Okay, I’ll just admit it. I’m a huge fan of this sick and demented film. For a film that was clearly marketed towards children, it is one of the most inappropriate and horrifying films of its kind. It’s right up there with Return to Oz, in regards to its off the hinges, completely bonkers, let’s-scare-the-shit-out-of-you audacity.
The Peanut Butter Solution tells the story of eleven year old Michael Baskin, who lives at home with his father and older sister. His father is a struggling artist who hasn’t sold a painting in quite some time, and this is a problem, as he is the sole breadwinner. His wife is away, as her father has recently died, and she is dealing with her side of the family who live far away. Michael’s older sister is super annoying, and she attempts to fill her mother’s shoes by donning her mother’s bathrobe and doing simple chores around the house. Michael doesn’t appreciate this in the slightest, and makes no effort to mask his contempt.
Michael spends his days at school with his friend Connie. They both attend an art class, which is being taught by a creepy Frenchman, simply called The Signor. He speaks in a heavy accent, sports a strange sort of gray fro, and discourages his students to use their imaginations. We know right off the bat that something is not quite right with The Signor. Whenever he is on screen, the creep-o-meter jumps up to alarming rates. We want to get away from him and his little dog, too. Yes, The Signor takes his little dog with him wherever he goes. The dog is just as creepy as he is – guilty by association.
One day, as Michael strolls around the neighborhood with Connie, they come upon a dilapidated old house which supposedly caught on fire a few nights previous. Connie dares Michael to check out the remains, and so Michael climbs up a pile of debris and into the window to look inside. All of a sudden, Micheal screams and comes tumbling out of the house and onto the ground totally unconscious, the hairs on his head standing on end. Connie somehow manages to get his friend into a grocery cart and takes him home. Michael’s father and sister are all very casual about the situation – nothing really surprises them – and they put Michael to bed. The next morning, Michael wakes up to find that he is completely bald. A trip to the local quack of a doctor confirms that Michael has been a victim of a phenomenon called “harum scarum”, in which a person becomes so frightened that it causes his or her hair to fall out. Michael assumes that this is all nonsense. He is positive that his hair is going to grow back – until it doesn’t.
One night, as a depressed Michael tosses and turns in bed, he is visited by two bohemian ghosts who give him a secret recipe for a magical concoction containing rotten eggs and Skippy peanut butter that is guaranteed to stimulate hair growth.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Got it? Good. So, one of the ghosts warns Michael that the experiment could go wrong if he uses too much peanut butter. She’s very vague, but Michael promises her that he will use only a small amount. After the homeless ghosts exit the premises, Michael makes his first attempt to mix together the peanut butter solution, only he uses a blender and wakes the family up. His sister pours the “smelly gop” down the sink. The next attempt is much easier, as Michael mixes the ingredients in a bowl in the privacy of his own room, only he uses, like, half a jar of peanut butter.
Michael doesn’t follow directions very well, nor does he take heed to strange warnings from hobo spirits.
He puts the solution on his head with a paintbrush, and when he wakes up in the morning, he has hair. Only his hair keeps growing. And growing and growing. This is a problem. Before long, Michael starts to resemble Cousin It from The Addams Family. He can barely walk in a straight line because of all of the weight on his head. His loyal friend, Connie, is kind enough to trim his hair from time to time, but apparently the sound of snipping scissors is disruptive to the class, and so he gets booted out of school.
Speaking of Connie, this is one strange kid. Not only does he keep a box full of “pet ants”, he convinces Michael to let him use the peanut butter solution on his pubic area. You read that correctly. And, as you have probably guessed, the hair won’t stop growing. We see the pubes wriggling out of Connie’s jeans. Connie talks to the pubes. He communicates with them – and they listen. When he tells them to stop growing, they do as their told.
This is what it was like to be a child of the eighties. While the children of today are treated to CGI Smurfs, we got movies featuring sub-plots about demonic pubes.
Back to Michael. Despite the fact that the school faculty wants nothing to do with him, Michael refuses to be discriminated. He walks to school on an extremely windy day and almost gets blown away, so he stops for a minute to sit on a street corner. Suddenly, a stranger approaches, and before you know it, Michael is kidnapped.
It turns out that The Signor has been kidnapping local children, holding them hostage in a strange factory where he makes magical paintbrushes using clippings of Michael’s hair. Connie and Michael’s sister put two and two together, and set out to rescue Michael and the rest of the kids from The Signor’s evil clutches. Speaking of the paintbrushes, they really are quite magical. You see, they can bring paintings to life. You can step inside of these paintings and walk around.
Really cool or unforgivably disturbing? You decide.
For the rest of the film, we will see if Connie is successful in his rescue mission. Will Michael survive this situation? Will he ever have normal hair? And what about The Signor? Will he get his comeuppance? You’ll have to see for yourself — if you’re lucky enough to find this film, that is. It was never released on DVD or Blu-ray. This is really a shame, as this film is truly one of a kind. If David Lynch, Tim Burton, and Satan decided to collaborate on a movie and paid Celine Dion to write two creeptastic original songs for the project, the results would look a lot like The Peanut Butter Solution.
Honestly, this is a really well-made film. You certainly can’t fault it for a lack of originality. I’m racking my brain to think of something else that I could compare it to, and absolutely nothing is springing to mind. I say this about a lot of films, but The Peanut Butter Solution has to be seen to be believed.
I’m not making any of this up. The Peanut Butter Solution exists. You need to take a moment to thank the gods of cinema for this little gift.
Watch the trailer in the SCREENING ROOM.