Matty takes a puff on the latest time-killing instalment of Full Moon’s most maligned franchise, which is just about worth this month’s Full Moon Streaming fee.
If you don’t know what you’re getting by now, well, that’s your problem…
It’s been ten years since B-movie svengali Charles Band’s first Evil Bong (2006) limped to disc, and the stoner schlocker is quite rightly hailed as one of the Full Moon boss’ worst endeavours. However, despite being a million miles away quality-wise from classics like Puppet Master (1989), Trancers (1985) and Subspecies (1991), the resulting franchise that’s spun from it has forged a legacy that brings it close in terms of longevity and likability. Because as completely, utterly risible the series is as a whole, those who buy into Evil Bong‘s fundamentally stupid ‘puppet terrors meet Harold & Kumar‘ premise will find a quietly endearing saga rich in character and warm slacker charm that – whisper it – actually gets better as it goes along – or at least it did until this tired offering. Though still a moderately amusing little programmer, EVIL BONG: HIGH 5 is marred by an inescapable sense of fatigue – and that’s from someone who’s had to watch the entire Bong continuum ad nauseam as a co-author of upcoming Full Moon tome, It Came From the Video Aisle!.
Making no concessions to anyone bar series diehards, the fatigue is obvious from High 5‘s rambling cold open, which finds heroes Larnell, Velicity and Sarah (a returning John Patrick Jordan, Amy Paffrath, and Robin Sydney) shooting the breeze for what feels like an eternity in the eponymous water pipe’s hemp-strewn netherworld. The arrival of the incomparable Sonny Carl Davis (whose gurning horn-dog, Rabbit, once again steals the show), the Gingerdead Man, and the diabolical dank tank herself, Eebee, keep boredom at bay, but the usual waggish sparkle is noticeably absent, it finally dulled by Band’s relentless product placement.
Initially rearing its head in Evil Bong: 420 (2015) (which had just wrapped as Dave Wain and I were finishing our It Came From the Video Aisle! chapter on the series), there Band at least inserted the hucksterism with a modicum of wit and irony. Here, though, it’s just vulgar. A sizeable chunk of High-5‘s meagre seventy minute run time is devoted to what’s really an extended and grotesque toy commercial, with Chance A. Reardon’s swine-faced Hambo (an Ooga Booga (2013) holdover) pimping Band’s tawdry ‘Badass Dolls’ range. And as if such flagrant hard-selling wasn’t enough, the website you can order them from even flashes across the screen!
Thankfully, there’s just enough mirth on offer to make High-5 worth this month’s Full Moon Streaming fee (it’s currently playing there and on Hulu). Fresh from his appearance in the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! (2016), Jacob Witkin reprising his role as Larnell’s hilariously nasty grampa after a two film absence is a great delight, and the acid-tongued geriatric spits his lines with lip-smacking venom. Indeed, zingers such as “you look like something a raccoon shat out after Halloween” and “you’re the drippings from beneath the titty bar table” are the cause of several genuine belly-laughs, and all enforce the film’s greatest strength:
Kent Roudebush’s sizzling dialogue.
Inheriting scripting duties from the franchise’s late progenitor, Brian Muir, Roudebush has proved himself a skilled heir to the underrated and sorely missed Full Moon mainstay’s throne across the last three Bongs. High-5 is no exception, and Roudebush’s rhythmic articulation, and the slyly subversive edge to his otherwise routine set-up, provide as much colour and as much bounce as Howard Wexler’s robust photography. After all, as those even the slightest bit familiar with Charlie Band’s business practices will know, Larnell and the gang being forced into flogging max strength super weed to fund another of Eebee’s despotic ventures is definitely a metaphor of some sort, right?
EVIL BONG: HIGH 5 is available now via Full Moon Streaming and Hulu
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