstiltskin employing the age-old cliché of guiding your headless body to your severed head.

As a kid it’s obvious that I was no student of film, however after taking film classes it sort of skewed view of watching movies. Back then I didn’t really care for the technicalities of this film, I just liked the special effects and action. As I watched it now, I couldn’t help but notice just how bad some of the voice replacement and dubbing were. Sure, this is an indie film and I am nit picking but it sort of took me out of the story. An example would be when Rumpelstiltskin is chasing Max, who’s in a go-kart, Max is constantly yelling and saying things like, “Oh jeeze! Oh jeeze! Hey Rumpel, can we talk this over? Huh? Oooohhhh! Arrgghhh! Rocks!” Not only is it just plain annoying but also the voice has no sense of location. Additionally, some shot choices and editing decisions didn’t make sense and the acting was piss poor. The entire film was littered with songs that came from the 80s, everybody seemed to dress like they were puked up from 1987 and the coloring seemed really saturated at times. All this made me question whether the film was truly made in the 90’s or whether it was filmed in the 80s and released in the 90’s. I never had to ask myself that question before.

Though there is a light at the end of this tunnel. As cheap as they may seem, I still dug the special effects. The makeup they applied to the actor who played Stiltskin was pretty damn good considering they were on a budget. Aside from a few minor times, I felt like his skin was actually that dented, scarred and potholed. When Rumpel is split in half he begins to crawl towards the baby and you get to see the slimy, wet intestines falling out of his body and I really enjoyed that. Sure you could tell that everything was pretty much KY jelly and latex but you have to admire the FX guy’s confidence in trying to make something as good as possible. I will say this; a select few effects look better than any modern CGI dismemberment scenes you’d fine today. If a movie like this looks more real than a modern blockbuster, I think it’s time to rethink your strategy.

I sort of expected this movie to be bad so I wasn’t too disappointed but I wish I had the mentality of a kid sometimes. I guess it’s the only way that I would enjoy this. I’ve heard some people say that you should leave your childhood movies alone, especially the ones that scare you to preserve your childhood ignorance. I think I should have probably done so in this case because now that I know how cheesy this movie is, I don’t think I could ever have the view of it that I once had as a kid. Perhaps it was curiosity, then again… curiosity killed the cat.

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