I am surprised that I didn’t look into the previous films that director Paul Bunnell and his Ottermole Moving Picture Company who brought about the futuristic sci-fi musical The Ghastly Love of Johnny X which stars Will Keenan of Tromeo & Juliet fame. Until I’d interviewed Paul and realized within him astounding drive and the will to succeed, even though he has watched other filmmakers stride by, he wanted to do his film or films right by finding the proper distribution.
Several years back Elite Entertainment had picked up his film That Little Monster which was originally scripted for the 1980s TV series Monsters Which is unfortunate as the producer that Paul had pitched to at the time really loved the idea. Unfortunately his producer connection died unexpectedly and his successors weren’t as interested. But director Paul Bunnell, with his drive to succeed and create what he intended, decided to make the film regardless. He went out and bought some 16mm Plus-X film
stock and made his film in black-and-white.
Knowing and being friends with the director Don Coscarelli of the Phantasm film franchise, Paul connected with Reggie Bannister at the time and approached him with a role in That Little Monster and so he made the film.
That Little Monster I would definitely put up there with David Lynch’s Eraserhead almost as a masterpiece in itself and is very experimental. The film begins with an interview between a young girl named Jamie played by actress Melissa Baum who is a foreign exchange student and applies for a babysitting job. Reggie Bannister plays the character called Twelvetrees who is the butler to the Mr. and Mrs. Willock, of which Jamie is being interviewed as a potential babysitter for their little offspring. What she doesn’t realize how strange the couple is and how even stranger the baby is. The child must take a certain kind of formula at a certain kind of time.
The parents of the baby are rather weird indeed. In fact, before the Willock’s leave for their masquerade ball, the geeky father, played by actor William Mills breaks out in a rockin’ tune like that which you would here being sung in the 50s.
Director Paul Bunnell was and is very fond of Bob Hope the comedian so when Jamie sits down and watches something on the TV it is a clip from an old Bob Hope comedy. But there is something you should know at the time; Bob Hope wasn’t accepting any more television roles and when he contacted Bob Hope Enterprises asking for a cameo, he was told no.
Paul had something up his sleeve though. Paul had collected an abundance of Bob Hope memorabilia, sand decided to walk into Hope Enterprises to speak with Bob Hope’s daughter and offered to donate a lot of memorabilia for the (still unbuilt) Bob Hope Museum. They said yes and Paul had Hope and history was made with what would become Bob Hope’s last appearance in a movie. Check out the end credits to see that cameo. And that’s how you make film history you don’t give up.
At the time director Paul Bunnell had also approached actor Angus Scrimm for a role, but was unavailable, so he suggested Forrest J Ackerman, who did cameos in films such as Evil Spawn, Return of the Living Dead 2, and Dead Alive. Forry agreed to play Edward Van Groan, a fake horror host for the intro claiming “no babies were injured or placed at risk in this picture”, which was great.
I think this film is a masterpiece because it was very much influenced by Lynch at the time, but the tale of this baby, which was in fact purely monster being coddled by even stranger parents after knowing full well going through babysitters like birth control, was definitely a unique story. In a sense it was almost Lovecraftian because even The Dunwich Horror had birthed a monster and in a sense that creature was merely just a child as well. I liked that the film also has a backstory and that the father has a creepy garden where he buried previous babysitters.
Yes, this film isn’t for everyone, but the imagery is creative. I feel this film gets lost on today’s audiences as they do not have respect for abstract thoughts, which is exactly what That Little Monster is. It’s kind of like a nightmare made reality and I love the madness in it. I think that if you haven’t seen this film you should find a copy of it and treasure it. I will keep this film very close in range with my copy of Eraserhead. I definitely recommend this film for those of you who enjoy this type of thing.
Starring Melissa Baum as Jamie, Reggie Bannister as Twelvetrees, Andi Wenning as Mrs. Willcock, William Mills as Mr. Wilcock, Forest J. Ackerman as Edward Van Groan, Wolper Willcock as Baby (Wolper Willcock).
Also as a bonus feature on Elite Entertainment’s copy of That Little Monster is a short film that was well-received when it came out in 1981, called The Visitant. This film, shot on in legendary super 8mm, involves a father who drove drunk and finds himself in a state of paranoia as he seems to be caught up in a very surreal world. He witnesses his daughter standing at a grave, stating that she wishes whatever hell this man is experiencing. He pretty much doesn’t know it’s him, but that she wishes that he ultimately gets punished for eternity for what he’s
done. The only thing is he doesn’t know exactly what he’s done. The world that he finds himself in I believe is purgatory and his soul was caught in between the land of the living and the land of the dead. I thought the actor who played the father wasn’t bad at all. This film felt like the tail end of the 1970s, even though it was filmed in the 1980s, but was a very honest and very real and compelling look at the consequences of what could happen if you did drive drunk. At the time I believe that Bunnell was really into The Twilight Zone and this plays like a
Twilight Zone episode. But it was his own idea and that is what I like.
Again I loved it. The madness that was portrayed in this film. I loved its weirdness and I’m surprised that not a lot of distributors have been interested in making a deal with this director’s films. I do hope that Paul eventually achieves his dream and that his films will find a proper place on a proper shelf with a proper company. But I hope that the public does seek these films out, for I do believe they have their place and there is a spark of creativity that is still within this filmmaker to try and make his dreams happen. If you are a fan of short films that sound like this type of genre, then I encourage you to seek these out for your own collection and appreciate them for what they are. I’ve certainly enjoyed getting to know Mr. Bunnell, and I am honored to call him a friend because I have much respect for the films that he has created even though there were moments that it seemed like some of his projects would never see the light.
Starring Ron Linares as Visitant, Susan Rinell as Girl (as Susan Blackstone), Kashi Way as Boy, Dory Forma as Ghoul, Paul Bunnell as Runner (as Paul Mack), Peter Renaday as Narrator (as Pete Reneday), Richard D. White as Supporting Ghoul, Terrance Hines as Supporting Ghoul, Jerry Danielsen as Supporting Ghoul.