Dead Clowns – DVD Review

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Directed by:
Steve Sessions

Running Time: 95 minutes
Release Date: July 31, 2007

The Movie:

When you watch a movie about zombie clowns, you have certain expectations. Primarily, you expect to hear some maniacal clown laughter, see some clown- or circus-related deaths and to laugh a lot. The concept of zombie clowns is pretty silly, so you certainly don’t expect a ‘good’ movie, at least not in the traditional sense of the word ‘good.’ But the silliness of the concept virtually guarantees a cheesy and fun movie-viewing experience. Before I saw Dead Clowns, I wouldn’t have need that virtually before guarantees. It turns out that you can make a movie about zombie clowns that is incredibly dull.

It turns out that in 1954, there was a major hurricane rocking the small town of Port Emmit. As the hurricane built in intensity, a circus train came into town. Said train derailed when the bridge it was traveling on collapsed. Most of the passengers were rescued, but all of the clowns — who were all jammed into a single clown car even though the storm would have ruled out any circus performances upon their arrival — were lost. Fifty years (or so, the date is never stated but seeing as Dead Clowns made in 2003, assuming it’s meant to be fifty years later is logical) later, another hurricane threatens Port Emmit and the clowns, angry about how they died or that their bodies were never recovered or that they have been forgotten or possibly just hungry for human flesh, re-awaken.

Dead Clowns feels like a thirty minute movie in a 95 minute package. In fact, I suspect it may have started out life as a short, before someone decided it should be expanded into a full length feature. Very little actually happens in Dead Clowns. The first half hour is just people getting ready for the approaching hurricane. Of the four different locations the ‘action’ switches between, there is literally nothing of note going on in three of them. It’s just shot of someone getting ready for the hurricane, stock footage of a hurricane, shot of someone else getting ready, shot of someone talking on the phone, more stock footage of a hurricane. Thankfully we at least get a bit of backstory on the clowns here.

There are only two characters in the entirety of Dead Clowns that actually do anything. Unlike anyone else, throughout the course of the movie these two will change locations, meet other people, have lines and make some kind of attempt to deal with the zombie menace. So by default, this couple, a pair of murderers on the lam, are more or less left as the heroes of the story. Almost all the other characters are alone, weathering the storm; apart from a couple brief phone conversations, they don’t say anything (which does help to mask acting deficiencies, at least) and they sure as hell don’t DO anything. When the zombies attack, the people of the town all hide. The hiding continues until the hider is discovered or the zombies go away.

It’s hard to really care about any of the characters when you know so little about them. One guy is in a wheelchair, likes to do puzzles and sometimes talks to his mom on the phone. There’s a woman who, um, lives in a house and chooses to hide in basements; she’s featured throughout the whole movie and that’s literally all I know about her; she doesn’t even have any lines. It’s pretty sad when the most likable character in the entire movie is a murderer who gets excited when she finds a piece of brain in her hair (she’s just so cheerful about everything that you can’t help but like her, even if she is insane).

Normally you can count on a zombie movie to have a fair amount of action. That’s not the case in Dead Clowns. There are only two guns featured in the whole movie and only one of those is fired, and then only once. Yes, it’s a zombie movie that features a single gunshot. Feel the excitement.

The zombie clowns themselves are also a let down. As they’ve been dead for at least fifty years, they don’t have any clown make-up on. The zombies have more of a mummified look in Dead Clowns, which allows the filmmakers to forgo make-up and utilize somewhat decent looking rubber masks instead. Sadly, the masks ensure that the clowns don’t talk or laugh. Also, most of the mouths only open a little bit, making eating a somewhat challenging endeavor for our underfed friends. On the upside, despite their inability to talk, these zombies do seem to be much smarter than the standard zombie. The clowns can operate door knobs/handles, they can make use of both blunt and sharp objects as weapons and they are rather methodical in their search to find fresh meat.

The character logic used in Dead Clowns is pretty weak, even by horror movie standards. There’s one scene where the wheel chair guy (like most of the characters in the movie, his name was never established. The credits don’t list names either and IMDB only credits about half the actors with character names (and even then it’s mostly “tormented woman” and “husband” as opposed to actual names).

There is a head-scratcher of a moment when a wheelchair-bound character survives a run-in with a zombie clown and decides to flee the house. He’s stymied in his attempt to go out the front door by the small step on his porch. Apparently, despite the fact he lives in the house, he never had a ramp put in. I suppose he could have just moved in (which would also explain his forgetting that he didn’t have a ramp until he tried to go outside), but it’s a pretty small step. If I’m wheelchair guy and there’s a zombie in the house, I’m not going to let a small drop stop me from getting the hell out of there. It’s not like it was a whole flight of stairs or anything; he probably could have jumped the step with sufficient speed. Moments like that are rife throughout the movie.

For a low budget horror movie though, the effects are pretty good. Some of the gore (like a severed arm) is obviously fake, but the zombie masks are pretty creepy and most of the gore is at least semi-realistic looking. They even do a fairly effective job of emulating the hurricane in the few scenes where somewhat has to go outside in the storm.

Aside from the special effects, there’s not really anything to like here. There’s very little action, even less dialogue, and only two of the characters in the entire movie actually do anything about their situation. Dead Clowns doesn’t even lend itself to being mocked; not enough actually happens for sustained mocking.

The Video:

Presented in 2.00:1 letterbox. The video quality isn’t all that great. Some of the scenes are a little too dark. Though sometimes it’s hard to tell if that was an attempt at heightening the suspense or simply shoddy video quality.

The Audio:

The audio is in 5.1 Dolby Digital and is workable enough. There’s not exactly a lot going on in the audio department though. The only (non-silent) movie I know of with less sound than Dead Clowns is The Beast of Yucca Flats (and at least Beast had an increasingly bizarre narrator to amuse and entertain).

The Extras:

There’s a trailer for Dead Clowns in case you want the 48 second version of the movie. There are also trailers for a number of other low budget horror films that share a common carnival/clown motif. There’s Dark Ride, Drive Thru and Mr. Jingles. Grim Reaper and Dark Harvest 3: Scarecrow round out the previews. All of the movies featured appear to be substantially more fun than Dead Clowns.

The Inside Pulse:

If Dead Clowns was edited down into a twenty-five minute short, eliminating all the characters and scenes that have no connection to the two escaped murderers, it would actually be an enjoyable little short. It still wouldn’t be great, mind you, but it would be watchable. As a full-length feature though, there’s far too little going on for even the most stalwart B-movie lover.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Dead Clowns
(OUT OF 10)