The Film (1/5)
In the commentary track on another recent Vinegar Syndrome release, filmmaker David DeCoteau spoke of an almost mythical time in movie history… when anything ninety minutes long and shot on film could get a video distribution deal. There were filmmakers who exploited exploitation filmmaking to get their names out there, and Rick Sloane was one of them. Armed with twelve dollars and a dream, Sloane churned out sloppy B-movies for video stores clamoring for product, and Hobgoblins might be his crowning achievement.
For the uninitiated, Hobgoblins is the tale of a group of mischievous imps imprisoned in the film vault at an old movie studio by an elderly security guard. When the creatures are accidentally freed, it falls to the old man and his fresh-on-the-job trainee to save humanity from these creatures that have the power to flood your mind with the illusion of your fondest hopes and dreams – before they kill you.
The miserable Gremlins knock-off has become a cult classic largely because of an infamous degree of ineptitude. Once Mystery Science Theater 3000 skewered the film, its “rise” to the depths of the IMDB Bottom 200 assured it a place in cinema history – one that its director embraces… with a few caveats.
For instance – that ninety minute runtime I mentioned above was often contractually obligated – which meant that, despite knowing that the film’s rake fight probably didn’t need to be as long as the podrace sequence from The Phantom Menace, Sloane had to do what he had to do to get the film to the length demanded by distributors. Additionally, he knew that the Hobgoblin props were built to be controlled by wires or rods – but he couldn’t afford an army of puppeteers, so the Hobgoblins just had to wiggle a bit. Whenever we assume that Sloane’s film is shitty because he’s a shitty filmmaker, he surprises us with a candid assessment of a scene or sequence, or a logical (if disheartening) explanation of what he would have done differently had he the right budget.
But – most tellingly – he explains that, if he waited around for the right budget, he’d have never made the film. Or any film.
In that way, Hobgoblins winds up reframed as a hero’s journey – one filled with compromise and calamity – and, finally, success (of a sort) – in the face of the impossible.
Vinegar Syndrome comes through again with a supernaturally well-crafted transfer. Working from the original elements, this 2K scan is going to have to be considered the definitive release of this mess for all time. It looks so good that you actually come away with a bit more respect for Sloane as a filmmaker. Once you see what the film was supposed to look like, it’s clear he knows how to shoot, regardless of whether or not you enjoy what he shot. The DTS-HD mono mix is nothing special, but it does what it’s supposed to do with crystal clarity.
We’ve got a trailer for the film, Sloane’s commentary track from the previous DVD release is retained here, and his “Hobgoblins: The Making of a Disasterpiece” is included. “Hobgoblins Revisited” is an all-new retrospective, and there’s a very entertaining new conversation with the talented Kenneth Hall, whose effects know-how has seen him work alongside the Chiodo Brothers and John Carl Buechler. He discusses creating the Hobgoblin “puppets” (Hall explains that, due to budgetary limitations, only one Hobgoblin was built to be controlled like a hand puppet – the rest were foam-filled props that… kinda’ wiggled) and his reaction to how they were used on set, as well as his feelings on the finished film.
There’s also a featurette that follows Sloane to San Diego Comic Con as he peddles his cult classic to a crowd that seems mostly confused.
There’s simply no way I can recommend Hobgoblins to any of you with a straight face. As much of a fan as I am of “so bad it’s good” filmmaking, this thing has never worked for me – even though I can appreciate Sloane’s never-say-die attitude. When he says that he managed to make his dreams come true as a filmmaker, it doesn’t come off as a smug eff-the-haterz-my-shit-made-money rant, but as a sigh of relief from a guy who managed to make a film career happen despite every conceivable obstacle. There’s a story he tells on the commentary track wherein he’s setting up a shot in the Hollywood hills, and he looks at all of the beautiful homes in the reverse angle and thinks, “One day, I’ll have a house up here.” And he did get a house up there – largely because of Hobgoblins. There’s something about that tale that hits me right in the heart. I may hate the movie, but I like the guy who made it. Your mileage may vary.
If you’re a fan of the film, however – this is a must-own release. Vinegar Syndrome strikes again!