How does one define true horror? Is it suffering and slaughter? The dead given life? Is it watching reality itself betray you while everything you love is ripped apart? What about all three at once? I'm of course speaking about 1987's Mannequin, the brutal psychological horror film disguised as a comedy. This, unprepared reader, is a list of the top 7 lives destroyed by a hit movie about a man falling in love with a dummy who becomes a real woman when only he is looking.
Mannequin opens with a montage of Andrew McCarthy getting fired. He loses most jobs for being too artistic, but one goes very differently. He's making balloon animals at a party, and the birthday boy demands the biggest balloon. No one could have seen this coming, but it starts carrying him straight into the sky! McCarthy catches him by the ankle, causing the boy's father to scream, "TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF MY KID!" So he does exactly that, sentencing the boy to death.
And make no mistake, that kid is dead. The credits list him as "Superkid," and the filmmakers killed him for nothing more than a sloppy Bugs Bunny joke. I can't emphasize enough how dead Superkid is. He was at least 50 feet high and still shooting straight up before they cut to the next scene. Even if they ran to the nearest payphone to call 911, which they didn't, they would have had to give his location as "I don't know, space?"
The point is, nobody rescued Superkid. The next chapter in the book of Superkid was an undertaker taping a size 1 suit to a bucket of viscera that dropped out of the sky in Nebraska. Let's stop here and appreciate the brutal efficiency of Mannequin. In about ten seconds, this movie establishes a man is an asshole, and then it kills his son. Which means we haven't even met the star of the movie yet and two characters have already had complete tragic arcs. This comedy ripped a family apart for zero laughs, and later it does the same thing to a dog. Let's discuss the haunting story of Rambo the bulldog.
If you don't remember this movie, this is going to sound like I'm making shit up, but the mannequin is actually a 4,500-year-old Egyptian time traveler. To get out of an arranged marriage, she made a vague wish to unnamed gods, and she has been inexplicably Forrest Gumping through history ever since. She casually mentions dating Christopher Columbus and being unable to seduce Michelangelo because he was obsessed with some guy named David. It'd be fair to call this the least interesting take on a time travel story before it even occurs to you how it doesn't fucking explain anything.
What the shit does any of that have to do with why she turns into a store mannequin when anyone other than Andrew McCarthy looks at her? And more importantly, would the mannequin's holes seal up and pop your dick off if someone looked directly at her mid-coitus? Oh, and if you took her arms and legs off while she was a mannequin, would she return to flesh with smooth stumps or four geysers of scarab-filled blood? Can I switch her hands with ice picks for arctic missions?
Andrew McCarthy doesn't ask any of these questions before he jumps into intercourse with this "woman." Magic Johnson did more due diligence before he took a lover than McCarthy does in Mannequin. And hold on, fashion mannequins wouldn't have even been invented until she was over 4,300 years old. So why is she suddenly a were-dummy in this particular era? There's never a payoff to any of this backstory, and it actually makes a magical mannequin less believable to suggest she's the result of Egyptian gods completely fucking around.
Now that we've established her origin is inconsistent stupidity born from an uncreative mind, it's my great pleasure to summarize the main plot of Mannequin in 17 words: The ancient cursed woman has noisy sex parties with Andrew McCarthy every night in a department store. The main villain is a night security guard named Felix who, upon reflection, was maybe right to try to stop a stock boy from fucking a doll all night on the retail goods he was hired to protect.
Felix's partner is a bulldog named Rambo, and one night, when he knows Andrew McCarthy is coming down the elevator with his sex doll, he blindly sends Rambo in to attack. We as an audience don't get to see what happens, but the dog immediately yelps and runs away. Something terrible happened to him, which means one of two things: Either dog gazes don't turn her into a mannequin and also she kicks dogs, or dogs can somehow sense she is filled with forbidden magic. The screenwriters of Mannequin went on to write only two more movies -- a bad sequel and Mr. Nanny, a film in which Hulk Hogan becomes a nanny. So this dog scene could also be explained a third way: They forgot to finish writing it while exploring all their other amazing ideas.
