Friday, July 15, 2011

Can't Sleep, Clowns Will Tell Me to Kill My Mother, Can't Sleep, Clowns Will--

According to IMDB, Shattered Lives earns all of 3.2 stars out of 10. I suppose that means I’m supposed to hate it. Perhaps the fact that it involves a stormtrooper-like killer, a clown little person that speaks like Marlena Evans when she possessed by Satan on Days of Our Lives, and the most monotone child actress since Birdemic solidifies this assumption.

You know what they say about assuming. It simply doesn’t work when Emily gets to watch a movie involving little clown people and killer kids.
Quick Plot: We open on a drunken teen party being crashed by aforementioned stormtrooper wielding an axe. Flash back a few years to young Rachel, as blond as The Bad Seed and as sour as a Lemon Luden’s Cough Drop. Rachel is the only child of a miserably married couple who constantly discuss the fact that they are sad.

Sad, for Mom, apparently justifies having an affair smack in front of your child and calling her a little bitch when the kid has the nerve to tell your nice guy husband that, you know, there was a naked man in the shower. What would possess a daddy’s girl to spill the beans? Why, her clown dolls coming to life of course!

Letting your child play with a pair of harlequins just seems like irresponsible parenting, but considering mom’s methods include dragging her daughter to the park to “go play on the swings or something” while she makes out with her lover, it’s not surprising. As Rachel gets more and more stressed about her parents’ unhappiness, dolls Leelo and Melo (I think?) evolve into ghostly apparitions that show up to dance, stare, and threaten the poor little girl with mouth removals.
It’s incredibly creepy. Or really funny. Or very silly. Or maybe terrifying. 

I kind of have no idea.
It’s a bizarre description of a key ingredient in the film, and I realize that. When the figures first appear, they’re eerie. Then they open their mouths and sound, plain and simple, rather stupid. But they keep talking, having a lighthearted ‘we’re your TOYS’ conversation that, mid-sentence, turns into a threat to remove Rachel’s mouth from her fudging face. I will understand if anybody that has seen this film found these villains hilarious. I will also defend their rights to be scary.
As you might guess, encouraging a tattle is just the warmup for Rachel’s playthings. Their real game involves the biggest knife that Rachel isn’t allowed to play with, lodged, naturally, inside Mom’s cheating chest. 

This part of Rachel’s childhood makes up the first hour of the 90 minute Shattered Lives, and while it shows its amateur-ity and low budget, it’s also fairly unique and even, at least to me, unsettling. An odd choice is made in moving the action forward 10 years or so, skirting over what happened after Dad came home to find his daughter stained in her mother’s blood. Nah, why explore the resolution of that plot when we could just give Rachel a new tragedy to deal with for her post-high school life?
Shattered Lives is a strange film, which actually works well towards its benefit. There are plenty of straight-to-DVD horror movies about pretty urbanites hunted by hillbillies or zombies feasting on frat boys. With Shattered Lives, we never really know what’s going on, even though we know (based on the introduction) where it will eventually end. It’s incredibly flawed in its storytelling, but the movie has more ambition than is required and makes some fairly interesting and possibly, scary choices.

High Points
There’s some genuinely strong attempts to get inside the marriage of Rachel’s parents, leading to a surprisingly believable moment where her mother acknowledges that she’s just not living the life she thought she wanted
Low Points
...but then again, it’s hard to even care when said character has done just about everything but beat her daughter with wire hangers and slap her in the face with a handful of Comet

Lessons Learned
You should always do at least one fun thing a day. This is some ace life advice from Rachel’s dad, who also theorizes that married people fight all the time because that’s what marriage is
Despite the visual limitations of a gas mask, wearing one offers few drawbacks when committing multiple homicide

When your clown dolls tell you to stop asking questions, stop...asking...questions
I rather liked Shattered Lives, even though the sane film fan inside me knows it’s not necessarily very good. Even so, I admired the weirdness of it all. Writer/director Carl Lindbergh definitely needs some more practice behind the camera, but he clearly has some interesting ideas and isn’t afraid to throw some wackiness our way. I’m genuinely curious to see where he goes from here. The film is streaming on Netflix (which is, quite frankly, as much effort as you should put into acquiring it) so give it a try if you want something different and don’t mind a lot of rough edges. 

