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Dead Clowns (2003)

Lionsgate Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/31/2007

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/31/2007

Imagine that a friend invites you to dinner and promises a specific dish -- one that sounds especially appetizing. But, once you arrive for the meal, you find that they are serving something completely different, something unsatisfying and disappointing. This is the sensation that I experienced when I watched Dead Clowns. Despite that fact that I've been a video store veteran since 1982, I was duped by the DVD box art and the synopsis on the packaging. Now, I'm here to warn you.

Dead Clowns takes place in the seaside town of Port Emmet. Fifty years ago, a tugboat piloted by a drunken captain struck one of the supports on the train trestle which crosses the bay. The bridge collapsed causing a circus train to vanish into the water. Many of the passengers were rescued, but the clown car was never found, and the captain was never charged. Now, during a raging hurricane, the daughter of the tugboat captain has returned to Port Emmet and the zombie-like clowns are rising from their watery grave to seek their revenge.

Now, seriously, horror movies fans, does that sound like a great movie or what? Writer/director Steve Sessions have taken the main plot from John Carpenter's The Fog and tweaked it a bit, adding zombie clowns into the mix. Given the fact that clowns are sort of creepy anyway, this should be an awesome movie.

Well, it's not. The movie does just about everything wrong that it possibly can. For starters, there's no story. Once the captain's daughter (played by "scream queen" Brinke Stevens) tells us the story of the train accident, that's it as far as story goes. From there, we are treated to scenes which show a bunch of people that we don't know -- there is zero character development here -- wandering around in the dark for a long, long time until they are finally attacked by the clowns. The movie has very little dialogue, as most of these people are alone in their locations. All of these people are in separate locations, and we learn nothing about them, save for a couple who are on the run from the law. And I was giving the film too much credit when I said that the clowns attack, as the zombie clown scenes are just as boring as the rest of the film. Again, the story is similar to The Fog, but in that movie, the characters had an idea of how to stop the ghosts. Here, that doesn't happen until late in the film and when it does, it's incredibly lame.

The movie also suffers from a number of technical problems. The film is clearly a home-grown shot-on-video production, but even for an amateur piece, Dead Clowns is pretty raw. Some of the shots are slightly out of focus. Many of the scenes appear to have been shot with no sound. Much of the film is made up of stock footage of hurricanes. Many scenes are overly dark. The zombie clowns are very simple, as we are typically treated to shots of big shoes or wigs on skeletons. There isn't much gore in the film (contrary to the blurbs on the DVD package) and what is here is rather simplistic. (Although one effect featuring a pair of skeletal legs is well-done.) And don't get me started on the scene where one character snorts sugar instead of cocaine. I saw Sessions' earlier movie Cremains and I don't remember it looking this bad.

Dead Clowns sounds as if it would be the perfect film for those who suffer from coulrophobia, or the fear of clowns. Rather, it will only disturb those who suffer from a fear of out of movies which are out of focus. This is simply a bargain-basement movie which has nothing to offer any discerning film fan. The movie has no story, no action, and no pulse. The clowns aren't scary and the movie may be one of the dullest that I've seen in years. Although it did teach me to always have a waterproof marker on hand.

Dead Clowns gets out of a tiny car and onto DVD courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The movie is letterboxed at 2.00:1 (really?), but the transfer is not enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie was clearly shot on low-end video, and that's about the only thing that's clear. The image is grainy and blurry at times, lacking distinct details. The colors are OK, but the image is often too dark to truly rate the colors. Video noise is a constant and any bright light source blooms on-screen. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. I only noticed audio coming from the center channel on this track, as there were no significant stereo, surround or subwoofer effects. Some scenes sounded OK, while others had an overt hissing on the track. What little dialogue that there is in the movie was muffled.

The only extra on the Dead Clowns DVD is a trailer for the movie.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long