Ambush Bug here, shamelessly donning my Ringmaster top hat to put the spotlight on a special series of AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS columns—Send in the Clowns! To celebrate the news that my new circus horror comic, PIROUETTE from Black Mask Studios is available for order in July’s Diamond Previews (item code JUL140937), I am going to be taking an extensive look at all kinds of clown horrors in film and other media over the next few weeks.
PIROUETTE is a comic I’ve been developing for a quite a while with interior art from the fantastic Carlos Granda and a first issue cover by Ale Garza. The story is described as Raised from infancy by duplicitous clowns who entertain by day and menace by night, Pirouette dreams of washing the paint from her face and escaping to a better life far away from her cruel circus family… because when the spotlights dim and the crowds disperse, the clown princess’ big-top dreams give way to a nightmarish world of monsters with painted smiles. The book hits all of the coolest of cool comic shops in September, but you’ve got to tell your store owner to order it now in order to get it!
I can’t wait for folks to see the book which I promise is filled with big top terror and death-defying danger. In the coming weeks, I’ll share some behind the scenes stuff about PIROUETTE at the top of each of these “Send in the Clowns” columns along with a look at some cinematic examples of Coulrophobia (the fear of clowns) and try to get to the bottom of why clowns are so damn scary!
Here are a pair of indie films that cut right to the chase and just call themselves FEAR OF CLOWNS!
FEAR OF CLOWNS (2004)Directed by Kevin Kangas
Written by Kevin Kangas
Starring Jacqueline Reres, Rick Ganz, Frank Lama, Patrick T. McGowan, Lauren Pellegrino, Christopher Lee Philips, Judith Furlow, Steven Gleich, John Patrick Barry, Jed Duvall, Mark Lassise as Shivers the Clown!
Find out more about this film here
FEAR OF CLOWNS 2 (2007)Directed by Kevin Kangas
Written by Kevin Kangas
Starring Jacqueline Reres, Frank Lama, Johnny Alonso, John C. Bailey, Mike Baldwin, Vincent T. Brown, Leanna Chamish, Savannah Costello, Adam C. Edwards, Judith Furlow, Jay McCarey, Chris O'Brocki, Tom Proctor, Lars Stevens, Rob Stull, David Bullet Wooters, and Mark Lassise as Shivers the Clown!
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Haters of low budget horror are not going to want to pay much attention to this combo review of parts one and two of Kevin Kangas’ FEAR OF CLOWNS film series. They’ve already made up their minds looking at the trailers that it lacks explosions, big names, and studio backing. But if you’re like me, and don’t mind DIY and low fi cinema, I think you’re going to be impressed with this film series.
First and foremost, what impresses me the most is that Kangas has made an interconnected series tying directly from the first to second film. Actors return to reprise roles, there’s character development from one film to the next, and yes, there are scary clowns. The interconnectedness is something I really miss in horror these days. Sure INSIDIOUS seems to be able to pull it off. But films like HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH really felt like it was something special when they ended and began anew mere moments after the last film finished. Sure, HATCHET has done it and I admire that film series as well for making such a feat work, but these two films do the same and dammit if that doesn’t impress me.
The story follows three individuals linked by fate; a young artist named Lynn (Jacqueline Reres) who has become famous for paintings of clowns, a madman who dresses as a clown and carries a huge battleaxe named Shivers (Mark Lassise), and Detective Peters (Frank Lama) the detective assigned to protect Lynn from the stalking clown. In part one, Lynn is haunted by the creepy clown who is manipulated to target her by his psychiatrist. Barely surviving her first encounter with Shivers, Lynn moves away with her young son and continues to thrive as an artist. Meanwhile, Detective Peters is diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (which inexplicably is often a symptom of cannibalism and the eating of human brains), but decides to take one last case when Shivers escapes prison with two other lunatics. Peters vows to Lynn that he will put down Shivers who thinks that killing Lynn will cure him of his insanity. Slightly complex plot; sure, but it’s fun to think that Kangas has put so much thought into the story which unfolds over the span of two films. Sitting and watching both really does give you a cool experience—kind of like experiencing the original HALLOWEEN parts one and two for the first time.
Now these aren’t flawless films. In fact, there are quite a few lulls during both films. The first film runs almost two hours and could be shaved down by at least 45 minutes to make it more watchable. The final scenes where Lynn and her boyfriend are trapped in a movie theater and stalked by Shivers will definitely have you reaching toward the fast forward button. The same thing goes for the second film as there’s a lull in the middle where a bunch of Detective Peter’s old war buddies show up, play cards, reminisce, and blow up a car that could definitely use a nip here and a tuck there to make the whole thing view in a cleaner and leaner way.
Still, Kangas incorporates a lot of cool clowny scares in these two films. The design of Shivers himself is rather cool. Now anyone walking around shirtless all of the time is immediately kind of scary to me, but add clown makeup to the mix and this clown is downright terrifying. Shiver’s sideways smile is the kind of off-kilter insanity that really does cause a sense of unease.
The designs of the two other clowns in the second film are equally unsettling. One, Giggles (Phillip Levine) is a cannibalistic and giggling Raggedy Andy doll come to life. The other, Ogre the Clown (Clarence McNatt) is a giant mountain of a man-brute with a giant eye painted in the middle of his forehead. The scene where the latter has a gunfight with the cops is made all the more menacing as the clown laughs robotically while blasting away with a handgun.
What impressed me most about these FEAR OF CLOWNS was the level of improvement seen in writer/director’s skill behind the camera from one movie to the next. Kangas definitely ups his game with the sequel adding unearthly screeches that accompany all of the kills and upping the ante on the gore as well. While the sequel is still low budget, you can tell Kangas learned from the original and improved upon it.
As the ending of FEAR OF CLOWNS 2 suggests, there may be a third film in the works with Shivers, our muscle bound clown with an axe. Here’s hoping that Kangas’ skill continues to evolve if another film is indeed in the works. If you’re patient enough to sit through some lulls and low fi rough edges, Kangas delivers some definite shivers with his FEAR OF CLOWNS series.
And finally…here’s the creepy clown of the day!
SPLASH AREA: NIGHT OF THE FREAKS/CLOWN HUNT
DOLL-BOY/ALL HALLOW’S EVE
THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL
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Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 3. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller. Don’t forget to order his new comic PIROUETTE from July’s Diamond Previews (item code JUL14 0937) today!