The Gingerdead Man
In the sixth grade, I had an Earth Science teacher who was incredibly dry and had a little bit of a flat affect. He wasn’t boring, since I enjoyed the course material, but he just wasn’t very animated. Yet, he’s one of the more memorable teachers from that period in my life. Towards the end of class, when we were either finishing up some worksheets or waiting for the bell, he would pull out a book of bad jokes. They were the kind of jokes that make you groan out loud, GOL?, and yet still chuckle at because they were so corny. I remember that he would deliver these jokes straight-faced with his typically dry voice, but when everyone groaned at the punchline, he had this little Mona Lisa smile; he was definitely getting a kick out of it. The Gingerdead Man is a movie founded on a bad pun, which milks that pun for all it’s worth. I can’t be certain that my teacher would like The Gingerdead Man, but I’m willing to bet he could appreciate the film’s sense of humor.
The Gingerdead Man is about a serial killer named Millard Findlemeyer who is reincarnated as a gingerbread man to kill a young woman named Sarah, who witnessed him murdering her father and brother. Try to let that sink in for a moment. How does one reincarnate into a gingerbread man, you ask? Millard Findlemeyer, who has the dorkiest possible name for a serial killer, is sentenced to death for murder and cremated at his mother’s behest. She mixes his ashes with gingerbread seasoning, which is sent to Betty’s Bakery, where Sarah is working. The seasoning is probably already mixed up with black magic, but one of the bakery workers, Rick, accidentally cuts his finger and bleeds into the seasoning. This is enough to start the creepy whispers when the dough is mixing, but Findlemeyer isn’t given life until Sarah accidentally bumps a circuit box and sends a power surge to the oven. Clearly I must know nothing about black magic because that whole set of circumstances seems ridiculous and improbable.
The story isn’t much more complicated than, “gingerbread man kills people in a bakery.” Sarah is trying to keep her grandmother’s bakery afloat in spite of the pressures put on her by the rival bakery run by a man named Jimmy Dean, who is not a sausage unfortunately. Jimmy Dean’s daughter, Lorna, tries to ruin Betty’s Bakery’s reputation by putting a single rat in with the bread and pastries. Her ne’er-do-well boyfriend, who has a secret sensitive side and wears a ‘Pull my Finger’ t-shirt, tags along with Lorna, but apologizes for her misdoings. Lorna is a bitch to Sarah because she feels entitled, both as the daughter of a wealthy man and as the winner of the Ms. Pretty Face of Waco beauty contest. Most of the movie is spent with these three trying to survive the Gingerdead Man’s attacks and figure out how to destroy him. However, my favorite character is Brick, who’s gone for most of movie. He leaves the bakery toward the start of the movie to fight in Wrestlepalooza as an amateur fighter under the name of the Butcher Baker. He jumps out of nowhere at the end of the movie to save everyone by eating the Gingerdead Man; I mean he literally jumps out of nowhere, since he seems to be jumping down from something but there’s no windows in the room for him to come through and he definitely didn’t come through the door. Unfortunately, the serial killer possesses him and Brick is pushed into the walk-in oven to finally destroy Millard Findlemeyer. The ending of the movie seems like pretty standard for a horror movie. Everybody is happy even though several people have died and the bakery will assuredly be closed down for a homicide investigation. The twist at the end that lets you know the horror isn’t over comes in the form of a boxful of gingerbread men who are the gift of an anonymous donor. Their candy eyes turn into googly eyes. Spooky.
If the gingerbread men with googly eyes at the end of the movie doesn’t tell you that the whole movie was a silly joke, the torrent of puns will. The Gingerdead Man announces that he “ain’t the Pillsbury fucking Doughboy.” He cuts off an old woman’s finger after asking if she’s ever had a ladyfinger before. Amos jokes that they could make a lot of dough if they could catch the talking cookie. But the greatest series of lines comes at the end of the film when Brick faces the Gingerdead Man. Brick jumps in and calls out, “Now it’s time to meet your maker. Prepare to face the Butcher Baker, for tonight your ass is toast.” The Gingerdead Man replies, “You’ve gotta be shitting me.” Brick pins the Gingerdead Man, who responds, “Eat me.” This prompts Rick to bite off the Gingerdead Man’s head and ask, “Got milk?” Even if we ignored the gingerbread man puppet that runs around and kills people with pastry-related puns, it would be difficult to classify this film as anything other than a cheesy horror-comedy after that scene. It’s also the scene that makes the whole film worth watching. For those of you unwilling to watch the whole film, here’s a link to that scene.
I can’t remember where the phrase came from, but someone once wrote that a bad film can make “a tragedy comic and a comedy tragic.” I generally don’t watch bad comedies because they inspire loathing where a bad horror or sci fi movie would inspire love; I only had to watch Meet the Spartans once to learn that; I’ve paid my dues. The Gingerdead Man transcends that loathing partly because it’s a horror film, albeit a ridiculous one, and partly because the one-liners have that kind humor that makes you groan out loud, but is ultimately endearing. It’s a kind self-aware, self-deprecating humor that’s continued in the even more ridiculous Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust. Passion of the Crust takes place on a film set and ends up being a commentary on B-movie filmmaking; I would recommend this film for being a silly, low budget movie and for being a defense of silly low budget movies. I haven’t watched the most recent sequel, Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver, but it sounds promising too. Note: I’m not kidding about the sequels or their titles.
Oh, and did I mention that Gary Busey is Millard Findlemeyer and the voice actor for the Gingerdead Man? That either makes this movie funnier or scarier.