Director: Fred Olen Ray
USA - 2000
Moon Pictures is synonymous with bad movies. Their films, for the most
part, are fairly entertaining, but usually nothing special. You take a
script with an interesting premise and a threadbare plot, toss in either Tim
Thomerson or Jeffrey Combs, add a dash of mediocre special effects and
VOILA! A Full Moon presentation.
As with anything, there are, of course, exceptions. Though I felt Castle
Freak was above average, I absolutely loathed
Full Moon, Fred Olen Ray is also synonymous with bad movies. But despite
being cinematically misguided, Fredís efforts are usually entertaining -
in a sick, perverse kinda way. Despite having no money, script, actors, or
any semblance of talent, Fred has churned out some fairly entertaining
flicks over the years. Not exactly classics, but for the time and money
spent, not all that bad. While Full Moon, for the most part, seems only
interested in churning out movies as fast as the press allows, Fredís
endeavors have a little heart. A little soul*. The man loves to make
movies, not just money.
my never-ending quest for cheap-ass DVDs, I came across Sideshow at a local media outlet mega-store that shall go unnamed.
The film was produced by Full Moon, but directed by Fred Olen Ray. I was
genuinely curious to see the result of this hybrid of filmmaking styles.
That, and the
damn movie was only five bucks! Five
the end, unfortunately, it turns out that I didnít get my moneyís
plot, or semblance thereof.
wants to get into Melanieís pants. Melanie is quite reluctant, so Tommy
sets up a double date in hope of breaking the ice. He sets up his best
friend Bobby with Melanieís best friend Jeanie. Bobbyís handicapped
brother, Grant, tags along.
boys are quick to show off their prowess in the field of romance by taking
their dates to a carnival. Itís common knowledge that nothing gets women
more hot and bothered than toothless carnies with moussed-down mullets.
they head to the carnival to spend a fun-filled evening riding the
vomit-inducing tilt-a-whirl and getting ripped off at carny games. Sideshow
is quick to establish its bevy of trite characters:
The good-looking jerk who wants his wicked way with Melanie. Heís one of
those amazingly quasi-evil characters that could never exist in real life.
Iím not saying bad people donít exist, just not like Tommy. Weíre
talking evil in the vein of William Zabka from The
Karate Kid. In the course of thirty minutes Tommy shows disdain toward
the handicapped, objectifies numerous women, punches a carny, and
manhandles a midget.
so maybe punching a carny isnít all bad, but you get my drift.
The ice queen. Likes to be fawned over, but appears to despise men in
general; Tommy, in particular.
The ďuglyĒ girl. The way she obsesses about her looks and weight one
might surmise she was the most heinous beast since James Doohan in a
diaper. The fact of the matter is, Jeanie is fairly attractive. Weíre
not talking the absurdity of Sheís
All That (i.e. put glasses on a supermodel to create instant dog), but
itís frustrating nonetheless. For one thing, it creates aesthetic
insecurity for us more impressionable viewers. For another, it insults the
viewerís intelligence. You canít just take an attractive person, say
their unattractive, and expect us to believe it just because you say so.
If you need an unattractive person for a role, then by golly, get someone
ugly. I realize that beauty is subjective, but Iím talking universally
ugly. Like Maria Ford, for instance.
I expected Bobby to be the hero of the group. At least, thatís how the
first. Somewhere in the middle, however, we kinda forget about Bobby. Then
suddenly, during the riveting
finale, he is
once again thrust into the potential hero spotlight; but again, nothing
The end draws near, the suspense builds, you expect something heroic to
occurÖand zilch! The movie ends with absolutely no resolution. Just an
apparent: ďThis isnít going anywhere! Roll the credits!Ē
Bobbyís handicapped brother. He is also the resident scholar of carnival
trivia. Freak shows, rigged games Ė if it has something to do with
carnies, Grant has all the gouge. The fact that Grant is confined to a
wheelchair doesnít really play a factor until the end. Then suddenly
they decide to throw in a last minute plot point about Grantís
life-threatening disease which, like the film itself, comes to no real
resolution. Or, at most, a very implausible resolution (see below).
we get our gaggle of paper-thin characters to the carnival, it takes them
approximately ten minutes before they harass a midget. Unfortunately for
Our Heroes, said midget happens to be Abbot Graves, proprietor of the
you see where this is going yet?
enough, the crew end up at said sideshow, where they witness such
monstrosities as Flannel Face and Digestina (a naked woman who sits in a
pool of bile). Actually, I canít recall the real name of Flannel Face,
but basically heís just
a hillbilly sporting a talking face on his stomach that sounds like Billy
Dee Williams (all while wearing a flannel, of course).
they see the show and leave. More film padding ensues, then one by one
each teeny bopper is lured back into the tent by Dr. Graves, put into a
tall glass tube and turned into a freak that symbolizes their personality.
Think of Dr. Graves as a cross between Rod Serling, Ricardo Montalban and
is a film I feel rather apathetic about. Donít get me wrong, itís bad,
but I really couldnít work up enough gumption to thoroughly despise it.
Iím not sure why. The filmís redeeming qualities are few and far
between. Perhaps itís the over-the-top performance of Full Moon staple
Phil Fondacaro. Heís usually stuck in bit parts, but takes full
advantage of a rare lead role. Fondacaro makes a very convincing carny. I
donít know if thatís a good thing or not.
far as the aforementioned hybrid of styles go, Iím sad to report that Sideshow
plays like any other Full Moon feature. It couldíve been directed by any
of Full Moonís usual suspects.
amazes me most is the supporting cast. The listing on the IMDB reads like
a whoís who of cinematic crime: Ross Hagen; Richard Gabai; Brinke
Stevens; Peter Spellos and, leading the pack, the incomparable Charles
Band. Take a gander at this
rap sheet! It reminds me of the casting for A Thin Red Line. That is, if they cast A Thin Red Line with the crŤme de la crŤme of Hollywoodís greasy
teddy bear action! Thrill as Tommy tries again and again and again to win
a cheap, sawdust-filled teddy bear for Melanie! You think playing carny
games is a blast? Imagine the non-stop excitement of watching someone in a
movie play one!
day! At one point, Grant falls out of his wheelchair and cracks a rib,
thus forcing Bobby to run ahead to retrieve the van for their escape. In
the five minutes it takes for Bobby to leave and return, it goes from the
pitch black of midnight to the overwhelming glare of the noontime sun. If
nothing else, at least Fred managed to keep one of this trademarks in Sideshow.
wait, make that two.
Jeanie turns up missing, the remainder of the group call the cops. Upon
the arrival of The Man, Grant comes up with a brilliant theory that,
perhaps, this isnít the first time a girl has come up missing. Now,
Iím not sure if he was speaking in general or at this carnival in
particular, but either way, heís a moron.
I were to sneak up on somebody, I probably wouldnít want the guy in a
wheelchair to tag along. Nothing against wheelchairs, but theyíre not
the filmís finale, Bobby madly searches for his missing brother. When he
finally finds him, Bobby is shocked to discover that Grant has been turned
into Beast Boy. Or Beast Man. Or something like that. Anyway, Grant is now
a beast capable of running real fast and jumping real high. He also sports
a beastly mohawk. Bobby is, of course, a bit perturbed about his brother
being turned into a monster, but then Grant rationalizes with him that
itís meant to be. So basically, he wasnít happy being confined to a
wheelchair, but he is happy to be transformed into a monster? Now granted,
the monster is considerably more agile than his former body, but heís
locked in a cage thatís barely big enough to walk in! Have I mentioned
Grantís a moron?
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-- Copyright © 2001 by J. Bannerman