Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Alcohol Paul reviews: Panman (2011)

I’ve been procrastinating because I wanted to figure out a way to praise “Panman” without sounding like the typical raving fanboy. You see, it’s that good, but if I just say “Panman” is awesome, the kills are done with style, and the jokes are even sharper than a set of Ginsu knives it does nothing to describe just how impressed I am with this movie. During this review I will do my best to explain why “Panman” is the best horror comedy I’ve seen since the original “Scream” and make the case that it deserves a solid distributor.

The only way I can think of to make the case I want to make for “Panman” is to compare apples to apples. Since “Panman” is made to appeal to the same part of me that blindly bought “Black Devil Doll” on the basis of an ad which promised that I would find it offensive, I will compare it favorably to that mini-masterpiece. I also bought a flick called “Thankskilling” based a one sentence synopsis. Distributors, take note of my spending habits, because I’m literally one of your best customers. When they make ads for movies like “Panman,” they are making money directly off people like me.

The first point I want to hit is that “Panman” was able to hook me with its kooky (or is that cooky?) title right out of the gate. I’d have never read the “Thankskilling” synopsis if it hadn’t been for the great title. While “Panman” doesn’t have the same holiday exploitation hook in its title, it does have an element of absurdity to grab horror junkies and make them want to know more. And here’s where the hooks really sink in, because Panman has a visual hook to rival an evil black militant puppet: it’s a goddamn 80s slasher villain with a cooking pot hiding his identity.

Right about now is where I’d simply buy or preorder the disc. Guy with a pan on his head? SOLD.

Distributors, if you can sell me (and I’m sure others) on “Black Devil Doll” and “Thankskilling” so easily, you can sell “Panman” just as easily. Imagine the response to an ad in Fangoria, or an online photo contest for best “Panman” lookalike. Fellow bloggers/reviewers, we need to get the word out on this flick

It's too late. I am already the winner.

I should note right here that obviously I’m looking for the so bad they’re good type of movies, and while “Panman” can be sold as the next “Troll 2,” I’m not saying that it quite fits that category. “Panman” has the advantage of being genuinely good and intelligently crafted from the script through the shooting to the final product.

I realize that my opinion of good movies is suspect because I’ve spent the majority of this review comparing one obscure movie to other obscure titles, so I’m going to explain exactly how “Panman” surpasses the competition (or cooks their gooses).

First of all, the writing is far smarter than average. In the very first scene we get a satire of super heroes, standard slasher movie tropes, and a cutaway to a romantic montage followed immediately by a great kill. While elements of satire pop up in both “Black Devil Doll” and “Thankskilling,” one is content to lazily offer black stereotypes that are so patently offensive that its point is, “stereotypes are bad, mmm’kay?” The other just simply wants to be a bad horror movie and its tone frequently winks at the audience with deliberately hokey and stupid scenes. Not that there’s anything wrong with either one or their style. I like those movies immensely. “Panman” is smarter because it plays its gags straight instead of with an elbow to the ribs and without relying on simple shock value for cheap laughs. Oh, there are cheap laughs to be had in “Panman” just like “The Naked Gun,” but it works harder for them. For an example of how well thought out “Panman” is, allow me to compare the romantic montage from the beginning of “Panman” against a similar scene in “Black Devil Doll.”

In “Black Devil Doll” the montage is there mainly because, “LOL! He’s a puppet! And white chicks dig black studs (stereotypes are bad, mmm’kay? Oh, and look at those titties).” That’s all well and good, but “Panman” uses the montage first as an abrupt interrupt to what looked like a standard stalk and kill scene (which had then turned into a bizarre super hero riff), then shows us an imagined relationship going sour as the reason Panman ultimately opts to kill a girl. I realize that the description of the two might not make one sound necessarily funnier than the other (although “Panman” is), but the point is that one is smarter than the other. Simply put, the care that went into the project shows in the amount of effort that went into the writing.

