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Evil Bong: High 5 (2016)

Exploitational Drugs

It's hard to admit, but I might be the target audience for Full Moon's Evil Bong movies. My only memories of the first three involve A) reviewing them, and B) meeting writer/director Charles Band and star Robin Sydney after a screening of Evil Bong 3-D.* I'm pretty sure I skipped the fourth film (entitled, you guessed it, Evil Bong: 420), but can't say for sure. I've never been stoned in my life, but I watched Evil Bong: High 5 a couple hours before dawn, on very little sleep, and fully appreciated the characters' aimlessness and giddy disorientation.

The film opens with series regulars/professional slackers Larnell (John Patrick Jordan), Sarah Leigh (Sydney), and Rabbit (Sonny Carl Davis) trapped in an alternate dimension ruled by the sassy and ruthless Evil Bong (voiced by Michelle Mais). Accompanying them are what I can only assume are hold-overs from the installment I missed: a woman named Velicity (Amy Paffrath) and a homicidal cookie-puppet called The Gingerdead Man (Bob Ramos), who's on loan from his own Full Moon franchise. Despite having the run of a pot-smoker's paradise, the gang decide they'd rather live on their own terms, and conspire to get back home.

Evil Bong has other plans, and threatens to separate the group for eternity if they don't help her take over Earth. She sends Larnell, Rabbit, and Gingerdead Man back to California with a mandate to sell a million dollars worth of ultra-potent weed in thirty days. Back in Bong World, two horny, topless lesbians keep an eye on the girls (who, naturally, are kinda into it--because that's the kind of movie we're dealing with).

From here, Evil Bong: High 5 becomes the version of Clerks that Kevin Smith might have made if he'd discovered weed before 2008.** Comprised mostly of stationary group shots and close-ups of people standing behind a retail counter or in front of a green screen, Band's film devolves into a parade of wacky-customer gags and an infommercial for his company's line of politically incorrect collectible dolls. Yes, one of the super-weed customers is a shady local businessman whose camera magically captures its subjects as slickly packaged action figures. When a trio of stereotypical gay filmmakers twirls into the store, we see the star of the low-budget-movie-within-the-low-budget movie re-imagined as a figurine called "The Butt Pirate". A picture-snapping Asian tourist becomes "The Gook". And don't get me started on the mask-wearing African pygmy, "Ooga Booga".

This is all way worse than it sounds, but I can't ascribe ill-intent to Band or anyone else involved. The movie is way too juvenile to be sinister, and I doubt its core viewers could be bothered to rise through the pot smoke and leave the couch, much less work up enough energy to hate. Like Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, High 5 is the most obnoxious kid at the kids' table, yelling obscenities across the room to get a rise out of the grown-ups.

Full disclosure: I found some of the writing to be quite funny. Not sharp, per se, but stupid-funny enough for some welcome pre-sunrise chuckles. My favorite: early in the film, Larnell's grandfather (Jacob Witkin) wanders into the store just to insult his disappointing young heir, at one point deadpanning, "You look like something a raccoon shat out after Halloween."

Even more surprising, I dare say Evil Bong's visuals have improved since the first film. The green screen effects are still dodgy, and the creature props still exist in the maddening gray zone between intentionally poor and ironically poor. But one shot in particular reminded me of a lush comics illustration: Rabbit blasts Larnell with Evil Bong's super-smoke, and the scene's purple and green lighting enhances the vapors coming off John Patrick Jordan's head, forming a swirling halo that looks like The Joker by way of Charles Burns.

High 5 is not the last Evil Bong film. The "spliff-hanger" of an ending and end-credits title-reveal promise as much. I can't say I'm looking forward to the next one, but I admire Band's persistence in reuniting this cast and crew every couple years to give his audience me a cheap, quick, and increasingly bizarre high.

*It was technically a 4-D experience, as we lucky patrons were given scratch-and-sniff cards with which to further interact with the on-screen antics. You can't imagine what that theatre smelled like. Or maybe you can.

**I haven't seen Smith's latest, Yoga Hosers, yet, but I had many flashbacks to the trailer while watching Evil Bong: High 5.

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