Color, 1992, 91 mins. 48 secs.
Directed by Dennis Dimster Denk
Starring Brian Bonsall, Josie Bissett, Lyman Ward, John Diehl, Ashley Lawrence, Mimi Craven,
MVD Rewind Collection (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), XCess Entertainment (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Sterling Home Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC))
Though the slasher film was essential DOA by the time the '90s rolled around, that didn't stop indie producers from trying to find new ways of reinvigorating the subgenre with everything from Chucky to Pinhead embarking on supernatural variants that proved to be popular on VHS at least. One example from that era is Mikey, an update on the killer kid idea that had first reared its head with the controversial but wildly popular The Bad Seed and continued through films like Devil Times Five, Who Can Kill a Child?, The Children, and Bloody Birthday. In fact, this one managed to beat mainstream Hollywood to the punch a year before Macaulay Culkin took his own stab at the idea with The Good Son. This one has the novelty of starring Brian Bonsall, who made his feature debut here after a high-profile addition to the hit sitcom Family Ties four years into its run as the Keaton clan's newest addition, Andy. By the time this film was finished, Bonsall had moved to a two-year stint on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Worf's son, which just added to the weird spectacle here of seeing him run rampant slaughtering people with hammers, marbles, hair dryers, and anything else within reach. On top of that, the film gained some notoriety in the U.K. when it was banned after a particularly horrific, tabloid-trumpeted murder in 1993, and it remains unavailable there on video to this day.
After a destructive bout of pyromania, Mikey (Bonsall) lands in hot water with his foster family and retaliates by killing all three of them in a rapid murder spree. Pretending a home invader was responsible for the murders, Mikey is placed with new foster parents, Neil (Diehl) and Rachel (Craven, ex-wife of Wes), and seems completely innocent at first. However, the tyke unsettles his teacher, Shawn (Hellraiser's Lawrence), with his grotesque crayon drawings, and he also develops an unhealthy attachment to his teenage neighbor, Jessie (Bissett), to such an extent that he develops an increasingly violent grudge against her boyfriend. Soon the body count begins all over again, but who will believe the survivors who realize Mikey is capable of such savagery?
As far as homicidal kid movies go, Mikey delivers the goods with an outrageously high body count and a wide range of creative kill scenes designed to please slasher fans. It isn't overly explicit given the nature of the main actor's age, but there's still plenty of shock value in seeing how many major character fall afoul of his wrath that leads to a wild, sustained showdown between numerous characters for the entire last half hour. Bonsall does fine as the unhinged Mikey, with the adults offering a workable slate of potential victims including Lyman Ward, a.k.a. Ferris Bueller's dad, without having to do much stretching in the acting department. It's shot with all the flair of your average made-for-TV movie, but that actually pays off when the murders hit and the film (in keeping with the vast majority of killer kid movies) gets increasingly nihilistic as it goes along. It even gets a bit meta with Mikey chronicling his kills on video, an aspect that plays out in some strange presentational ways in the climax as well.
Released very widely on VHS from Imperial Entertainment, Mikey has kept a fairly low profile since then including a really poor DVD release in 2000. In 2020, it received simultaneous Blu-ray releases in the U.S. and Germany, the former as part of the MVD Rewind Collection. The HD transfer looks fine and probably true to the source; it isn't a visually flashy film at all with a fairly subdued color scheme and fairly modest detail levels, but this is a significant step up from anything we've had before and on the stronger side of the label's releases from the Imperial library. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 stereo track sounds very good for a fairly typical early '90s mix favoring the music and some of the more dramatic sound effects; you also get a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 track and optional English SDH subtitles. The lengthy "The Making of Mikey" (87m17s) features Bonsall, director Dennis Dimster Denk, producer-editor Natan Zahavi, and director of photography Thomas Jewett charting the genesis of the film (essentially a desire to do a modern version of The Bad Seed) through the recruiting of first-time helmer Denk fresh out of film school and the process of shooting it through the small outfit Tapestry Films. You get some really fun archival clips along the way (everything from Charlie's Angels to Bonsall's TV work) and some great insight into making a horror film with a young child star. Then in "Mikey: Anatomy of a Scene" (13m36s), Denk takes you on a more in-depth dive into the crafting of the film's insane climax (or more accurately, climaxes). The trailer is also included along with bonus ones for Shadowbuilder, Dahmer, Mind Games, and Split Second.
Reviewed on September 4, 2020.