Dead Clowns (2004)

Dead Clowns (2004)

Fifty years ago in Port Emmett, a bridge collapsed during a hurricane, plunging a train carrying a circus into the dark depths of the bay. Attempts to recover the train carriage carrying the clowns were unsuccessful and the hurricane simply washed silt and mud over it, making any future recovery attempts impossible. The people of the town decided to forget about it and leave the clowns in their burial ground in the bay. But now with another hurricane approaching, the clowns are back to extract their revenge upon the descendants of those who left them.

 

If there is one horror sub-genre that is totally underused, it is that of the killer clown. I mean you could probably count on one hand how many films there are with clowns that are evil and enjoy killing: Killer Klowns From Outer Space, The Clown At Midnight and IT all spring to mind (unfortunately so does Camp Blood). Clowns just look downright scary at the best of times. There is something about the big fake red mouths, the brightly coloured clothing and ridiculous hairstyles that go above sheer camp value to sheer terror. So many people are scared of clowns and they’ve been causing nightmares for centuries. So any new additions to this minor sub-genre are greatly appreciated, even if they aren’t particularly thrilling.

Dead Clowns doesn’t just star evil killer clowns, but evil killer ZOMBIE clowns that like to feast on their victims. The film doesn’t really have any particular cohesion to it: we’re introduced to a load of isolated characters that never meet and just stay in their respective houses. So there is no interaction between them and any form of character development is impossible because there’s no one to bounce off. It’s just like they filmed a bunch of scenes with one actor, then did the same with another actor else and so forth. There’s no individual character arc to last the whole film and the only major plot we get is the fact that there’s clowns killing people which leads to a disjointed and messy one hundred and eleven minutes. The film runs like this: we’re introduced to a character who is then killed off by a clown after a cat-and-mouse set piece. Carry on to next character and repeat.

Unfortunately the standard of acting isn’t great so a lot of these characters grate and annoy the viewer. With this low budget film, it looks like the director got his mates to come down for a few days of fun. B-grade scream queens Debbie Rochon and Brinke Stevens star to give the film some minor credibility: Stevens is killed off pretty quickly though and if memory serves me right, Rochon never actually speaks during the whole film (nor does she get naked to my utmost disgust, which she’s done before). At least there are some B-movie names to slap on the front cover to sell some more DVDs.

The stars of the film are the clowns themselves and whilst we never get an actual good look at one in proper light, what you can see of them is pretty cheap. The director keeps from showing us the clowns in their entirety, giving us glimpses of their feet whilst they walk or their hands whilst they try and smash down doors. It’s effective in this case because less is more and the clowns are more menacing when you can’t see much of them. To be fair they’re more so zombies than clowns and George A. Romero has featured zombified clowns in some of his zombie flicks so it’s nothing you won’t have seen before. And they look nothing like the clown on the front cover! Take a cheap fancy dress costume, make some minor alterations and that’s what you’ve got here. The use of traditional circus calliope music (you know, that sinister clown music) is one of the highlights of the film, usually played in the background to indicate that the clowns are on their way. It’s just a pity the clowns are such a let down and they don’t do an awful lot except shuffle around really slowly.

 

I’ve usually been harsh on these second rate horror films which look like they were made by a bunch of mates for a pint and a packet of crisps but surprisingly, Dead Clowns is alright in places. Steve Sessions manages to crank some atmosphere out of the whole thing and despite it looking really cheap at times, horror is one genre where true quality shines through no matter how tacky it looks. Give this guy a budget and let’s see what he can do.

 

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