You might be thinking, "Big deal. The inanimate time traveler can manifest her human form in front of dogs and it scared one." Well it's worse than that. For the rest of the movie, Rambo panics whenever he's around mannequins. And since he works in a department store, he is literally paralyzed with fear all the time. Felix has to drag him around in a little wagon. And when Felix explains all this to the store manager, who should seriously care if his mannequins are getting fucked AND sucking the souls out of pets, his word-for-word reaction is "SCREW YOUR DOG!"
OK, here's where it gets weird. "Screw your something" is a pretty common expression, but the film makes it clear that Felix has never heard it. He looks down, confused as to how he should go about taking this command literally, and the scene ends there. This heavily implies he is about to have sex with that dog. Later, Rambo has been replaced with no explanation, except the unspoken one that he was put down after being reluctantly sodomized by his best friend. Maybe it's only a coincidence, but the only one who could sense the ancient evil inside the mannequin was Rambo, who then happened to die knowing only terror and betrayal.
At this point in the film, Andrew McCarthy and the mannequin have created a couple of window displays, and they are hailed as important art installations by crowds of gaping retail display enthusiasts. That's a real story element put into a movie by screenwriters. The script seems to have called for "the greatest store window in the history of consumerism," but the prop department was inadequate for the task. Honestly, the idea that a window display would disrupt the entire art world and steal 89 percent of the business from rival department stores -- a real figure cited in this very film -- is more absurd than the mannequin that comes to life and also time travels.
So now that Andrew McCarthy controls all commerce with his transcendent sporting goods arrangements, his ex-girlfriend Roxie wants to take him to lunch to convince him to work for the boss who gropes her. She invites him to a fancy restaurant, where he proceeds to turn a man's life to ashes.
The maitre d', Hans, recognizes Andrew McCarthy the moment he enters. He was fired from this restaurant for starting a fire in a flambe accident, which must have been serious, because Hans is shaking in terror. Andrew is flippant, remorseless, and in fact taunts Hans for his unconvincing hairpiece. If Andrew McCarthy walked in telling Hans his ape wife eats ass worse than their half-ape son, it would have been less disrespectful.
Within minutes, Andrew collides with a waiter and starts a fire right in front of Hans, who fucking knew this shit was going to happen. Andrew McCarthy bursts into action, lightly waving at the fire to no effect. Then he gets an idea. A cruel, stupid idea that only a madman would conceive of and only a monster would act on.
He grabs the toupee off Hans' head to use it to fight the fire, completely ineffectively. It does nothing. Because why would it!? There's a reason fire hoses don't squirt flopping wads of artificial human hair. And then, with the fire now burning a plate of oysters Rockefeller and a small wig, he just leaves! Andrew McCarthy lets the man fish his own fake hair out of the flames while his co-workers and customers witness his humiliation, each of them forming a mental list of all the friends they need to tell. This is a sociopath's idea of comedy. Some mannequin-fucker stormed into this man's life and went, "Fuck your job! Fuck your hair! Fuck this fire! And fuck this place! Andy McCarthy out!"
Hans couldn't go back to work with the people who saw his moment of greatest shame. Hans vanished and became something else. Years from now in the Mannequin universe, one of the busboys will be telling this amazing burning toupee story, and a cop will overhear it and suddenly have a lead in the case of the Bananas Foster Scalper.
Hollywood is a flamboyant character combining both the gay stereotypes the screenwriters knew and nothing else. Hollywood delivers every line like Helen Keller is his mother and he's trying to come out to her. I'm making it sound like he's not a delight, which is absolutely not the case. Hollywood easily steals every scene he's in, and in fact there are entire ten-minute sections of this movie in which he is just squealing incoherently while Andrew McCarthy enjoys it.
