Munchies (1987)

Ah, Gremlins.  What a great movie, right?

Little monsters running around doing stuff.  They start off cute and cuddly, but uh oh…  You can”t get them wet!  They multiply if they get wet!  You can’t feed them after midnight!  They turn into ugly, scary monsters when you do that!  And you REALLY can’t let them work on their tans because sunlight kills them!  That’s really bad!

I’m glad I get to talk about Gremlins (by the way, my all-time favorite Christmas movie), but I’m going to not watch that at all.  Instead, I’m gonna be watching one of the Gremlins ripoffs that flooded video stores after it hit big in the mid 80s.  Of course, there’s Critters, which I will get a shot at talking about at the end of the year over at Film Seizure (which is a podcast I co-host).

No, this was the lesser ripoff than even Critters – Roger Corman’s Munchies.  Seriously, I don’t even mean to watch this many Corman movies lately.  I can’t believe how many of these really bad 80s movies he produced or was involved in some way with and how available they are in the gray market.  Oh by the way, I only have this on DVD-R because there’s no one in the world who would release The Munchies on an actual DVD.

So here we are.  My sad, terribly lonely life.  Spending a Friday night watching a Gremlins ripoff when I could be out having fun – which would probably mean sitting in a movie theater watching another movie that, in some way, rips off some other thing another movie did and made a bagzillion dollars.  At least Munchies has little monsters running about and causing trouble and making for kooky crazy shenanigans.

Sigh…

At least I do have one thing that is kind of a ray of sunshine in this existence.  Look at this little dude on the poster…

That’s livin’ the dream, ain’t it?  He’s got some sweet high tops on.  He’s drinkin’ a Bud.  He’s got his mohawk game on point.  He’s gotten his hands on a fat stogie.  He’s wearin’ battle armor.  And he’s checkin’ out that sweet, sweet puss on the chick whose fine gams grace the marketing campaign.  That’s just fantastic.  Good for you, little guy!  I can see exactly what you are from this single artist’s rendition.

Just as an aside, no joke, I used to think this movie had something to do with the Gene Wilder/Kelly LeBrock movie The Woman in Red.  I don’t remember much about the movie other than the two stars, the Oscar-winning song “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, and a scene with Kelly LeBrock walking over an air grate and her red dress blowing up.  That was used in all the promotional work for the movie.  So, when you put two and two together, I don’t think I’m all that stupid for thinking The Munchies was some sort of tie-in or direct parody of The Woman in Red.

Don’t look at me like that.  I know what I’m talkin’ about.

Actually, upon further review…  No fucking shit the marketing team behind The Munchies was going for the whole monster looking up Kelly LeBrock’s dress thing.  So, fuck off assholes.  I DO know what I’m talking about!  I’m glad a 10 year old Geoff knew enough about upskirts to know that the VHS box for a crappy puppet monster movie was parodying a rom-com that was aimed at a more mature audience.  Growing up in the 80s was raaaaaad.

Alright, so I should start this movie.  (Additionally, note to self:  The Woman in Red actually might make for a good movie to cover in this blog because the premise is real dicey.)

We start with Paul Watterman in an archaeological dig somewhere in Central America with his father Simon (played by Harvey Korman).  Simon is a big believer in ancient aliens.  They find a tomb and open it and begin to check out the pictographs and start snooping around.  As they look around they discover a little creature that Cecil, naturally, believes is an alien.  Of course, Cecil decides to bring the cute little creature home.  Because… shut up, the movie has to start somehow.

The little munchie creature makes noises like Gizmo did in Gremlins – but I assure you this is not Howie Mandel.  Also, much like in Transylvania Twist, the main guy is a real yuckster.  He’s cracking jokes and real scaredy because we can’t have a lighthearted Roger Corman movie without this type of jackass character always yapping bad jokes and puns.

When Simon and Paul get back to the States, we meet Cindy (played by Nadine Van Der Velde from Critters), Paul’s girlfriend.  She also talks too much in this movie.  You know…  This movie is loaded with goofy characters trying to constantly crack jokes or say one liners, like all the fucking time, but the guy who’s had practically no joke lines is Harvey fucking Korman.  You know, the guy who was one of the biggest comics ever on TV during the 70s when he was in The Star Wars Holiday Special?

