Monday, October 18, 2010

Send in the (Dead) Clowns

When asked to name my favorite zombies on film, I usually don’t have to think hard (useful because I’m asked this question every time I go to the post office). To toss out a few:
-the ballerina zombie in Day of the Dead
-the Hari Krishna in Dawn of the Dead
-the clown in Zombieland
-the clown in Land of the Dead
-the clown in Day of the Dead

and you’ve noticed the pattern! Like most human beings with any sense of what’s right and wrong, I have a minor case of coulrophobia. Typically, this enhances certain movie watching experiences, making the stangulation in Poltergeist all the more horrifying or the titular Killer Klowns From Outer Space strangely scary, despite also being ridiculous (and awesome).
Hence, when I spot a title like “Dead Clowns”, there’s really no possible reason I’m NOT going to watch it.
Quick Plot: Hurricane Jacob is heading into Port Emmet with a vengeance as the soft-spoken townspeople prepare their homes for torrential rain and high speed winds. Such a storm hasn’t been seen since 50 years earlier, when poor weather conditions and a drunk driver caused a passing circus to plummet into the sea. Most of the casualties were clowns, which of course, is pretty fabulous (I mean tragic, right, tragic).
This story is relayed twice, which is vital in making up about 80% of the dialogue in the entire film. Dead Clowns, a microbudgeted release that found its way into Lions Gate’s apparently large clown wing (as witnessed by the trailers on this DVD, three of which were for similarly themed films), isn’t an awful movie by any means. Sure, it’s clearly saving its pennies in just about every scene, but at the same time, the gore is decent, acting...passable, and dialogue not painful...mostly because there’s so little of it.
See, nothing really happens to anybody worth knowing in Dead Clowns. Seriously. The most interesting person onscreen is scream queen Brinke Stevens, whose richly deep voice sets up almost eerie possibilities. 

Unfortunately, she meets her blurry end far too early, leaving us with a random assortment of shy soon-to-be victims, including a dude in a wheelchair with no discernible personality outside of being in a wheelchair, a busty blond with no discernible personality outside of being busty and blond, a pair of goth kid murderers whose bark is worse than their bite, and in a true cinematic crime, a wasted Debbie Rochon who sports an unflattering Christmas sweater and spends the entire film hiding and saying absolutely nothing. NOTHING! Maybe the lovely Ms. Rochon had strep throat during the week of filming. 
High Points
Putting aside a few of the overused songs, Steven Sessions’ instrumental score is quite good, filled with clever circus homages at just the right time (including a clown-getting-into-the-canon worthy drumroll played as a character fights a knife slowly heading towards her eyeball)
Low Points
95 minutes isn’t a long running time for most films, but considering Dead Clowns has no actual story or protagonist and about 25 minutes are spread out footage of hurricane winds hitting palm trees, there really wasn’t much to keep us driving towards the anticlimactic finale

A lesson to all filmmakers from someone who used to play with a camera as a teenager: slowly zooming in for an extreme closeup during an intense monologue will make it seem as though you’re a teenager that plays with a camera
Lessons Learned
If you’re in a horror movie situation, just throw out your cell phone. Seriously, have you ever seen it actually help anyone?
Being buried at sea for thirty years will do nothing to fade the brightness of your primary colored pants and hair

Just because the lights don’t work doesn’t mean you won’t get fuzzy reception on your television set
It’s so effin awesome to comb brains out of your hair
There are few people who I would recommend Dead Clowns to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t recommend it. The zombies have a slightly Fulci-esque look that’s executed with skill, something that automatically makes Dead Clowns better than a good deal of the straight-to-DVD undead cinema lurking in your Netflix queue. The film has a ridiculous amount of problems and shouldn’t be shown to those with budgetary standards, but hey, I’ve seen worse, and when you add up the intrigue of Sessions’ score, Stevens' voice, and the basic neatness of zombie clowns, someone like me isn’t too disappointed. 


  1. Wait wait wait...FOC1 was worse than this movie? Really?

    Man, I gave this movie a shot and couldn't get past the half hour mark.

    I mean, you know I'm no big defender of FOC1, but I do believe this movie is worse...

  2. Well, here's the thing: Dead Clowns clearly knew it had so little going for it, so it just avoided any kind of risk by having about a page and a half of dialogue and a story that could be summed up as this: zombie clowns kill people. FOC, as you know, takes the opposite approach by taking a basic story--psycho clown kills people--and making it verrrrrrrrry complicated.

    In just about every way, FOC1 is a superior movie to DC. You are correct and I cannot argue. I think I may have just been really impressed by how the latter found such an easy way out of being terrible...namely, not drawing ANY attention to the fact that it had nothing going for it other than eerie zombie clowns and one day of Brinke Stevens on set.

    Speaking of FOC1, I did adore the cast and your birthday message to NotLP!

  3. I can't tell if I want to see this movie or not...I appreciate a bad film, but it sounds like this one doesn't even go for enough to be entertainingly bad. Still, clowns are fucking creepy in horror movies, and in general. Even Killer Klowns, a film that is mostly a comedy, the clowns are super freaky no matter what sort of humor may be on screen.

    I have had to deal with Shriners clowns here and there when I was a restaurant manager, and I hated how they would try and be funny in this serious way. Instead of having a smile on their face, they have a mean look like "YOU should think I'm funny," when I am thinking that they will rape or kill me. Maybe both. It never helped that they were always with at least one priest drinking Maker's Mark.

  4. F*cking clowns, man. Whether they're shambling, working out, raping you, or insisting on your laughter, they just suck. I'll take a drunk priest any day.

  5. I much prefer clowns when they're raping you. I mean me. I mean, that ambien is really making me weird.

    And thanks! Frank was supposed to do a message too but he copped out and acted like he was busy...

  6. Hey dude, we all have our...things.

    And Frank needs to get his priorities straight. The apocalypse is coming. Make sure he's on the right side. Sheesh.