krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
As I began to think more about finishing the project of rewatching all the episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and commenting on them, "Hobgoblins" was an episode I decided to "save for later"... but not that much later. It does seem one of the more memorable episodes of the ninth season, but more through the unpleasantness of its movie than anything.

After our heroes "turn each other on" without meaning to, Pearl sends a new couch up to them, and they start jumping on it and spraying juice on it. Angered, Pearl orders her henchmen to get "the movie," and it's on to "Hobgoblins." An elderly security guard is introducing his young, Walkman-wearing assistant to a deserted movie studio ("Well, a badly lit warehouse. I feel better already."), warning him in general terms to stay out of an old film vault. This, of course, just seems to draw the assistant in (not that the vault was locked or anything), and all of a sudden he's in a darkened nightclub, about to perform ("Yup, now his rock anthem about minimum wage.") when something unpleasant happens to him. ("The crowd threw beef gravy on him." "Poor kid, and he had so little to live for.") By this point, Crow and Tom Servo are ready to flee the lengthy opening credits, with Mike dragging them back to their seats.

The old security guard gets another young assistant, this one named Kevin and a bit more respectful; he agrees to stay away from the film vault. This, though, doesn't seem to add much respect to his daytime life, what with Nick getting back from the army to demonstrate his combat skills on him using rake handles ("Full contact mulching." "So does Hardware Hank have a major defence contract, or what?") and then indulge in some heavy curbside parking in his van with his "loose" girlfriend Daphne. Kevin's own girlfriend Amy, although theoretically "nice," seems more just uptight and repressed.

By this point, Crow has decided to make a short movie about how to treat women with respect; unfortunately, he doesn't have any actual examples to go on. Back in the movie, Kevin mopes about how to impress Amy when a suspicious character infiltrates the studio, and it just so happens that the pursuit takes him into the film vault... At last, the hobgoblins themselves appear, obvious _Gremlins_ ripoffs if smaller, hairier, and almost immobile. The old security guard finally tells Kevin that he's been watching over the hobgoblins for thirty years, trying to keep them from bringing peoples' darkest fantasies to fatal life. He has until sunrise to find and kill them; in keeping with his usual method of operation, though, the old security guard doesn't explain why this is a bad thing for the world.

It just so happens that the hobgoblins head straight for the house of Kevin's friends; they terrorize them for a bit ("Someone's rubbing puppets on us!") and then get to the fantasies. By this point, Crow has set up a crisis hotline for people who've had to watch "Hobgoblins," even if he's not getting many relevant calls. In the movie itself, Kevin's pinkish shorts-wearing friend Kyle has a habit of calling adult chat lines, so the hobgoblins bring one of his fantasies to tight-panted life ("I don't need to see every part of the human body outlined in spandex! I can trust it's all there!") to lure him out to "Reputation Road." Kevin manages to save his friend from being pushed over the edge of the cliff ("In an unforeseen tragedy, the two actors were not in the car when it crashed.") and heads back only to find Amy has disappeared now. It just so happens she's surrendered to her own fantasies and headed off to "Club Scum" to become an exotic dancer. After things stretch out at the club, Mike and the bots set up cardboard duplicates of themselves with generic "riffs" on tape ("Boy, that sure is a bad movie, won't you?"); unfortunately, they can't quite make their getaway before it all falls apart on them. Returning to the movie, they see the hobgoblins get discovered and "Club Scum" erupt in chaos, helped along by Nick being drawn into his own fantasy of military action at least until he manages to set himself on fire. The four others get to the studio, where Kevin gets stalled by his own fantasy before the old security guard finally blows up the film vault the hobgoblins have retreated into. Nick appears little the worse for wear ("So the result of his complete immolation is just... some redness and irritation.") and jumps in his van with Daphne again. During the lengthy end credits, Tom and Crow produce their own cardboard cutout of writer-director-producer Rick Sloane; Tom then travels back to the past to deal with Rick Sloane in person. Kicking him in the shin, though, doesn't seem to change history.

The movie does have its own aggressive unpleasantness, but its mediocrity might be further amplified by being only sleazy enough for a "suitable for basic cable" production. (I once noticed someone complaining the movie doesn't even offer the usual satisfaction of killing off the "loose" teens.) It does seem to be trying to be a bit of a joke, and this is something Mystery Science Theater sometimes can't quite get a grasp on; there can be flashes of pure irritation to the "riffing." Still, all of it does at least add up to something "memorable."

With that, I've now managed to comment on all the episodes of the ninth season. It began to simplify its "host segments" again by giving the villains a new home base and perhaps tilted a bit towards more recent and/or "trans-Atlantic" imports for its movies. That might even make it the "go-to" season for taking in the "Sci-Fi Channel era" of the series, as much as not just picking and choosing memorable episodes can seem more complicated than it's worth.

Date: 2012-08-06 01:27 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
Nice to hear your take on this one. My impression is that this is a fairly popular episode but I strongly disliked it when it aired and have never managed to convince myself to sit down in front of it again. I remember thinking that certain gags were funny but that the riffing overall wasn't enough to cover up the overall painfulness of the film. Reading your description, though, makes it sounds pretty good!

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