Review by Jay Bowman
In a genre where one never needs to reinvent the wheel, Handy Dandy’s Revenge does its damnedest to fit as many tired tropes into its script as possible. A brief listing:
◦ Evil dummies, because Goosebumps
◦ Evil wizard Masons, because I suppose it’s okay to vilify that crowd
◦ The villain is the father of one of the heroes, because of course
◦ A half-hearted twist ending, because you need to set up for potential sequels
◦ A naked woman, because you don’t have confidence in your script
◦ A naked woman being tortured, because one should dip into exploitation for the sake of tradition
There’s probably more I missed, but these points should be enough of a red flag to tell you that Devil’s Junction: Handy Dandy’s Revenge is very derivative (except for maybe the evil wizard Mason thing; I honestly haven’t seen that played much beyond weirdo conspiracy theories). A group of six college-aged friends ventures into the long-abandoned television studio purchased by the father of Stefan (Jake Red), the male lead. The other five are inconsequential to the proceedings and exist solely to explore the studio and get caught up in the shenanigans inside.
Shock horror, the studio is seemingly haunted by Mr. Jolly (Bill Oberst, Jr.), host of a 1960’s television show shrouded in mystery and a handful of child murders. The time before the inevitable puppet attack is spent by the six friends spouting exposition to explain both their history (in very clumsy, often redundant ways — “I’ve known you since grade school, and…”) as well as that of the television show. Time spent during the puppet attack is used making poor decisions (it is, after all, a horror movie).
The weaknesses are many and obvious: poor script, unneeded plot points (mention of a one-night stand between two of the friends that ultimately goes nowhere but gets meaningful music cues anyway), questionable music choices (not limited to the nu-metal theme song, but certainly including it), and some desperate attempts sprinkled throughout to make us feel anything at all for the characters who are never built up before being killed. I can imagine someone going over the script during revisions and inserting more without taking anything away (“What if we suggest the athlete participated in gang rape? That’ll shock the audience!” “But what about this one-night stand thing? Should we do something with that?” “Meh.”).
So the human characters are more wooden than the puppets themselves. Oberst is the only actor of the bunch who comes across as loving his character, or at least, he knows his role is cliché but works with it. He recognized the fun to be had in playing a ventriloquist/evil magician but does so in such a way that it isn’t campy. I consider that an accomplishment. Some focus has been put on Bill Moseley as Richard, Stefan’s dad, but given the goofy way he delivers his equally goofy lines, I get the feeling he didn’t expect anyone else in the cast to take this project seriously.
There’s a hint of a Saw vibe running throughout, between the puppets and the finale, but this is merely surface level. While I wouldn’t argue that Saw is rich with meaning, it at least pretended to have a twisted sense of morality to its violence. That is not the case here. The baddie is a baddie not because of some twist of fate, but simply because he’s a baddie. Or specifically, a wizard Mason.
Though I could go into greater detail about Handy Dandy’s shortcomings, I don’t want to be overly cruel towards a movie that’s ultimately forgettable, even in its failings.