Jarv’s Birthday Series Redux: Dead Clowns (2004)
As has been oft noted, these Birthday Series have a number of obvious benefits, as well as some serious flaws. One of the most noted benefits is that the very act of tracing cinema releases back opens up the possibility of seeing many films that may otherwise have passed by. One not so oft noted benefit, more of a bonus really, is that it gives the eminently patient and long-suffering Mrs. Jarv a respite from the garbage that I tend to review. Not that I necessarily think that such awesomeness should ever be described as garbage, but she’s much less lenient than I am. Nevertheless, there’s an equally oft cited downside to these films: if I haven’t heard of them, then chances are there’s a damned good reason for it.
In the case of 2004’s Dead Clowns, release date 23rd August in the UK, which is a poster boy for this, it’s because it’s simply a fucking awful film that deserved to sink without trace.
This, in other circumstances, should be a vault review. I’d ordinarily have started it with a quote, and then moved on to making sarcastic remarks about boobs aimed entirely at garnering a few cheap laughs. In fact, I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw this come up for this series. I instantly thought it a great result, and a very pleasant counterbalance to the seemingly endless parade of Almodovar. (Incidentally, I’ve made exactly this mistake with the forthcoming Surf Ninjas, which isn’t the schlocky nonsense I was hoping for, being in fact a family movie starring Rob Schneider. Ballsacks) Nevertheless, as concepts go, this one should be simple, as clowns are intrinsically scary and the humble zombie is the least challenging schlock monster out there. Therefore, taking zombies and adding them to clowns should, and it really should, be solid gold, deep-fried, unfuckupable cheesy wonderfulness.
It isn’t. It’s solid turd. This is an inordinately bad film that flirts with being unwatchable on more than one occasion and got me plonked right in the doghouse by the missus. To say she was unimpressed will go down as a masterpiece of litotes, as she was positively apoplectic with rage, a small and quite unreasonably grumpy ball of latin fury who swore creatively at me in Spanish and Portuguese for a good 5 minutes during the film. I maintain, however, that this is unfair as it isn’t like I made the fucking thing is it? I’m not the talentless sack of cocks that inflicted this misery on the world and managed to ruin the concept of zombie clowns, so did I really deserve it? No, of course not. Droid did, this whole mess is his idea…
That’s enough procrastinating; I’ll attempt to review the actual film now. Dead Clowns is, or it should be, a basically simple little chiller. Take one isolated town, add zombie clowns who eat the population, and job done. Except this doesn’t work out like that, because, for a change, the model here is Carpenter’s The Fog. The Fog is often marked off as being a lesser Carpenter, but that’s clearly unfair, because given the amount of attempts at it that I’ve seen that can’t get it right, it strikes me that the man must have been on form, and it might be the most underrated of his output. Dead Clowns, on the other hand, is, frankly, another to add to that list of failures, being interminably boring. Basically, we’re treated to a shitload of exposition from “Storyteller” (Brinke Stevens) about the legend of the little Florida town. See, apparently, back in the day, there was a big train crash and it killed an entire circus. Every so often, when the omens are right, the undead clown horde rises from the sea to take vengeance. Was that so hard? I’ve basically just covered in two sentences what it took her a seemingly interminable amount of time to get across. The problem with these scenes is that they’re very similar to someone telling a bad ghost story. The punchline isn’t strong enough to support too much, so they over compensate by focusing on small and uninteresting details that just extend the story unnecessarily and somehow make the big “moment” at the climax that much lamer.
We’re then introduced to two, frankly, terrible actors playing “spree killers”, clearly inspired by the bastard lovechild of Robert Smith and Karen Carpenter. Anyhow, these two cockwombles are holed up discussing their latest “crime”. Alas, the hurricane hits (quite nicely handled using stock footage), and the clowns rise from the ocean to pick off the inhabitants of the town.
That’s it. That’s the entire film.
What a piece of shit. Writer/ Director Steve Sessions is clearly one of the laziest bastards that ever walked the planet. This is just NOT a script, and I can’t think of how to actually describe it. I would be very surprised if there was more than ten pages of dialogue here, and almost all of it is delivered by Stevens in the exposition. This is an enormous mistake, because if you’re going to model it on the Fog, then for the love of god try to understand what made the Fog good: character. We want the DJ to escape because we like her, we like her because we know lots of details about her. Say, just plucking an example out of the ether, that she were, for instance, a spree killer bragging about her latest crime for about two minutes before the undead fishermen rise in the Fog then I would suggest that we, the audience, could not give a red fuck about her fate. Once the interminably boring exposition finishes, the rest of the film plays out practically in silence from the characters. This is, actually, quite a good idea, as the silence can be as intrinsically frightening as the idea of Dead Clowns. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work at all, because we don’t know, nor do we care about, these characters. We need something to latch on to, some reason to sympathise with them, because otherwise the film’s just an exercise in tedium.