Also, it’s a must for fans of clown dancing. Just sayin’


  1. So there was really an arc on Days Of Our Lives where someone was possessed by Satan? Whoah!
    From what I've heard, Days of Our Lives was pretty awesome in the 80's, apparently mainly due to 'Tony the Pimp'. Not that I would ever watch a soap opera, even for 80's sleaze, I even foregoed watching (library-rented) Dark Shadows as soon as I found out it was a soap-opera!

  2. Oh goodness Chris, it all started in the early 90s when master villainess Vivian Alamain buried her daughter-in-law alive. Don't worry, she survived but emerged with amnesia. After that, Days realized that their audience liked wacky storylines and hence, Dr. Marlena Evans-Brady was possessed by the devil, which wasn't too bad because her lover, John Black, was a former priest (who had been kidnapped for years and brainwashed to believe he was Marlena's first husband, Roman, which she accepted but then when she discovered the truth, was actually in love with JOHN BLACK and no longer with the real ROMAN, which was a problem). So for a month, Marlena had glowing green eyes and talked with a really deep voice. It was positively amazing.

  3. I used to watch that in the 90's, but i don't remember it getting into possesion, I think I must have broken up with that girlfriend before that plot twist.

    Shattered Lives: Gas masks, clown people, midget clown sounds so awesome.

  4. You should always time your relationships more wisely. Come on, a few more months of squabbling vs. watching a soap opera about demonic possession? For shame.

    Shattered LIves isn't awesome, but it's interesting. I look forward to your thoughts.

  5. Yes, I clearly miscalculated my timing back then. My fault though, I forced her to watch Supernova w/ James spader one night and by the crack of dawn I was moving out..

    I will give this one a look soon.

  6. You're a wiser man now, in so many more ways I'm sure.

  7. Well, I DO enjoy a clown dancing...maybe I'll take a look. Hey, what happened to Bugg, btw? Haven't seen an update in a while.

  8. I don't know if I can say I liked it. Not even her real life dolls could stay consistent with their agenda. Either they were trying to lure her into evil by being friendly or not. Which was the only interesting part of the movie and really not that much.

    I'd rather watch Marlena be possessed again and even as a tween I thought that was hoaky.

  9. Of COURSE you enjoy a good clown dance Kangas! And Bugg is still around, he's just been busy with work, or so his lazy ass says. Frickin' southerners!

    And Ashlee, I know it wasn't good, but I kind of liked the manicness of the clowns. They were such little assholes. I mean, not Satan possessing Marlena asshole, but still.

  10. The Salem Killer angle on DAYS was effing frustrating. The writers killed off half the town (including the beloved Alice with one of her speciality doughnuts, IIRC), only to chicken out and have the 'victims' be found on an island. HELL NAW! That could have been the best soap opera storyline EVER and DAYS dropped the ball. I'm still puzzled by it.

    SHATTERED LIVES sounds like it's worth a rental. I'll see if Netflix has it.

  11. I havent been current Days since the very late 90s, though I did skim through supermarket magazines during the Salemn Strangler and thought 'what the HE'LL is going on over at NBC?' sad that they blew such a crazy storyline.

    And shattered lives is streaming on instant, which is how I recommend watching it since i'm personally so cautious about my rentals!

  12. Ok, i got my hands on shattered lives. A morose flick.
    This director definetly had more on his mind than normal hack & slash fare. What that is though is not clear. Those clown/mime's were just bizarre, from the makeup to the silly voices and the odd animalistic growl added into the background.
    Don't think this broth was fully cooked, but there were some good ingredients.. even an alien puppet towards the end. I'd give it a tentative recommend.

  13. I'm thinking the vocal effects were just a lack of budget and the director doing what he thought could still sound mildly scary. It isn't, but I did find some of the clown stuff weirdly eerie. It was just killed when the voice sounded so trite.

    Glad you gave it a chance! I think we're on the same page with it. Odd movie that definitely tries. Doesn't work, but credit for the creativity and effort!

  14. I just checked the imdb for Carl lindbergh..he's got another film called BunnyMan..featuring a man in a bunny suit with a chainsaw...

  15. Wow. That is indeed a man in a bunny suit with a chainsaw. I've always said those mall Easter bunnies are way too horrifying for children...