There’s been a lot of grumbling lately about the inherent lameness of intentionally campy B-pictures aiming for a cult audience in an overtly phony way. Movies like Sharknado & Zombeavers have been derided by many schlock junkies for recreating a calculated sense of what was once felt like genuine cinematic weirdness in order to gain an instant, unearned cult status. It wouldn’t be too hard to see that same allegation being lashed at the horror comedy Patch Town, but (besides being generally more lenient on the calculated cult movie as a genre than some) I believe there’s something a little more special about the film than titles like Wolf Cop & Piranhaconda. Patch Town‘s high-concept, low budget weirdness is calculated, sure, but it’s also surprisingly thorough in pushing that concept as far as it could possibly go & even better, it’s surprisingly funny.
A horror comedy about an evil Cabbage Patch dolls factory, Patch Town sounds like the kind of Sci-Fi Channel dreck that would settle for a couple odd moments & a celebrity cameo, then call it a day. Instead, it milks its concept for all it’s worth, telling the story of a magically talented toy inventor who discovers a cabbage patch in the woods that gives birth to real-life babies. Unable to provide for every single babe he finds, he uses his advanced toy-making technology to preserve them in plastic doll bodies & sells them in stores so that little girls can mother them (real-life Cabbage Patch dolls used to come with adoption papers). Once the girls became women & left their adopted baby dolls by the wayside the (since-deceased) inventor’s evil son would snatch them up, free them from their plastic doll prisons, and force them to work in his evil doll factory where they perform grotesque cesarean section operations on the magical forest cabbages. That’s not even to mention a subplot in which one of the workers breaks free to track down the mother who abandoned him. Or the fact that it’s a Christmas movie. And a musical.
If Patch Town were made in the 1980s there’s no doubt in my mind that it would have a strong cult following. It may even just be strange enough to pull one off in the 2010s. There certainly aren’t that many horror comedy Christmas musicals about evil doll factories around these days to compete for its potential audience. I don’t think it’s an entirely successful endeavour from front to end, but it does have a whole lot going for it in terms of go-for-broke narrative absurdity & genuinely hilarious moments that feel like bizarre sketch comedy tangents (complete with a Scott Thompson cameo). I’d understand if some folks dismiss it outright based on its calculated cult following ambitions alone (especially considering how flooded that particular market is at the moment) but I believe it’s genuinely strange enough to deserve a fairer shake than that.