A decrepit horror host? Zombie puppet shows? A monkey flinging his poo? All Judge Bill Gibron can say is "Count me in!!!"
Hey all you Groovy Goolies! It's time for Moldy's Madhouse. In today's installment of your favorite frightmare fodder, that reprobate raconteur Moldy Pickles will introduce you to the weird world of drunken monkey wars, zombie puppet shows, phone psychics, bloodsucking supermodels, and celebrity slaughter. In between, there will be infomercials about freaks, a ride-along with a couple of living dead control officers, and a chance to watch Moldy work his mojo on a decidedly decaying dame. It's all part of the madcap monster mash found in a typical episode of this creepy comic cavalcade. It may not be educational, but it sure is sick.
Like The Hilarious House of Frightenstein filled with feces, or an old '60s horror host transmitting some perverted platitudes from his slimy Shock Theater home, Moldy's Madhouse is one extremely odd duck. In fact, this is one fudged up macabre mallard. Part scare-fest, part sketch comedy, this combination of zombies and zingers is the brainchild of Todd Tucker, an award-winning make-up and effects artist. Obviously in love with the EC Comics epoch of eeriness, as well as the post-modern desire to dump on everything, nothing is safe in this surreal, supremely entertaining showcase.
At the center is our hapless hobgoblin hero, Mr. Moldy Pickles himself. Featuring a fantastic bit of face work by Tucker's crew, this top-hatted terror with a madman's demeanor is both fetid and funny, a queer combination of natty and nasty. When he picks a fight with his pet monkey Pee Pee, the jokes are both scatological (literally, as our simian slings crap) and satirical (lots of nods to classic cinematic fisticuffs). Sure, Moldy eventually finds himself crawling around his decaying flat, skidmarked skivvies in painfully plain sight, but there is a real attempt to be more ironic than moronic here. Indeed, when later, Moldy attempts to seduce an undead date, it's like watching a tawdry Tales from the Crypt.
There's more here than just our skuzzy star and his pissed-off primate. Moldy presents other elements within his "show," the way kidvid handled its sketch comedy conceits a few decades ago. Here we get a mixture of the very good and the sadly stagnant. On the excellent end are the various zombie romps. In one, we see a group of grade schoolers getting a puppet-based lesson in dealing with "wakers" (how the Moldy universe describes its cannibalistic corpses). The zombie marionettes are spectacular (this critic wants one, NOW!) and the payoff is perfect. Equally effective is something called "Celebrity Sacrifice." More or less a riff on local talk shows, Moldy welcomes former A Christmas Story bully Zach "Scut Farkas" Ward. Tongue firmly planted in cheek, Ward does a magic trick, sets off on a pro-Jesus rant, and in general makes a nuisance of himself before Moldy delivers the title treat. With some excellent gore effects and a wicked sense of humor, sequences like these (and the Cops-like corpse patrol) argue for Moldy's greatness. Still, not everything is so well done. A rather sloppy skit featuring "Miss Aqueefah's Psychic Hotline" is neither clever nor clear in what it is trying to attack. Besides, it's a target as old and rotten as Moldy's teeth. Another sequence, involving a supermodel suffering from vampirism is all setup and no payoff. We end up with Moldy, semi-naked, dancing around in a dominatrix outfit. It's fun, but doesn't really fit into the overall mix of the show's otherwise intelligent takes.
Still, this is a wildly imaginative and occasionally jaw-dropping experiment in entertainment. Tucker and his crew deliver first-rate effects, use green screen and CGI with equal efficiency, and there is more attempted creativity here than in dozens of like minded horror humor shows. Though it's hard to imagine where something like Moldy's Madhouse would fit in the entertainment universe—it is too blue for broadcast or regular cable, while its length would be pay-channel prohibitive—it is still worth checking out. Available exclusively through the Moldy's Madhouse Web site, the DVD arrives with excellent cover art (featuring Pee Pee in full monkey rage), a 1.33:1 full-screen image that's colorful and wonderfully moody. The significantly dark host sequences are balanced out nicely with the other studio bits. The Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 is professional, if a little perplexing. It appears as if Moldy's Madhouse was screened before a live audience whose responses were recorded and then added to the mix afterward. It's weird at first, almost as if the show had employed a laugh track. But we hear the occasional titters and flat responses and realize that real people were utilized. As for added content, we are treated to a four-minute behind-the-scenes featurette which is really nothing more than outtakes and bloopers. It's fun, but really doesn't illustrate how Moldy's Madhouse was made.
If you're looking for something to remind you of the days when every local TV station had a member of their staff dressed up like a dopey Dracula, reading bad horror puns before an equally atrocious monster movie, Moldy's Madhouse just may be the ticket. Like the sensational New York cable access extravaganza Ghoul a Go-Go, it's a brilliant throwback to a time when macabre was made for the wee ones, with a nod and a wink toward the grownups as well. You'll get a craven kick out of this stylish, silly scarefest.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Twisted Productions
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
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