Damien Leone has been pretty much grooming Art the Clown to become a cult slasher icon since his earlier films. He was even the somewhat paranormal narrator and ghoulish monster that ushered in various mediocre tales of horror for “All Hallow’s Eve” parts one and two. Apparently since the character has garnered some kind of momentum within the horror community, Art gets his spotlight as a bonafide slasher, who delights in viciously murdering people left and right on Halloween night. The results inspired a wholly ambivalent shrug from me overall, I’m sad to say.
After a clown is killed by a virus in Romania, his corpses is brought back to the United States. Not long after, an office building is under attack by vampires and humanity’s only hope is a ragtag crew of inept night watchmen.
Coulrophobics look out, “The Night Watchmen” is easily your worst nightmare come true, but it’s also one of the best horror comedies I’ve seen in a while. Director Mitchell Altieri delivers one of hell of a great horror gore fest that imagines the world overrun by vampire zombie clowns. “The Night Watchmen” is set primarily in an office, and Altieri makes great use of it, picturing the night shift from hell. You could make a sub-genre out of horror movies set in an office work place, these days, but “The Night Watchmen” has a great time making use of the back drop, with the various halls and corners of the office, and the typically monotonous setting.
If you think Rob Zombie is the only director releasing a schlocky survival horror film about evil clowns, you’d be mistaken. Here comes Tom Nagel’s “ClownTown,” a film a group of hapless travelers that wander in to an abandoned town ruled over by psychotic clowns that want to kill them a lot. After an unusual and tacked on prologue that copies John Carpenter’s “Halloween” almost shamelessly, we enter in to the actual tale of a group of friends heading to a concert. When they’re accidentally run off the road in a seemingly abandoned town, they and two other travelers find themselves being victimized and terrorized by psychotic and murderous clowns.
It’s amazing how a man like Rob Zombie who fancies himself a hardcore horror fan has done little to evolve since his first film “House of 1,000 Corpses.” Every film he’s made since that initial movie has repeated the same beats over and over, just re-arranged in various ways to look new and original. He fills the screen with genre veterans again. He inexplicably sets his movie in a mid-seventies gritty trailer park landscape. The opening of his film is directed by a goofy music video, padding the run time, and he even includes something of a montage with our characters, set to classic rock music as we saw in the finale of “The Devil’s Rejects.” Worst of all, he writes some of the clunkiest dialogue I’ve ever heard, and he is still dead set on placing wife Sheri Moon Zombie front and center.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty five years since “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” premiered on Nickelodeon in the US. The anthology horror series is one of the most fondly remembered kids shows of the 1990s mainly for its creative premises, surprise twists, and deeply entrenched moral lessons that were found in many episodes. The history of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” is just as interesting as the show itself. It was the launch pad for many very well known actors, and displayed a shocking sense of edge with every episode.
The show thankfully still holds up today as a creepy and creative horror series, and despite some camp here and there, it’s a still a well written anthology with a ton of memorable monsters including Zeebo, The Ghastly Grinner, and the Frozen Ghost. Here are my top five episodes.
For such a unique premise and concept, it’s surprising how unremarkable “Clown” ends up being, in the end. Despite its best efforts, “Clown” feels like a short film that perhaps should have stayed a short film, as most of its narrative feels spread out to fit a hundred minutes. And I don’t know how they’ll pull off a sequel, if the final scene is any indication. “Clown” probably watches a lot better as a short film, but it breezes through the premise in the first thirty minutes and stops being interesting by the end of the first hour. Kent is an average dad who finds out the clown he had booked for his son’s birthday has cancelled. Anxious to keep his promise of a clown, Kent goes rummaging through his basement and finds a clown suit locked in a mysterious chest.
I honestly never go in to a movie hoping its bad, but most times I almost never go in to a horror movie with high expectations. I went in to “The Funhouse Massacre” with almost no expectations, and oddly enough ended up with a damn good and damn fun splatter horror comedy. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy “The Funhouse Massacre,” but I plan to re-visit it during Halloween. Were I wealthy enough, I’d even buy a bunch of copies and put them in the bags of select trick or treaters. If you love Halloween, director Andy Palmer’s horror comedy is a blast, and the very definition of a Halloween treat. Granted, there are some flaws here and there (blatant CGI sky shots, and a brutally predictable final scene), but once you forgive them, you can appreciate the good intentions Andy Palmer has for the audience.
“The Funhouse Massacre” is gory, it’s sadistic, it’s funny, and it has a damn creative concept I had a lot of fun with. Director Palmer charges in to the premise head first, even giving a logical reason as to why literally no one recognizes these serial killers occupying a Halloween funhouse. Palmer’s movie feels almost like a stand alone Batman tale, where Candice De Visser plays a demented psychopath and brutally sexy maniac in the vein of Harley Quinn, who breaks out a group of vicious serial killers from a local asylum. Jere Burns is fantastic as Mental Manny, the ring leader of the funhouse killers who almost seems to be channeling his version of the Joker, at times. Burns was always a fine actor, but he goes the extra mile here. When the group of killers invades a local funhouse, unsuspecting Halloween fans walk in to death and murder.
We follow a group of friends out for the night, prepared for laughs, unaware that the gore and splatter around them are really helpless victims walking in to the slaughter. Realizing what’s happening much too late, the group is locked in the funhouse without any escape. It’s now up to a local sheriff, her inept deputy, and one of the group’s survivors to stop them. A lot of the mayhem and premise certainly has a catch to it, as Palmer isn’t content with just throwing blood at the wall, offering a very slick reveal in the chaotic climax that I thought really tied the movie together. The collective cast is just top notch, as Palmer brings the best out of his performers, from a small cameo by Robert Englund, to a very funny supporting performance by Ben Begley who steals scenes left and right.
“The Funhouse Massacre” is a grab bag of laughs, gore, and creeps, and it’s definitely a horror comedy you should look in to come October. The Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory comes with an interesting audio commentary with director Andy Palmer, producer Warner Davis and actors Clint Howard and Courtney Gains. There’s “Popcorn Talk’s Video Commentary” with director Andy Palmer and co-writers/co-stars Ben Begley and Renee Dorian. There’s the three minute segment “A Day on the Set,” a five minute Production Diary, and the original Theatrical trailer for “The Funhouse Massacre.”