Dead Clowns (2003) — Do we really need to be convinced clowns are scary?

“Well, legend has it that sometimes you can hear the sounds of a distant calliope on the wind, coming off the water. Coming from *under* the water.”

Al’s rating: *cough*choke*gag*vomit*die*

Al’s review: So are we agreed that clowns are scary? Good. Now can we stop laboring under the delusion that the mere presence of a clown is enough to make a movie scary? Because if we as a society cannot overcome this hurdle, I fear that ghastly dreck like Dead Clowns is going to multiply and slowly drown the entire genre of horror in a quicksand of movies that are not frightening, not tense, not interesting, and ultimately just a big, steaming, waste of our time.

The idea, such as it is, of Dead Clowns is sound enough: fifty years ago, a loaded clown car was sent plunging into the Atlantic Ocean when a bridge snapped in the midst of hurricane winds and took down an entire circus train. The train was recovered, the clowns never were. Upset at the lack of a memorial (no, really), the clowns are now rising from their watery graves and seeking revenge, as another big hurricane brews on the horizon. So how can I say this ridiculousness is a sound idea? Because they made the same movie in 1980 and called it The Fog. It worked for them, and that was about leper pirates. Surely, it could have worked with clowns.

Of course, The Fog had writer/director/horror legend John Carpenter. Dead Clowns has writer/director/nobody hack Steve Sessions, who has shockingly been allowed to direct four films since this piece of cinematic wreckage. The Fog boasted easy-on-the-eyes Adrienne Barbeau as a sort of narrator/mood setter. Dead Clowns boasts marginally talented actress Brinke Stevens who spits out pages of horridly contrived exposition then dies offscreen.

The Fog had Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh as it’s two heroines trying to survive the menace of the undead. Dead Clowns has someone who’s name I am not even going to bother looking up playing a criminal on the run and spends the early part of the film laughing about how he and his girlfriend videotaped themselves shooting a priest in the head. Ugh, I’m feeling my face contorting back into a snarl as I type.

And the clowns. What the hell are they? Short answer? I don’t know, mostly because the director is so insistent on cutting to close-ups so you almost never get a look at what’s going on. Long answer? Well, they’re described and originally assumed (at least by me) to be ghosts. But when you see them, they eat human flesh and have moldy, skeletal, dumb rubber masks that make me think they’re supposed to be zombies. Then again, they also move around a lot more like Freddy or Jason and improvise their kills using weapons and nearby household objects, so they possess more awareness than your average walking corpse. What it boils down to, I’ve decided, is that the director has no flipping idea and is just making up whatever he darn well pleases because it’s his movie and he clearly doesn’t have to adhere to any kind of logic or consistency or anything else that would imbue this Frankenstein monster of a film with a lick of credibility.

Now I suppose this is where I feel like I should talk about the plot. Problem is, we don’t have one. Well, that’s not entirely true—there *is* a plot, I talked about it in paragraph two. That’s it, however. The film possesses no narrative that drives anything forward from that point on. After the first twenty minutes of setup, we are literally given a solid hour of characters walking onscreen, establishing that they are alone in a room, and, after increasingly interminable and almost entirely silent bouts of creeping around and looking mildly concerned, they are attacked by clowns and killed in a semi-graphic-but-not-really-because-we-have-no-money manner. Nothing else happens until the last ten minutes, where we realize that the criminal scumbag is apparently our protagonist because he’s the only guy in the entire movie to wander offscreen and actually comes back later on. Then, mercifully, the movie ends.

That’s it. And that is everything I have to say about Dead Clowns. It’s a terrible movie with no story, barely-there characters, worthless monsters, and a length that’s about nine times what it ought to be. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this film. Save your money, stay away, and hide all of your video store’s rental copies in the ‘Foreign Language’ section that nobody ever goes into. Watch The Fog instead. Or don’t. Whatever. Just — y’know, I don’t care anymore. Stupid Dead Clowns.

One comment

  1. The entire scary clown thing has got to stop when it comes to horror films. It’s become such a cliche antagonist that it’s no way appealing anymore. Pennywise and Killer Klowns are the only ones that really do it for me and even Pennywise was overdone in the It:Chapter One and Two films.

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