JUNE 1, 2009
As someone who suffers from mild Coulrophobia (I blame seeing Poltergeist when I was like 5), the idea of a movie called Dead Clowns is pretty appealing (Yay, they’re dead!). I was actually hoping it was a documentary, or maybe some sort of feature length slide show, with 90 minutes’ worth of photos of actual dead clowns. Sadly, it’s yet another no-budget zombie movie, with a plot stolen liberally from The Fog, a gaggle of unappealing actors (Debbie Rochon, please go away), and a lousy transfer that resembles a 3rd generation VHS dupe. But it’s got some stuff going for it too, enough to give it a mild pass.
On the positive side of things, it has a pretty good score (by the writer/director, Steve Sessions) that clearly apes Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness (and a bit of Carpenter’s collaboration with Alan Howarth on Halloween III), and you’ll hear a lot of it, because the characters rarely speak. The movie will go 5-10 minutes at a time without anyone uttering a sound (they don’t even scream when being attacked), which is not only beneficial since most of the dialogue we DO hear is pretty terrible, but also gives the film a strange vibe that I dug.
And I also liked that it’s fairly minimal. It’s a low budget production, so depicting full scale zombie mobs isn’t possible, but that doesn’t stop other filmmakers from trying. Here, we have a set number of clown zombies (5 or 6), and about as many humans. The town is mostly deserted due to a hurricane (bonus points for that too, unusual setting for a horror movie), and while I would have liked a couple of outdoor scenes, or at least some interior BESIDES a suburban home (one guy is in a movie theater, but he’s also in it the least), it gave the film a strange sort of intimacy that, again, you don’t often see in these things.
Another thing I liked was how grim it was (spoilers ahead), as no one survives. There are two “Final Girl” types, plus a guy in a wheelchair, but they all get offed. The end of the movie kills all the still-living characters with one fell swoop, which is pretty ballsy and awesome.
I just wish that the filmmakers had put a little more effort into the script and the production value. I can buy bad dialogue, but it’s a bit odd to have the entire mystery explained away right in the first ten minutes of the movie (and re-explained later). And unless I missed it, there’s no explanation for why the clown zombies decided to get up today when they’ve been down there for decades. It’s Florida, so it’s not likely that it was the hurricane that stirred them up, as it was probably one of three major storms that week.
And the cheapness! The gore is OK, but other things are just pitiful. Like the guy who snorts “coke”. He has the rolled up dollar bill and the credit card, and he’s putting his line together.... and a closeup reveals that it’s quite obviously granulated sugar, sparkling in the light. I suspect that a PA was sent to buy sugar, and didn’t understand that CONFECTIONERY sugar is what can pass for cocaine, but they were too cheap or didn’t have the time to bother sending him back for the right thing. Plus, back to the script, the guy instantly hallucinates after snorting, despite the fact that cocaine is not a hallucinogen and even if it was probably would take longer than 3 seconds for the guy to start seeing things.
There’s also a bit where a guy (maybe the same one, I couldn’t tell two of them apart) is “pinned” under a “heavy” door. But it’s pretty obvious that the door is just some cheap plywood, plus it moves around with the guy’s struggles, suggesting it would take almost no effort to push aside. Again, the gore is fine, and considering how overlong the death scenes are (one guy gets munched on for a full two minutes), I wish they had put some of the effects budget into proper props.
The DVD has no features whatsoever, though the ‘Gate tries their damnedest to put me in a bad mood with their trailer reel, which featured Dark Ride and Drive Thru (two of my most hated movies) back to back, right off the bat. Also the cover is sort of misleading, as it shows a perfectly alive-looking clown standing in a carnival, whereas all the clowns in the movie are rotted (Fulci-style) and the carnival is never seen, only spoken of in one of the film’s fourteen lines of dialogue. I’d argue that a rotting, maggot-y clown is more enticing than a regular one, but oh well.
What say you?