Sunday, June 13, 2010

There Will Be Defrosting

At this past spring’s Chiller Theater, events happened that may have forever changed the world I live in for the better. 
1- I met Grant Cramer, the once and forever Mike Tobacco of a little great film called Killer Klowns From Outer Space
2-I learned that there may indeed be a sequel to that little great film premiering in my lifetime
3-I purchased a movie I had previously never known existed, 1991’s VHS only The Refrigerator
Numbers 1 & 2 need no further explanation in terms of importance. Number 3, however, may seem exciting only to the few who happen to know that my line of work (the kind I get paid for) involves household appliances. 45 hours or so a week, I’m immersed inside crispers and condensers, celebrating the easy cleanability of adjustable glass shelves while struggling to find something equally exciting to say about the more common wired. 
And now, let us never talk about that part of my life again.
Quick Plot: Two awfully unattractive people excitedly navigate their trashy Brooklyn apartment to make sweet pigly love on the floor, fuzzy back hair dripping with sweat and (thankfully) clothed anatomy never really aligning in ways that would produce orgasms or babies. Perhaps because it’s just as disgusted as we are, the vintage refrigerator watching over our lovers begins to stir and in the name of evil or eugenics, gulps them down like a Death Bed to a bucket of chicken.

Prologue over, we move to “Somewhere in Ohio” where a pair of bright-eyed newlyweds are excitedly planning a move to the Big Apple. Wife Eileen (Julia McNeal) dreams of being a Broadway star while husband Stephen (Dave Simonds) is eager to climb the corporate ladder. Before they can take the city by a storm, the Batemans need a place to stay which proves to be way easier than it should when a sprawling one bedroom (complete with some familiar antique appliances) is bargained down by the landlord at $200 a month. 

I'd be this happy too!
How great is this quaint little walkup? There’s a complimentary plate of brie smiling inside the fridge! Who WOULDN’T sign this lease?

Because nothing that’s ever too good to be true is, bad things start to happen with fairly obvious sources. Eileen misses an audition when the refrigerator cheekily hides her keyes. Stephen loses some work points when he gets a flat (though any man that would drive to midtown from Brooklyn in rush hour every day deserves some form of punishment). Eileen’s only solace comes from the apartment’s kindly super Juan, a sweet-natured Bolivian flamenco dancer who should totally come with every security deposit.

Naturally, Stephen grows jealous and seems to conclude the best medicine for a failing marriage is sex in front of your refrigerator’s open door.

And that’s not even half the plot of The Refrigerator. I’ve yet to mention the Batemans' psychic neighbor or Eileen’s Debbie Harried banged suicidal mother. 

There’s Stephen’s creepy passive aggressive attempts to start a family and a montage of Eileen taking Manhattan.

Between all these threads, the apartment refrigerator kills (naturally, just by closing back and forth) the super’s assistant and, we learn in a somewhat predictable yet still ironic reveal, that the titular chilly villain is a gateway to hell.

Let me start with fact: The Refrigerator is about 971.333 (repeating decimal) times better than Death Bed: The Bed That Eats . That doesn’t say too much, since that home video of your little brother’s first tuba concert is about 892x better than Death Bed but still: considering The Refrigerator has never had a DVD release, I was surprised at how decent this film turned out to be. With a tone akin to Basket Case,  director Nicholas Jabos creates and a light-hearted and fairly self-aware spirit that meshes well with the rather ridiculous premise know, a refrigerator collecting human souls for something something.
High Points
Though it doesn’t get a payoff, the subplot regarding Eileen’s reluctance to start a family with her eager husband feels true to a young couple struggling with different ideas about their future timeline

Just a small touch but one I loved: the opening credits featuring vintage ads for overly exciting refrigeration
It’s a shame that McNeal and Angel Caban didn’t work more with these kinds of genre films. Both have genuinely likable presences and seem to really click with the quirky tone of The Refrigerator, making us actually care about their characters’ fate

Um. This:

Low Points
No man should ever use “my little kissing fish” as a term of endearment
I shouldn’t really complain about unresolved subplots in a movie about a killer refrigerator, but it would have been nice to learn a little more about (yes, I’m really about to say this) the history and nature of said menacing appliance, plus the result of the Batemans coupling in its frosty glow
Lessons Learned
Making soup that would be ready twenty minutes after you’re scheduled to leave the apartment isn’t the best idea you’re pretty blond head has ever had, is it dear?

Getting something in writing is usually the best way to secure a deal (surprisingly sound advice from Hector the slumlord)
You should know your refrigerator is working for the devil (aka El Diablo) by the mere fact that it’s hanging out next to your stove (a dumb move that decreases the energy efficiency of your unit because higher ambient heat means your refrigerator is constantly working harder to maintain its cold after you open the door and wow I should stop talking about this already)
Rent negotiation was ridiculously easy and wonderful in the early ‘90s
Satanic refrigerators especially hate humans with poor fashion sense in headware (observe the late Paco’s silly pastel cap and Mom’s weird choice in geometric bangage)

Winning Ling
I am the wafflemaker!
SInce a character triumphantly announces this upon waking up, I’m willing to declare The Refrigerator a worthy followup to Dream Warriors for inheriting the title of ‘best nerd self-titling ever.’ This line may very well be more exciting than “In my dreams, I am the wizard master.” Time will tell. 

At this point in time, The Refrigerator (to my knowledge) is only viewable on VHS or fuzzy transfers. Is it worth the price tag? Probably not, but darn it did I have a good time with this film. Putting aside my own bias as an employee of a refrigeration company, The Refrigerator is rather charming. The characters are enjoyable, the plot appropriately ridiculous, and the filmmaking low budget for cuteness yet slick and competent in execution. $10 on a grainy transfer may be a tad steep depending on your taste in goofy, good-natured cheese, but those who enjoy these kinds of films (i.e., me) may be sated and hey: anything to spread the word around the genre community. After all, if Death Bed: The Bed That Eats has its own special edition DVD, surely a cheery lil gem like The Refrigerator at least deserves a warranty.


  1. This has to be one of the most insane concepts for a horror film I've ever heard of... oh wait, isn't there a film coming out soon about a murderous tire named Robert?

    Toss in Killer Condom for good measure and I think that rounds out just about every man-made horror in existence. Priceless.

  2. Are you teasing me about Robert the Killer Tire? Because that's just cruel, especially as such a premise already guarantees three sequels!

    I was thinking about those ridiculous killer ____ movies lately. The Mangler always made me happy, as did the idea of Death Bed. Somehow I've never actually seen Killer Condom, which is a crime that needs to be remedied near immediately.

  3. This sounds like the most fantastic movie ever. I will have to look for this. Just thinking about a killer refrigerator makes me happy. Thanks, Deadly Doll!

  4. This makes Death Bed look like Friday the 13th Part V. If you can get your hands on it, enjoy. Of course, it's an insanely ridiculous film that's not very good, yet that somehow does indeed make The Refrigerator look like the most fantastic movie ever.