HANKY PANKY Review: Cheap, Dumb, Delightful

Lindsey Haun and Nick Roth directed the horror comedy, available April 19 on VOD. "It’s a silly movie that just wants to make its audience smile, and it succeeds."

Contributing Writer; Chicago, IL (@anotherKyleL)
HANKY PANKY Review: Cheap, Dumb, Delightful

The feature directorial debut of filmmakers Lindsey Haun and Nick Roth looks and sounds like a movie that was shot by a group of friends for fun over a weekend.

While it’s not clear how long production took, the filmmakers’ statement informs us that it was “shot…in Lindsey's dad's cabin” with “literally no budget” and “nobody got paid.” All of which is to say that Hanky Panky is not a movie with striking lighting or crisp sound design. But it is joyous.

From The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror inspired opening credits that include spooky versions of cast and crew names like Lindsey Haunt and Nick Wraith for the directors, Hanky Panky is clear about its tone. It’s a silly movie that just wants to make its audience smile, and it succeeds.

The plot proper begins when Sam (Jacob DeMonte-Finn) and his sentient handkerchief Woody (Toby Bryan) arrive at a cabin before any of the other guests set to spend the weekend there. As other guests arrive, it quickly becomes clear that Sam was supposed to be a different Sam, a Samantha in fact, but hey, he’s there now.

Sam and Woody are far from the only eccentric characters, though. Among them there’s Dr. Crane (Roth) the hagiographer of French saints, his literally two-faced wife Lilith (Azure Parsons), whose second face is a wonderfully low-tech doll face stuck to the back of her head, and siblings (and more) Rebecca (Haun) and Norm (Bryan, doing double duty), who vaguely discuss a sacrificial ritual. There’s also Sam’s love interest Diane (Ashley Holliday-Tavares), whose very purposefully referential names lead me to wonder if Dr. Crane’s name is a Batman reference, I still haven’t decided.

For a significant portion of its sub-90 minute runtime, Hanky Panky plays out like an awkward hang-out movie with absurd characters. It’s less laugh out loud funny, though there are some moments that elicit that response, and more cozy and charming.

Watching Hanky Panky feels almost like watching a beloved sitcom; the joy isn’t in the jokes themselves, but in spending time with these larger-than-life characters. Despite that hang-out vibe, the film’s narrative, centered on a murderous hat named Harry (Seth Green) that may just have a past with Woody, moves along remarkably well and remains engaging, even exciting, in the face of all the unseriousness.

That unseriousness moves beyond the silly characters, played like Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt’s most ridiculous creations from The Mighty Boosh, and plot, and extends to nearly every aspect of the movie. Hanky Panky offers regularly visible wires on its handkerchief and hat characters, terribly synced ADR, stock images of anime action lines, and, in a climactic final battle, the fishing rod yanking the non-human characters around appears briefly in frame.

These aren’t mistakes or unconsciously cheap choices, they’re fully conscious cheap choices made by creatives who know that these elements will make an audience laugh, or at the very least smile. Hanky Panky isn’t the work of amateurs. The script’s remarkable balance of dumb fun and narrative momentum, and a hilarious extended joke that uses editing (also by Haun and Roth) as punctuation shows that these filmmakers are capable of doing things “well” and chose to make something delightfully scrappy.

The film debuts Friday, April 19, via various VOD platforms, including Prime Video, Google Play, Fandanto At Home, and Apple. 

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Jacob DeMonte-FinnLindsey HaunNick RothToby Bryan

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