And much like The Star Wars Holiday Special, Harvey Korman also plays more than one role in the movie.  He also plays the smarmy Cecil Watterman.  Great.  This movie is off to a great start.

This movie is also lousy with Gremlins-like references.  The munchie, voiced by Frank Welker (of pretty much all our childhoods’ favorite cartoons – including voicing the main gremlin Stripe), sounds like Gizmo as I mentioned previously.  The score sounds an awful lot like Jerry Goldsmith’s Gremlins score.  Cindy is a cute, girl-next-door brunette.  Paul has aspirations to become a comic, much like Billy Peltzer wanted to draw comics.  Cindy’s car is a piece of shit that backfires and isn’t terribly reliable, much like Billy’s old VW Bug.  Simon is in need to make money.  Rand Peltzer was an inventor and had crazy ideas, and Simon’s got his crazy ideas he tries to sell about aliens.  Shit, I mentioned how Gizmo was voiced by Howie Mandel?  Well, they managed to find an actor to play Paul who looks a lot like young Howie Mandel!

But since this is Roger Corman, you best believe there’s some teenage sex happenin’!

So we’re 20 minutes into an 80-minute movie and practically the only things that have happened are the discovery of the munchie, which they’ve named Arnold, and Paul got laid.  We’re not exactly sure why, but Cecil has been trying to pull some shenanigans over on Simon.  Cecil wants Paul’s land for… reasons?  He’s bugged Simon’s house for… additional reasons?  Anyway, Cecil and his idiot, stoner, stepson kidnap Arnold.  They, at first, think Arnold is a cat.  So why they need to kidnap him is dumb and unnecessary.

But I digress…

Arnold is a feisty little bugger and messes with the stepson and generally aggravates him.  When the stepson starts smacking Arnold around with a pool cue, and later starts trying to shoot him with a rifle, Arnold begins to transform into a creature with much sharper claws and teeth.  When the little munchie is shot, and later chopped up by the stepson, we learn he’s invincible, and chopping him up only causes him to regenerate into multiple munchies.

The multiple munchies now all talk in English like, I dunno, black radio personalities?  They are hungry for junk food, and want to start hurting people (particularly the stepson), and start cruisin’ the town for chicks.

We know they like chicks because Cindy does a burlesque-like tease (?!?) to distract them so Paul can capture them all.  Which he does because they are too busy bird-dogging Cindy to not get a trashcan tossed over them.  Naturally, Paul immediately just walks over to Cindy instead of holding down the trashcan.  They immediately escape and try to blow up Paul and Cindy with a shotgun.

Ugh.  This movie is about four little puppets wielding a shotgun and stealing cars and watching girls do burlesque dances.  It does beg the question – how did she know the burlesque tease would work?  What if it didn’t?  What if these munchies were, I dunno, gay or simply not into cute girl-next-door types?  I mean, that could very sharply change the entirety of the rest of the movie if she tries to start dancing, they start looking at each other like “What the fuck is this broad doing?” and then just shoot her with the shotgun and claw Paul’s eyes out.

Think about that for a second, and then get with me to find out where you can send me that check to write a gritty reboot of The Munchies.

You might think that would be right up my alley.  And normally, I’d say you’re absolutely right.  Yet, this movie sucks.  The munchies aren’t cute like Gizmo.  The gremlins pulled shenanigans on almost a cartoon level.  These guys are just total aaaaaaassholes.  Remember when the gremlins took out Mrs. Deagle?  You had a chance to see their pranks and stuff, and to see her be a general villain.  So when they got her by messing with her chair thing that helped her get upstairs and launched her out into the cold winter night, you were in favor of it.  Here, the munchies run an old lady off the road.  For no reason.

They just did it.

Because they are assholes.

That’s not charming or even satisfying in dealing out comeuppance.

Next up, the munchies chase after a couple hot babes having a swim in the lake.  Luckily, Paul and Cindy get there in time to save the girls, but the little creatures get away through a pipe.  They track the munchies to an ice cream shop where they have the family who operates the shop pinned down in the freezer.

