Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
May 1st, 2006

Funny Man

Directed by Simon Sprackling
Written by Simon Sprackling
Starring Christopher Lee, Tim James, Benny Young, Matt Devitt
Produced by Nigel Odell
89 min
1994 (2006 rerelease)

So I've become convinced that the Brits are on their way to a looney bin.

I got all the proof I need sitting right on my coffee table, and it's called "Funny Man", someone's deranged idea of a horror movie that really comes off a lot more like a comedy.

For all you patient horror mavens out there who stuck around through the latter half of the "Nightmare On Elm Street" series, you're going to find a LOT of common ground with "Funny Man".

In fact, you're going to find a disturbingly large amount of common ground here, like a big gaping hole in the middle of the universe big. There's so much common ground here that Freddy and the Funny Man are sharing a bathroom and bitching at each other about who used the last roll of toilet paper.

Which isn't to say that we've got a bad movie on our hands here--no, quite the opposite. The Brits have managed to pull off quite the coup, taking an antiquated, tired old plotline that should never have worked and making a halfway decent movie out of it.

Said antiquated, tired old plotline--man wins house in card game, man discovers house is inhabited by evil jester demon, man's family is messily and somewhat comically killed by said evil jester demon, man is involuntarily committed following him being discovered...well...I'd explain how but it'd ruin the last thirty seconds.

There's a lot to like about "Funny Man". Check out the hitchhiker at the five minute forty six second mark. If you're not seeing a resemblance somewhere, then man, do I feel for you. If it were any more out in the open you'd be tripping over it.

But anyway, the twenty one minute mark is going to start one of the funniest things I've seen in a horror movie in a long time, fourth wall violations be damned.

And yet, at the same time, there are going to be a whole lot of fourth wall violations in this sucker. With the sheer number of times they broke through it, I genuinely don't think there'll be a fourth wall left standing. Again, more common ground with the Elm Street crew.

You will have absolutely no trouble liking "Funny Man", assuming the thought of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series still fills you with an unfathomable and vaguely creepy joy. If you thought Freddy and company were just another bunch of cookie-cutter slasher types, then you should probably stay far, far away from this one.

There's going to be a lot of Elm Street-style craziness around here, involving jumper cables, enormous lines of coke, hot Jamaican chicks who grow gatling guns in their hands, and plenty more.

In fact, the craziness carries on right through the credits.

The ending, for example, will feature aging rockers, the wanton destruction of ceramic lawn gnomes, disembowelments, involuntary committal, truly goofy statuary, and the last thirty seconds...well...that's going to be one for the ages. Trust me on that one.

There's even a really big surprise over the end credits where Christopher Lee will sing with what sounds like a children's choir.

See what I mean?

The special features include the original short version of "Funny Man", which is really just a scaled-down version with different actors and a much more alarming ending. Plus, we get trailers for the scaled-down version and the full version, a making of featurette, promotional material, and an interview with Christopher Lee.

Plus, the DVD itself includes a filmmaker's diary which includes a glossary of several distinctly British terms you'll hear in the movie.

All in all, once you get past the massive common ground shared with "Nightmare on Elm Street", and once you can make sense of the dialogue, you'll likely find "Funny Man" to be worth a rental.

The Visitation

Directed by Robby Henson
Written by Frank Peretti, Brian Godawa
Starring Martin Donovan, Edward Furlong, Kelly Lynch, Randy Travis
Produced by Joe Goodman, Ralph Winter, Bobby Neutz
104 mins

You ever work with a guy who just found religion?

They have this weird tendency to get all preachy and suchlike, and it's even weirder if the guy also happens to be really good at his job. Management's never gonna throw him out on his ear no matter how much prosetylizing he does--he's just too good at what he does to get rid of.

That's exactly what happened with "The Visitation", the second movie from Frank Peretti's weird line of Christian horror fiction in recent memory, the first being "Hangman's Curse."

Where "Hangman's Curse" was more for the teenage set, "The Visitation" is a full-blown adult tale, as evidenced by the presence of both Randy Travis, who most people under twenty don't pay much attention to, and Edward Furlong, who will make anyone under the age of twenty scream in terror at the mere sight of him.

But anyway, what's going on here is a little old-fashioned tent revival meeting in the sleepy little town of Antioch. Yes, just like the Bible. And this revival meeting is going to get a lot of people questioning their thoughts on the end of the world, miracle healings, and the very nature of God Himself.

And who's leading this tent meeting? Billy Graham? Parson Pat Robertson? Oh no, folks. Oh no. It's being led by our very own Edward Furlong.

Which is scary enough to begin with. Looking at Eddie, who has somehow managed to at least LOOK fatter since his time in The Asylum's "Intermedio"--which isn't hard, frankly. Eddie started out looking like a gray, sallow drug addict. Now he just looks like a CHUBBY drug addict.

Even better, while Eddie's running the tent revival down on some elderly woman's farm, the Face of Jesus has appeared, clearly, in a mildew stain on a hotel bathroom wall. Plus, a crucifix Jesus in a Catholic church in Antioch is crying tears that heal people's injuries. Possibly angelic beings are using beer-transporting minors to announce their coming, and to top it all off, guys are getting liquored up and burying dogs that in short order come back from the dead.

Yeah, it's like some creepy redux of "Un Chien Andalou" out here in Antioch. And with Eddie at the helm I TOTALLY follow.

Now, the really baffling thing about "The Visitation" is that it somehow manages to be a nice suspenseful thriller despite the sheer amount of religious kookery (check out the panic at twenty minutes ten seconds at the weeping Jesus) we've got crammed into it.

And perhaps the best part of all, "The Visitation" may now claim a record all its own. Like I said earlier, Randy Travis is in this sucker, and he's playing a Pentecostal minister.

I don't know how many movies involving exorcisms you've seen, but in most of them I've seen, it takes three Catholic priests like days or weeks at a clip just to get one demon expelled from a victim.

Randy Travis can do it with ONE SENTENCE.

Oh yeah. Where the Catholics are chanting and dumping water on the victim from little crystal vials, Randy just strolls on up, lays a hand on the victim's forehead and says "And Jesus said, leave this man, you unclean spirit" (or something similar) and BOOM! This flood of CGI flies (I'm guessing they're flies--they're little black dots that make a buzzing sound) pours out of the victim's mouth and dissipates in the air above the victim.

"The Visitation" can claim to its credit the land speed record for exorcisms.

Somewhere, Father Karras is smacking his forehead and yelling to an empty room "Bloody Hell! Why didn't I think of that??"

The ending is pretty standard for Peretti--it compares to "Hangman's Curse" in that it introduces a nice big honking chunk of secular explanation in to confuse how much of what you're seeing is demonic and how much is mundane. Plus it features a lot of Eddie screaming. Which is not fun.

The special features are limited to a trailer for "End of the Spear" and English and Spanish subtitles.

All in all, "The Visitation" is a surprisingly good and suspenseful thriller, and it would have been better if it hadn't been for the sheer choking amount of religious kookery gumming up the works. Despite the fact that it's got so many religious nuts in it that you'll think it's just a particularly long and bad installment of "The 700 Club," it still manages to at least work as a suspense thriller. At least no one's calling for any governments to be overthrown here....