In the execution of the movie itself, “Panman” bests the competition again because there’s simply a sounder grasp on the fundamentals of technical aspects of filming. The director/cinematographer Tim Pilleri can shoot with style that is lacking from most low budget movies. Imagine if Dario Argento were forced to use only conventional coverage and digital cameras, but could still light everything like its “Suspiria.” Gels for lighting are so cheap, but most low budgeters don’t think to use ‘em.

In terms of pacing, the movie stacks up far better than the other two microbugeters I’ve been talking about. “Black Devil Doll” is simply a bore as gags and nudity are often allowed to pad out the running time instead of, you know, telling a story, and “Thankskilling’s” first 25 minutes were pretty tedious. “Panman” moves along at a great clip. It starts off as a simple slasher parody, veers into a romantic comedy parody, and finally turns into what I can only describe as a berserk tale of madness and passion. Not everything works. There is a scene set in a backyard (free locations are about the only locations you can shoot in these type of productions) in which there’s too much talking and too little doing as Panman’s origins are discussed and a band of hunters are introduced. From a writing standpoint this was also the script’s weakest moment because too many characters are being introduced (including a twin sister angle). The old adage of “show, don’t tell” should’ve been in effect here. Giving the introduction of the hunters a separate scene might’ve helped keep the pacing from sagging, but even in his weakest scene Pilleri does try to break things up with a flashback to the exact moment that Panman’s vengeful spirit is created.

The acting in “Panman” helps elevate all the dialogue driven scenes which is where most movies with casts of semi-professionals fail (and I say semi-professional only because I’m too lazy to look up details on the entire cast). Contrast this with “Black Devil Doll” which used surgically enhanced bimbos who were probably cast for their willingness to do nudity cheap. While I certainly liked the nudity in “Black Devil Doll” and the lingering on it which allowed me to spot the surgical scars under the enormous fun bags, the fact is that if I want to see tits I can always watch a porno or ask my wife to take her shirt off. When those bimbos have to speak… Ugh, let’s just say that those girls generate more wood in their speech patterns than their willingness to do nudity ever will. “Thankskilling” took the approach of making the only nude role a non-speaking role (smart), and their cast was apparently directed at times to play things phony. Alas, that cast isn’t convincing when the scene actually calls on them to play it straight.

With Panman’s cast, lead actress Talia Tabin was an appealing anchor to the craziness of the story and her performance came off quite well considering that she’s asked to fall in love with a murderous pan headed dude. They say that when people want to win Oscars they always play someone with an accent or a disability. To my mind they should just force all the actresses to play a serious scene opposite Panman. Supporting player G. Larry Butler also stands out with a goofy character that he plays as over the top as each scene requires him to be. And finally Les Jennings deserves a mention simply because the roomful of nerds I watched “Panman” with all thought he had great charisma and was very funny in his limited screen time.

I could go on regarding the sound or get ridiculously minute about details horror aficionados will love (a painting of Linnea Quigley in the background, for example), but suffice it to say that “Panman” is a movie that needs to be seen not just by nerdy horror goons, but also anyone who enjoys comedy. The other movies I’ve discussed invite you to laugh at them and their badness, “Panman” has you laughing because yes, it wants you to laugh at it, but also because it is genuinely funny, even witty.

Also you can play: Spot the Cameraman in the Pan's Reflection game. happens very little.

I’ve said my piece, now my hope is that others will too. Even if you’re not a  distributor, if you have access to the interwebs, you can help this masterpiece get a release. If you participate in horror or movie message boards, post this review. Like Panman on Facebook and share this and other Panman reviews on your Facebook page. Do what I did and take a picture of yourself as Panman, or better yet, take a picture of yourself as Panman with someone simulating going down on you (first person to do an actual Panman porno gets 50 Internet Experience Points). If you’re a blogger, even if you don’t have much of a following, get ahold of Tim Pilleri at and see if he’ll send you a screener. Hell, if he’ll send a screener to this website… You get the idea.

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