But Hollywood's life starts to fall apart the moment he meets Andrew. This terrible stock boy notorious for having sex with store merchandise steals Hollywood's job and causes him to doubt his abilities. But instead of resentment, Hollywood develops a sad hero worship and starts doing anything Andrew McCarthy needs. This unfortunately includes assaulting a dozen security guards with a fire hose. Like all Hollywood scenes, the fight goes on far longer than necessary because no editor could bring himself to cut a single moment of Hollywood. For an insane amount of minutes, Hollywood sprays a group of men while shrieking words and phrases unrelated to the rest of the movie or fire hoses or life as we know it.
Director: "Meshach, we soaked the only copy of the script during a prop test, but it seems like you've really got a handle on this Hollywood character. We're going to just turn on the hose and have you do some ad libs."
Meshach Taylor: "Sure thing, Mike. Ready when you are."
Director: "And actio-"
Meshach: "WHOOO! BUNS AND BUTT OIL! MEN ON HORSEBACK ARE ON SALE! COCK A DOODLE COCK, BOYS! HERE'S A ZEST FOR YOUR GNOME PIE! BEEFARONI TAX SHELTER!"
Director: "C-cut! My dear god in Heaven, it was perfect."
Imagine how difficult the '80s would have been if you were an openly gay black man dressed like a Jem And The Holograms villain. Now imagine you interfered with the arrest of a violent trespasser by assaulting security guards with a hose. Assuming he doesn't get shot immediately by the police, Hollywood is spending the next three years in jail awaiting trial, where he'll plead "I JUST LOVED SEEING ALL THOSE WET MEN, YOUR HONOR, WHOOOOOOOO!" to 19 counts of aggravated assault, four counts of criminal mischief, and possession with intent to distribute for the pound of cocaine the arresting officers planted in his scarves and the other pound of cocaine he absolutely already had in his system.
To be fair, the movie does show Hollywood alive and free after this incident, performing a marriage ceremony for Andrew McCarthy and the now fully human mannequin. However, this is almost certainly a dream sequence. Two of those people would be in prison for just so, so many crimes, and you can't file marriage paperwork when you're marrying a foreign national whose social security number is -8, urn, cat, cat, jackal man. There's no way they forged her a new identity. Two days ago, that 4,500-year-old dingbat screamed, "Where do they hide all the musicians!?" when someone turned on a stereo, and Andrew McCarthy got fired from a balloon-folding job for murdering Superkid. These two couldn't forge the paperwork on a canoe rental.
The only lip service paid to them getting away with all these crimes is when Andrew McCarthy's boss, Estelle Getty, produces surveillance tapes of Felix kidnapping the mannequin. This somehow justifies Andrew and Hollywood beating the shit out of a platoon of security guards to rescue her. And now that I mention it, we should really talk about that tape. But first ...
All the lives in this movie end up a nightmare after they cross paths with the mannequin, but Andrew McCarthy's girlfriend was already living in one. The first thing we learn about her is that her co-worker might suddenly jam his face into her tits, which is only the first of five sexual assaults against her by three different men. Of the film's principal heterosexual characters, 60 percent of them assault Roxie. The only character who isn't trying to slide a hand into her panties is her boyfriend, who forgot about her the moment a mannequin came to life.
In her depression, she finally gives in to Armand, one of her harassers, and agrees to a loveless porking. This would already be a serious blow to her self-esteem, but it's made worse when he can't perform and blames her. Roxie has to sit there and listen to her workplace groper whimper to his floppy dick about how unappealing she is while her boyfriend is making passionate love to a doll. Speaking of dolls, the last thing she hears as she leaves Armand's is him screaming, "Where can I get a mannequin too?" So her last two sex partners have let her know they'd rather sleep with a dummy, and as you'll see later, Mannequin still isn't finished tearing this poor woman's soul apart.
At first glance, it seems Estelle Getty got out of this film in good shape. After all, her store's business increased astronomically after she hired Andrew McCarthy. She's probably taking a little heat with the board of directors for promoting a stock boy to vice president after three days, especially after he was caught sleeping nude on the main floor, beating up a security guard and leaving him for dead in their store, assaulting dozens of security guards in another store, bursting in on changing female customers, and having an open sexual relationship with a mannequin during business hours. But forget all that. Let's talk about this tape of hers.