Paul discovers that the munchies were a creature that was brought to life by ancient magic, and they cannot be chopped up or there will, as we’ve already seen, be new munchies running around.  Paul tries to warn Cecil about the impending problem of these little monsters, but he doesn’t listen.  Instead, he goes to his new Putt-Putt course.  Yes, that’s what I said.  There, at the big grand opening, all the munchies show up and terrorize people and look up girls’ skirts as they bend over to put the balls on the…

Never mind.  I want to make a joke about girls in short dresses putting balls somewhere, but I can’t.  I literally can’t.

This movie has less of a plot and more of just a series of little puppets terrorizing people in this town in various ways.  People go somewhere, and the munchies are also there to bite them or screw with them.  Girls are there, and the munchies vibrate and pass out – probably from jerking their munchie dicks.  Everyone in this town is an idiot.  Paul and Cindy crack too many jokes.  Munchies are assholes.  Life is a meaningless cycle of pain and regret.

Unlike Humanoids from the Deep, which was a much more unsavory movie, the ending of that movie happens at the big fair on the docks and just has a bunch of fish monsters killing guys and takin’ women.  This movie goes on at the mini golf course and has no fish monsters stealing women.  But that’s also not where the movie ends – which is even more frustrating.  They make it seem like they are heading toward a big showdown at the mini golf course, but no, the movie keeps going with more shenanigans.

Paul and Cindy go with one of the dumb cops into these underground tunnels.  Cecil and his wife, Melvis (that’s really her name), go with another dumb cop someplace else.  We get some little people working in a burger joint.  Sigh…  Guys, I don’t know what’s going on and I really don’t care.  I find myself suddenly caring much more that these little people at the burger joint make sliders and not regular sized hamburgers because otherwise, the joke is a complete disaster.

This is just 80 minutes of stuff loosely tied together by little puppet monsters.  I thought this was gonna be fun, but it’s not.  I see what they are trying for here.  I really do.  This is a PG rated movie, so it’s kinda kiddie and silly.  I appreciate that.  Seriously!  I really like the idea of just a little monster romp for kids.  However, there’s a bit of a boner comedy element with how much the munchies want to look up dresses and see panties and then later chase Cindy around telling her they’d treat her right and she knows it.

It’s also oddly overly scripted AND under-written.  That’s a strange critique to make.  I’m not kidding that this movie has practically no plot.  Guy brings a monster back from some ruins.  They run amok.  Yet EVERYONE has to talk CONSTANTLY.  Like there can’t be any fucking silence to let the actions of the munchies or the reaction to their shenanigans play out.  It’s like the movie was directed by a coked out munchie on his 8th line of the night.  That’s the munchie with the coked-out Ray Liotta eyes.

The munchies ultimately attempt to multiply themselves in this processing factory in this cave – yeah, I don’t understand that either.  There’s this processing machine that will chop them up so they can reform into a bunch of munchies – okay, that was fun to say.  In the course of trying to stop them from cutting themselves up, Paul realizes how to permanently stop them.  If he electrocutes them, they will turn back into the idols that spawned the original munchie and he can smash the idols and kill them.

Paul keeps one of the statues to give back to Simon which he sells to a museum for bunches of money which makes everything swell in the end.

This is kind of a rough one, kiddos.  I know I said I appreciated how PG it is for younger audiences, but it’s not really fun.  It does, however, make you better appreciate movies like Critters, and Gremlins looks like goddamned Citizen Kane when put up next to this.  There is practically no personality to this movie.  As I said before, people talk without saying much of anything.  The munchies themselves are totally unlikable.  It’s also a pretty cheap looking movie.

All in all, if you like the little monster craze of the 80s, maybe watch this for your own curiosity, but I just can’t really recommend it.  Sadly, it doesn’t get much better next week.  I revisit the world of Jon Mikl Thor, as well as Canadian horror, as well as that good old fashioned heavy metal infused monster flick born from the Satanic scare days of old with Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare!

See you all next week!

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