Movies From the Black Lagoon

DEAD CLOWNS - 2003, Rated R

By Tom Doty

If you can lower your expectations when it comes to “clown/zombie ” flicks then you might find some love for this entry in the undead cinema oeuvre. Those of you who insist on such outdated notions as production values, however, will feel that the joke is on you.

It starts with scenes of several folks bracing themselves for a hurricane at a place called Port Emmet (no doubt a nod to the world’s most infamous clown). They are mostly solo so you never get to hear their names. The roster includes a young woman, a security guard, a wheelchair bound guy (whose Norman Bates-style mother wants him to come back home) and a couple who have chosen the wrong weekend to revisit her home town. Turns out they have much more to fear than gale force winds and a little precipitation because fifty years ago a circus train plummeted off the town bridge during a similar storm.

If you’ve guessed that the clown car was never recovered then you deserve a few toots on a French Horn. The storm hits and we are treated to an oversized shoe emerging from the surf(visually my favorite portent of doom since little Damien smiled at the camera in the final scene of 1976’ ‘The Omen’) . It’s followed by a fleet of the whey faced fools ,though their make-up has long since succumbed to the depths(along with most of their skin). They may be dead but these guys are honked off at something and begin coming after the isolated townsfolk.

What follows are several scenes of merry mayhem as our sealed in islanders must fight off the elements as well as a gaggle of zombies sporting checkered shirts and footwear with bells on it. There are also convenient bonus victims who show up because they are on the lam from the authorities after robbing and murdering a man of the cloth. They are probably the worst actors in the film but that’s okay as one of them gets the best death via a meat thermometer to the eyeball (in an ode to the famous “death by splinter” bit from Lucio Fulci’s ‘Zombie’).

That’s pretty much it for the plot. There’s not a lot of dialog(good thing too considering the quality of the thespians) but the make-up effects are top notch, as is the sense of doom and gloom that hangs over the film.

There is an attempt at a clever ending. It involves painting a memorial sign for the forgotten clowns who received no such tribute in their fifty years at the bottom of the bay. Unfortunately the hurricane erases it before the jesters can retire to their watery grave.

This is no “Zombie Land” but the movie works for the most part . It is a testament to the ability of savvy technicians who can save a movie in post-production. Here the best jobs are done by people who came along after the film was shot such as the sound crew. These guys do an amazing job of aiding the creepiness factor. They lay over some great munching and slurping noises for the zombies scenes which drives home the message that these clowns are out for blood ,literally as well as figuratively.

Best line: “Man, I bet I have a piece of brain in my hair.”

DEAD CLOWNS – 2003, Rated R

By Tom Doty

Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.

Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.

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