The store's secret surveillance system, revealed only at the very end of the movie, recorded everything that went on at night. So sure, it captured all the crimes the villains committed, but Andrew McCarthy was having sloppy sex parties with an inexplicable thing all night, every night. Assuming her human form generated any arousal fluid at all, the two of them ruined hundreds of thousands of dollars of furs, clothes, and outdoor gear. So when Andrew finds out there are tapes, he's right to be concerned. Estelle Getty cutely reassures him that his secret is safe with her. Which means she KNOWS! She knows EVERYTHING!
So let's think about this. She has footage of this mannequin coming to life, getting nailed, and then turning back into a mannequin. It's definitive proof of the supernatural and she doesn't ask a single question! Right off the top of my head, does this mean the one true religion is Heliopolis Theology? Does she eat? Like, if you cracked her open in her wooden form, would you find a half-digested hot dog and three pints of semen squirming in search of cursed mannequin eggs?
This is a kidnapping of a centuries-old Jane Doe by a rival department store owner and a deranged security guard convinced she's a mannequin, and it was foiled by the world's most media-friendly flamboyant man and his fire hose. That is the only goddamn thing that will be on the news for the next ten years, and Estelle has a tape of it. She's now living in a world in which science and Western religion were wrong about everything, and she has proof of it -- on a fucking celebrity sex tape -- which is also evidence the police will certainly demand.
Assuming she isn't dissected by government scientists, Estelle Getty will be hounded by reporters, TV producers, Egyptologists, and UFO hunters for the rest of her life. Every mannequin in her store is going to get stolen and penetrated by lonely customers. And that erotic point brings me to the final character I want to talk about. A character so completely destroyed by the circumstances of this movie that I still think about him 31 years after it was made.
In the basement of the evil department store, there's a room with a conveyor belt that carries garbage up a ramp to drop it into an oubliette with a wood chipper at the bottom. Why would a department store have something like this? Because no sane decision was made at any point during this film's production. I guarantee you that craft services was just cat meat served out of a clown's mouth.
Stationed at this James Bond death trap is a character credited as "Compactor Room Janitor." He comes stumbling out of the bathroom to witness a mannequin come to life and fall in love with a man. He's not scared, though. This seems to be news he was waiting for for his entire life, and he leaps into the garbage to find a mannequin of his own to love forever. And he does! He recovers the body of Roxie, who got knocked out by debris earlier while trying to kill the doll who stole her lover and bankrupted her company. Anyway, she wakes up to a passionate kiss from a janitor to commemorate the 11-minute anniversary of her last sexual assault.
Roxie howls for him to stop touching her as Andrew McCarthy and his mannequin stroll down the conveyor belt. Without a care. They could easily say, "Sir, that one's not a mannequin," but they don't. It will take more than an ex-girlfriend pleading to a rapist janitor for her life to distract Andrew McCarthy from this special moment. Roxie fights her way out of his grip as the room fills with police, and the janitor doesn't bother running away or apologizing. Why would he? He has no reason not to think she's a magical mannequin -- and a shitty one at that, since the faulty thing isn't even falling in love with anybody.
While every other character in the movie stands in front of him and wraps up the plot, the janitor silently does the math in his head. He knows that digging a mannequin out of the trash will turn it into a real woman, and by his calculations, there's a one in two chance she falls in love with her rescuer. And he's not crazy; he saw it with his own eyes. So the moment everyone leaves, he dives back into the trash to dig up another lover.
This is meant to be a cute button, but is it? This fucker will be digging through garbage for dummies for the rest of his life. He'll try saying magic words and recreating daring conveyor belt rescues. He'll beg the gaping mouths of sex dolls for any sign of life and confess his love to hundreds, maybe thousands of dolls in his quest to find a third magical one. This janitor was only touched by the plot of Mannequin for three minutes, and it destroyed all hope of him ever loving or being loved. If Mannequin was about a mannequin who chased shoppers with a machete, it would have made for a happier movie.
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