Directed by Steve Sessions
Distributed by Lionsgate
… Send in the clowns. There ought to be clowns …
I agree. Especially when said clowns are bloodthirsty zombies armed with sharp implements. Do I have your attention yet? Good! This little film courtesy of the fine folks at B-Horror.com deserves some spotlight because as it stands, Dead Clowns is one of the most surprisingly good indie efforts to come along in quite some time.
Some people are scared shitless of the normally happy-go-lucky jesters with the painted faces and floppy shoes. Coulrophobia is the technical term for this fear, and Dead Clowns hits the mark more than it misses in terms of exploiting this phobia to the tenth power. Before we get into the particulars, let’s get into the story.
Many years ago during a hurricane a circus train crashed deep into the water while crossing a bridge on the way to the small coastal town of Port Emmett. The people of the town chose to ignore this ever happened, and thus, neither the train nor the corpses of the circus workers were ever recovered. After all, why should they risk their lives to save others? Bastards. These poor souls just laid there rotting beneath the crashing waves for decades. That is until another strong hurricane stirs some of them from their rest. Once awakened, a troupe of dead clowns start their rampage by taking out the descendants of the folks who left them there. Dead men may not tell any tales, but man, can they hold a grudge!
In truth, Dead Clowns feels very much like an indie update to the John Carpenter classic The Fog, and that is not a bad thing. It shares plenty of common themes and even some quick homages to the goodness that was the horror that befell the folks at Spivey Point. There is one thing that kept bothering me a bit though: The people in the film who encounter these undead creatures barely react. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that anyone in the flick should go all screamy, but hardly any characters react beyond a wide-eyed glance at the horrific sight that stands before them. I mean, come on, a simple “Holy shit!” would have sufficed.
Yet, this silence also lends itself to one of Dead Clowns‘ strongest points — its usage of eerie silence and ambient sound design. This flick is all atmosphere and very light on dialogue. Director Sessions does an amazing job given what he has by creating a truly cut-off from the rest of the world playground for his characters to exist in. One whose main accompaniment is the sound of howling wind and the non-stop beating of torrential rains. Every now and again some circus music will softly play in the distance during the storm to create a ghostly landscape, and to say it is effective is without question an understatement.
I know what your next question is — “Creepy, we’ve got killer zombie clowns! How are the gore and the effects?” Honestly, given that this movie had a budget the size of a funeral, pretty damned good. Things get nice and squishy toward the end, and the clowns themselves (minus a couple of ludicrous puppeteering gags) do a lot to evoke fear. All in all, the final package works, and given the bullshit we’ve all been subjected to over the last few years, that’s really saying something.
Sadly, this DVD kind of gets the shaft in terms of extras. All we get is a trailer. Come on, Lionsgate! You throw stuff on DVD’s for some of the worst films ever. We could have at least gotten a commentary! Sheesh!
Dead Clowns is a film made with passion and reverence for this genre. While certainly not an amazing movie by any stretch of the imagination, it cuts a clear path through others crowding the indie film zombie scene by delivering a taut and effective little fright-fest that’s built purely on heart and soul.
3 1/2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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