Talk about aiming low – “Cornman: American Vegetable Hero” is a micro-budget homage to the already low-budget schlockfests of Troma Entertainment, Inc. Now, it’s a free country and everything, and struggling young filmmakers are certainly entitled to expose their hard-won celluloid in any way they see fit. But when your creative ambition consists of striving to reach the exalted heights of “Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD”… I dunno, it may be time to re-examine your perceived need for artistic expression. Just a thought.
Anyway, “Cornman” tells the disjointed and semi-coherent tale of Leland Maze, whose exposure to toxic waste while wandering in a cornfield gives him the uncanny ability to communicate with…yes…corn. With his sidekick Butterboy – a chubby Mexican fellow with a popcorn bucket on his head – and additional support from the Psychic Nose, who can smell things before they happen, Cornman battles his arch-nemesis Dr. Hoe, a supervillain with a garden hoe for a left hand. Hoe’s rogues gallery of henchmen includes Cornsparagus, a Hulk-like behemoth, and Waxy, a vixen who decapitates with her thighs. By the time the movie ends we’ve seen a replacement actor brought in to play Cornman, a catfight in a shower stall, several gruesome deaths-by-corncob, and more than we ever wanted to know about Butterboy’s bathroom activities.
“Cornman” wears its Grade Z influences on its sleeve. A “Sgt. Kabukiman” movie poster is prominently displayed in several scenes, and the sushi-loving superhero even makes a cameo with his pal the Toxic Avenger and their co-creator Lloyd Kaufman. (This bit is so sloppy and so clumsily inserted into the movie, I can only speculate that the filmmakers ambushed Kaufman in the parking lot of a horror convention, perhaps holding a gun on his loved ones while he did their bidding.) Writer/director Barak Epstein’s script is a slipshod affair, though it does boast more witty flourishes and clever dialogue than you might expect. But writer Epstein should have found someone besides director Epstein to bring his vision to the screen; the movie itself looks like it was exposed to toxic waste. Granted, a certain leeway must be allowed for no-budget productions, but the technical ineptitude on display here goes far beyond mere penny pinching. It’s a good thing “Cornman” revels in its own cruddiness – it has no choice in the matter.