Genre-Hopping: The Peanut Butter Solution

The Peanut Butter Solution. Don't put it down your pants.
The Peanut Butter Solution. Don't put it down your pants.

Thanks to GonzoGeek, I was able to engage in some radical immersion therapy this weekend wherein I confronted a childhood fear–creepy family film “The Peanut Butter Solution”–and came to grips with it’s hold on my psyche. Ideally, I would find that this odd Canadian import was not nearly so bad as remembered and put to rest memories of a movie that has haunted me well into my adulthood.

It didn’t quite work out that way…

…as this movie is actually still horrifying. The film, second in the still running Tales for All series from Canadian studio Les Productions la Fête, features a child predator who harvests hair to make magic paintbrushes in a warehouse/sweatshop filled with abducted children. The movie also includes a delightful scene of a child being mauled by dogs.

The titular magical hair growing solution is used by one child on his nether regions leading to some really skeevy results. “Solution” stars Michael Hogan (Col. Saul Tigh in “Battlestar Galactica”) as one of the world’s worst screen fathers and features several early pop numbers from Celine Dion.

The tone of “The Peanut Butter Solution” is intentionally unsettling and the storytelling follows nightmare logic. Michael Baskin, a high strung 11 year old prone to screaming fits, loses all his hair after being frightened by some unseen bogeyman discovered in the remains of a burnt down house. In the home at the time of the fire are two “winos” who were burned to death and now administer sinister taunts to Baskin from the great beyond. The two ghosts give Michael a solution to his hair problem–a potion recipe consisting of dead flies, rotten eggs, and peanut butter.

Michael adds too much peanut butter to the potion, resulting in his hair growing uncontrollaby. This makes him the target of the Signor, a child predator and high strung recently fired school teacher, who charms Michael and twenty other neighborhood children into the back of his van and off to his magical sweatshop. Michael is kept restrained in the sweatshop and fed nothing but yogurt. In the meantime, Col. Tigh–distraught at the disappearance of his son–screams and rips his art studio apart.

The film is further creepified by the fact that it holds true to the house style of its studio New World Pictures. New World brought us the first Hellraiser films, “Angel,” “House,” Nice Girls Don’t Explode,” and more 80s pay cable staples. New World films were made on a budget and employed a shooting style that washed out colors and muted light sources. The cheaper look of these movies worked to the favor of its horror films as the rough hewn production could be unsettling and off-putting, perfect for making viewers ill at ease. New World films frequently employed over amplified synth soundtracks which heighten the sense of dread. The use of these techniques in a children’s film produces predictable results–fear and anxiety lasting well into your thirties.

Director Michael Rubbo is hindered by a shoestring budget which apparently didn’t allow him to shoot any scene more than once. Siluk Saysanasy as Michael’s best buddy and inappropriate user of peanut butter is simply dreadful. Michael Hogan is left stranded in this movie flailing around and like his screen son prone to unsettling screaming fits. Alison Podbrey, as Michael’s sister Susie, does her best but unforunately cut her acting teeth on this trainwreck and elicited this pithy observation from IMDB commenter “tumbleweeds”: “Not only is she butt ugly, she’s one of those people who NEVER close their mouth. Leaves it hanging open like a retard. Makes me sick to look at her. I hope the woman who played her is dead now.”

Rewatching this movie, I was surprised that, while it no longer scared me, it still made me uneasy throughout. The jumpy editing, whimsy deficit, and sense of doom that permeates the film make it hard to believe Rubbo was actually making a children’s film. The filmmakers seem to realize what a horrific gift they’ve bestowed upon children by trying to wrap everything up with a cheerful finale completely different in tone than the rest of the movie. Michael’s previously unstable artist father saves the day and his mother–who the film hints early on abandoned her freak show of a family–returns home with hugs and kisses.

“The Peanut Butter Solution” is not for children you love. But for children you hate, it’s perfect. 

Those curious to see the film in its entirety can head to Google Videos.

Next up: Renowned horror director Takeshi Miike’s bizarre musical “The Happiness of the Katakuris.”

2 thoughts on “Genre-Hopping: The Peanut Butter Solution

  1. This was a great review and I agree wholeheartedly. This movie scared the bejesus out of me as a child. I had no idea it was made by the same folks as hellraiser ect. Now that has been brought to light I understand why it terrified me. Thanks for the informative review

  2. As I was trying to figure out what the hell this movie was called I stumbled upon to your review. Thanks for making me laugh my ass off!

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