I have a policy when it comes to movies made after 1999—proceed with caution. I did not heed my own advice once. I got a 2004 masterpiece called Vampire Hunter. Following this, I soaked my eyes in oven cleaner because it was less painful than the experience of watching Vampire Hunter. Sometimes, though, I do get surprises.
This review isn’t about Vampire Hunter (thank Morpheus). It’s about Dead Clowns, a movie to which I owe many things. Let me tell you a story.
I’m a teenager. As a result, I have to deal with stupid shit. In this case, it was with a girl. I’ll spare you the details, but it was dumb as all hell. And, I went home a very bitter young man. I realized at the time (as I realize now) that what I was upset about just wasn’t worth the time, but it still hurt. So, I grabbed my brother, James (I call him Tiberius, after Captain Kirk) and we sat down to watch a Netflix movie, Dead Clowns. Minds were blown, blown farther than that of the young man who shows up in the movie to do lots of cocaine. I’ll describe…
There’s this town in Louisiana, possibly Florida. In 1953, a train went off the tracks into the bay—it was a circus train, carrying lots of clowns. All of the clowns died, but even though the townsfolk tried to help, it was too late. They never told the national press about the incident, and thus they believe that the clowns’ spirits are restless and angry. Fifty years later, though, this is all just hearsay and local legend. The town is about to be hit by a hurricane, similar to the hurricane which blew the train off of the tracks half a century ago.
Dead Clowns follows about six or seven people who have no relation to each other—there’s a guy in a wheelchair, a security guard who snorts a little nose candy, two serial killers (who actually resemble some of my friends; help?), and some other random people who have no defining characteristics. The clowns rise out of the waters thanks to the hurricane and begin killing these people, mostly by seizing random objects and bashing their heads in; then they eat them with an accompaniment of the finest mouth-fart sound effects and garage gore money can buy.
The clowns are deliciously awesome. Probably hand-puppets made of glue, paper mâché, copper wires for hair, and spraypaint, these monstrosities move silently and kill silently, which doesn’t make them scary insomuch as just cool, in a ninja sort of way. I think I genuinely love the guy who made them—Patrick something or another. He’s cool. Send him flowers and chocolates and tears of celebration in his mailbox. He deserves it.
And about the clowns not being scary—that’s a good note to make. I truly believe that Dead Clowns is not a horror film. Rather, it’s simply an art film that is confused about its private self-image. After all—it takes nearly forty minutes (of the typical hour-and-a-half) for the clowns to appear. Before that, we get scenic shots of storms and people looking out windows and private intimations and stuff like that. Even when the clowns show up, we get these artsy shots of rain and blood splatters; we get slow momentum without deliberate suspense. And it’s that lack of suspense that sells my own theory to me. I really don’t think the makers of Dead Clowns wanted suspense, and that’s why none shows up. It’s not that it fails as suspense, you understand. It’s something different. Something special; something magical.
And guess what? There’s even a twist ending (cliffhanger, in a way) that doesn’t really knock your socks off but leaves you feeling fat and happy. I can’t stand twist endings, honestly, especially one as theoretically stupid as that of this movie. Still, it’s got a charm, this ending.
I feel joy, and Dead Clowns has brought me that joy. I’ll still be wary, mind you, but maybe I need to lighten up. Make a night of it.