One christmas, my parents got me what they considered to be a pretty sweet gift for a kid, a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist's dummy. And by all accounts it would have been awesome for a nerdy kid like myself, were it nor for the fact that I had recently seen Roland Emmerich's Making Contact. I can't recall the specifics from that first viewing, but I remember the experience clearly, and I remember thinking "Why are these people (my parents) letting me watch this?! It's horrifying! Why aren't they horrified?! Why don't they love me enough to make me turn it off?!"
Needless to say, the Charlie McCarthy dummy got more dust than use, much to my parent's confusion.
It took me 20+ years and a search on kindertrauma to rediscover this childhood horror. We open on the funeral of Joey's pops, and quickly jump into discovering that Joey's dad is now a ghost who calls him on a toy telephone and teaches him esp stuff like moving a glass of with his mind. And although all this hocus pocus is going on, Joey's toys seem to be independently alive, I don't get it.
Anyways, Joey then discovers a ventriloquist's dummy named Fletcher in a basement that shoots lightning form his eyeballs and growls a lot (that scared poop into my pants when I was a kid) who is also alive and reveals to Joey that the man on the phone is not his father, but am old timey ventriloquist! Or is he lying?!
I hate to say stuff like this in sci-fi-ish movies, but a ton of implausible stuff happens, mostly character stuff (so Joey's teacher sneaks into peoples homes and they don't care? In fact he stays for dinner?) The dummy goes on a rampage and traps some of Joey's schoolmates in the cellar where he was first found with all sorts of wack-a-doo magic happenings. It's up to Joey to go in and use his newly discovered telekinetic powers and shut that bitch down, america style.
The movie's pretty trim at 79 minutes, though the German version has about 20 minutes longer. I'm not sure what the differences are, so please don't ask. It's available on youtube though.
So many movies like this seem awesome when we're kids, but suck lion turds on rewatching. In this case, I think having seen it once and being horrified and seeing it again only now actually helped it. That and it's many references coupled with decent production values make it a cut above similar wannabes. The whole thing reeks of ET, Poltergeist, maybe some Goonies as well and even Star Wars references including ripped off R2D2-like robot that hangs out with Joey the whole movie.
We all know Emmerich went onto to bigger and bigger and BIGGER HUGER WORLD ENDING things. Every movie he makes apparently needs to out do each previous film. That man isn't content destroying the world twice for chrissakes. But here, being a super early work, his limitations in budget and effects help keep the story kind of grounded. I cant imagine if he were making this movie now how it might turn out. "Ok so instead of the dummy just terrorizing kids, I think it'd be more powerful if he runs for president and then tried to explode the world with aliens before he changes history!" "What?" "I know!" I cant guarantee you will like this not having been traumatized as a child though, because it certainly isn't great per se, but I found immensely more watchable than many of Emmerich's more recent disastersplotation films.
More than anything, this has me pumped to see Super 8. But you can buy Joey on DVD at amazon.com for now