It's difficult to be a smaller-tier independent company. That's a notion I think many can appreciate or even relate to. I think what makes an artist, however, is the ability to keep from reverting or regressing in-response to limitation. Stand for something, like Full Moon Features, for example, always seemed to stand for a cross between horror and enchantment. Films like Puppet Master and Subspecies, and The Meridian, and a lot of other films, they might not have been the best, but I at least felt like I was watching passionate folk trying to do something and all of their own. They succeeded, on occasion, with films like Puppet Master 3 and Vampire Journals offering up worthwhile experiences that brought a nostalgic feeling of old-style storytelling. Maybe it was the low-budget that did it, but there was also something else, a lack of polish and a confidence I could respect. It oftentimes felt like I was watching a cross between nineties horror and something from the thirties, albeit with color and slightly raised production value. That's what Full Moon Features offer to me. In a lot of ways, it also offered a Goosebumps vibe, that is, simple antagonists that often depended more on appearance than actual depth. They did it with a straight-face, never being self-aware of their own shortcomings and never letting those short-comings get in the way of saying what they wanted to say. I can see why Full Moon never had much mainstream acceptance, but they're a company that I wildly enjoy and a company I've supported for many years. The older films had a certain Full Moon magic.
Fast-forward through the nineties and beyond the Puppet Master films and all that, and you'll notice a sudden swift-change from mystical horror to campy comedy. Not all of the latest films are like that, but the key figures are. Killjoy, Evil Bong, and Gingerdead Man all take a comedic approach on horror, and in their latest installments, they have stripped away every bit of horror about them. I don't have too much issue with this, so long as they're entertaining, and some of them are. Gingerdead Man 3 was about as stupid and irreverent as they come, but it was gleefully entertaining in a referential and audacious sort-of way that hadn't been really seen from Full Moon before. Killjoy 3 was similar to that, with Killjoy Goes to Hell carrying similar elements, albeit not with as satisfying of results. Evil Bong depends too heavily on the concept that they can be as stupid as they want because whoever's going to watch it will be high. I don't have any issue with the comedic approach, so long as it's done well and with a certain dignity and functionality.
Evil Bong vs. Gingerdead Man was an example of exactly how 'not' to take the comedic approach. The humor was offensive and cheap, both misogynistic and racist, and not in an ironic sort-of way, an easygoing way that pokes fun at certain things while at the same time bringing a comedic wit. It isn't witty and it isn't funny, and it isn't the stuff that can be wrote off as 'comedic,' it's offensive for the sake of being offensive. The film follows Rabbit, an old and perverted character that we've seen throughout all the Evil Bong films, who has stolen the Evil Bong's magic weed and sold some of it to make enough money to buy a bowling alley. A topless bowling alley. I think you can basically see where this is going. The film's leading demographic was stoners and fans of softcore pornography. The rest of the story is basically all-over, with Gingerdead Man back for the film, and the Evil Bong itself there as well, both of them take a backseat to what's done to appeal to the stoner and softcore pornography demographic, of course. The whole thing's just badly done, and the storytelling is directionless and doesn't have a pay-off, any theme or plotpoint being built is discarded by the end of it with nothing to show for it, and it all just feels like a cash-in more than an actual film.
Full Moon Features is known a lot for making cash-ins, or films for the sake of them, but this was an absolute and definitive example. I feel like there isn't even really much reason to write this review. Everybody knows what to expect from Evil Bong. If you've seen the other films, you know what to expect. Or at least you should, but this is a downward spiral for both the Gingerdead Man and the Evil Bong franchise, however. It's a downward spiral that started with Evil Bong vs. Gingerdead Man. And if that horrible film wasn't enough to kill both of them for good, then this one certainly ... probably won't be either. I am certain they'll be making a sequel. I write this review because I actually gave a damn about Puppet Master, Head of the Family, Killjoy, Vampire Journals, and at least somewhat, Gingerdead Man. I cared about them because they reminded me of the comedic slasher films like A Nightmare on Elm Street that I was raised upon, and they reminded me of films that aren't made anymore. And even if those films aren't classics, it's at least nice to know they exist and somebody cares enough to make them for me.
I hope Full Moon and Charles Band find themselves again.