This, incidentally, is exacerbated by the exposition, as Sessions is clearly attempting to establish some sort of mythology for the clowns, but failing dismally because he hasn’t understood his source. The Fog allowed the mystery to unfold, as the characters unearthed the truth about their town slowly through the course of the film. Here, however, instead of this gentle reveal, he’s tried to place it front and centre, and therefore rushed it. Imagine the Fog opening with two characters sitting in a room talking about the history of the town, and laying out the lame cliché that underpins the film. It just wouldn’t work as well. Annoyingly, it’s as if he’s mildly embarrassed about the silliness of his own idea, and as such just wants to rush over it to get to the carnage.
This is the next fail. He’s already pissed me off intensely with forcing me to watch, in a film called Dead Clowns, two absolute fartknockers sitting in a room talking total honk at each other so the Clown on human carnage had better deliver in fucking spades. Needless to say, it doesn’t. Rather, we get lots and lots of shots of the hurricane and whatnot. The first dead cunting clown doesn’t even fucking appear in the fucking movie until I’ve pissed 40 minutes of my valuable life on it, which I can’t get back, now. When the cocksmokers do appear, they cave in heads and whatnot making strangely flatulent noises while they’re doing this and there are untold fucking shots of the fucking rain to remind us that we’re trapped by a hurricane. I live in the fucking UK, Sessions you dick, and if I want to watch the fucking rain I can look out of the fucking window.
If you think about Dead Clowns as a concept, then it’s should be so easy. The very title itself conjures up images of decrepit and dilapidated circus tents, with a corpse audience staring listlessly at an undead army of unfunny buggers doing unfunny things to each other. Throw in a few teenagers with a penchant for casual and not at all gratuitous nudity, and maybe a midget or two, and the film practically writes itself. Note that I’ve just tossed that idea out effortlessly, and haven’t had a half-arsed attempt at plagiarising an underrated minor classic.
That’s why this film makes me angry. Very fucking angry, actually. This is such an absolute waste of a solid gold premise that there should be a shortlist of people that are allowed to take it on, and anyone that mangles it as badly as this is treated to a non-too-gentle unlubed rectal fisting. This film deserves a stomp in the nuts, a kick in the throat and I’m livid at it. What a fucking waste, I hope the fleas of 1000 camels infest your arsehole, Sessions.
Enough of this wank, I’ve wasted enough oxygen, time and bandwidth on it. Basically, don’t touch Dead Clowns. Ever. If anyone threatens you with the film it will only be as some kind of elaborate torture method. Think Goldfinger: “Do you expect (exschpect) me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to watch Dead Clowns!” “Aaaaaaaarggggggggh, what do you want to know? Can you bring back the big laser thing to slice my nutsack open instead, Auric, old fruit?”.
Fuck this film, have an Orangutan of Doom (first one for this series), and let us not mention it again.
Incidentally, I’ve just discovered that Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. I seem to be developing, on the other hand, Onancinephobia, which is the fear of wank movies. This should have been on Just Pillow Talk’s list.
Until next time,
The Full List for the Birthday Series Redux:
- 2011- The Skin I Live In (2.5 out of 4)
- 2010- The Last Exorcism (2.5 out of 4)
- 2009- Post Grad (1 out of 4)
- 2008- The House Bunny (1 out of 4)
- 2007- Knocked Up (1 out of 4)
- 2006- Volver (1 out of 4)
- 2005- Red Eye (2 out of 4)
- 2004- Dead Clowns (Orangutan of Doom)
- 2003- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
- 2002- Talk to Her
- 2001- Jeeper’s Creepers
- 2000- Gossip
- 1999- All About My Mother
- 1998- The X-Files
- 1997- Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
- 1996- The Last Supper
- 1995- The Usual Suspects
- 1994- The Color of Night
- 1993- Surf Ninjas
- 1992- The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag
- 1991- Pump Up the Volume
- 1990- Wild at Heart
- 1989- Bull Durham
- 1988- Crossing Delancey
- 1987- The Big Easy
- 1986- Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
- 1985- Better off Dead
- 1984- Oxford Blues
- 1983- MetalStorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
- 1982- The Thing
- 1981- Honky Tonk Freeway
- 1980- Schock
- 1979- Rich Kids
- 1978- Coma