Ross Kelly - Philbert
Ashley Bryce - Valerie
Jared Herholtz - Edwin
Isaac Kappy - Buzter Pie
Mike Miller - Bonzo
Chris K. Payne - Puff
Genre - Horror/Slasher/Comedy/Clowns
Running Time - 84 Minutes
I always dread having to review a horror film involving clowns. While there are some decent-to-good ones, such as DRIVE THRU, IT, and KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, a majority of them are pretty terrible. The last two films I've watched involving clowns, CHUCKLE'S REVENGE and ZOMBIE WOMEN OF SATAN, left bad tastes in my mouth. Hell, I hate clowns in general. Why do I bother even reviewing anything involving these spawns of Satan?
I guess when you see a title called KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE [which is being released on DVD by Troma Entertainment], you tend to be slightly intrigued...and horrified about the prospect of the film's quality. But I shouldn't complain too much. After all, I received the DVD screener free with all special features intact and without that distracting logo to stop people from putting the film on torrent sites. I also shouldn't complain about the film itself, as it actually happens to be a silly slasher film that's quite a lot of fun! Who knew? Smack me with a pie and let's review this surprisingly good clown flick!
A clown boot camp has finally reopened after 15 years, recruiting a few clowns who want to master their pie throwing and balloon animal making. During a campfire, the clowns learn of a legend about Edwin the Clown (Jared Herholtz), who 15 years prior was unable to make his clown peers laugh when a cell phone interruption disrupted his stage act. Edwin, being frustrated as he was seen as a joke and a failure, decided to murder his classmates viciously and go into hiding. Old Man Bonzo (Mike Miller), losing his television show because of the crimes, decided to reopen the camp to bring back its good reputation [which is now at "Death Curse" status]. However, Edwin learns about this and decides that he'll make sure the camp closes down again by murdering these rookie clowns in really horrific ways...for good!
Color me surprised, but KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE is a hoot of a slasher film. Paying homage to more popular slasher movies, such as 1978's HALLOWEEN and the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise, this independent low-budget horror-comedy knows exactly what it is and works very hard in making sure the audience is aware of it. And I must say, while the film isn't perfect, KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE has a lot to be proud of as its success rate is a lot higher than one would expect, myself included.
Writers/directors Philip Gunn and David Valdez present a really silly, yet fun and kind of clever screenplay that just shows their love for the slasher sub-genre. On the surface, KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE is your typical slasher movie. The killer wants revenge because he feels scorned and is traumatized by something in his past. The scene of the crime is reopened or celebrating something that reminds the killer of the past, making him want to celebrate in his own way. The characters are pretty stereotypical, or in this case, variations of expected clowns you have seen before. There is also over-the-top violence and lots of sex and T & A. It's FRIDAY THE 13TH, but with clowns. So if that's your thing, then you should enjoy the main plotline of the movie.
What makes KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE stand out, however, is how far it goes with the clown motif. This movie could have just had a clown killer murdering other clowns just like your typical slasher. But the film happens to be much more structured than that. For one, it seems the world that KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE lives in revolves around the life of clowns. Very early in the film, we see that much of what's on television is related to what clowns do. The news reporter is a clown. There are hip-hop videos starring clowns. There are television shows and cartoons - all starring clowns. Even the magazine world showcases clowns. It's as if clowns have taken over in this universe, with regular "non-clown" people being the minority. It actually creates a silly, yet unique, atmosphere to the film. These clowns don't feel like outsiders when most of everyone else in the world is a clown, as it's a family tradition. I think it was a great touch to do this and made the film a lot more watchable, in my opinion.
I also liked the variation in clown characters. While the character development isn't all that deep [then again, how many slasher films have deep characterization?], the looks and personalities of each main clown character are all distinct. Valerie is a sad clown with pink hair and a tear and frown painted on her face. She's also the deepest character, as she doesn't want to be a clown but does it to please her grandfather. She also has deep skeletons in her closet that continuity bring trauma to her life. Philbert is the rookie clown. Butzer Pie is the Juggalo-looking clown who's a bit of a troublemaker, due to being from the streets. He looks like a member of KISS with his face paint, being the bad boy of the group. Puff is the magician clown, who actually has special powers relating to magic. And Edwin is the non-funny, messed up in the head clown who enjoys murdering others. There's also a cowboy clown, a nerd clown, a mentally slow clown, and even a pervert clown who wears a trenchcoat with not much underneath as he constantly masturbates, which you can tell by the silly sound effects that comes [no pun intended] with it. We also watch them doing typical clown activities, such as using whoopie cushions, throwing pies, and spraying seltzer water at each other. Some of these clowns get more screen time than others, but all of them are easy to identify and are fun to watch. I'm surprised none of them annoyed me, but I really liked watching all of them!
The homages to other slasher and horror films are also well done and a treat for fans who know these movies. Part of the opening theme sounds like a different take on the John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN theme, which quickly changes into one that sounds like the original FRIDAY THE 13TH theme. As a matter of fact, anytime Edwin is about to kill, we hear the classic "ki ki ki ma ma ma" but with a clown twist. The scene around the campfire, talking about the legend of Edwin, seems to be inspired mainly by FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. There's a "Death Curse" character that's obviously inspired by the first two FRIDAY THE 13TH films. Edwin has a cabin nearby the camp, like Jason Voorhees. There's a car chase scene that seems to be taken from HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS. There's even a FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES parody. And Butzer, doing his best Suicide from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD impersonation, quotes, "You think this is a fuckin' costume? This is a way of life!" A lot of these moments made me laugh as I was impressed that KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE managed to still be its own film even with all these nods to the past.
As for your typical slasher film, you definitely get a lot of gory violence and very sexual situations. The death scenes manage to be quite creative and funny. One clown gets scalped and has his brain squeezed so the juice can run down. We get a hitchhiker [spoofed from the original FRIDAY THE 13TH] on the way to the camp, who is murdered by getting her face squashed into a car window. One clown gets hooked and then grounded inside a haystack machine. Another clown gets a pie to the face, followed by a knife to the face. One gets hung by the neck. Another gets acid to the face, which melts it all off. We get a few decapitations, explosions, mallet bashings, throat slicings, gunshots, and even a clown getting sawed in half. For a low budget film, I thought all the death sequences looked really fantastic and very professional looking. I was quite impressed and even "ooh" and "ahh"'d at some of them. As for the sex, we get a ton of boobs, close to frontal male nudity, and even a really funny sex scene with clown noises. Pretty funny stuff.
The direction by Philip Gunn and David Valdez is really great. I would have thought this production had a bigger budget than it actually did - the movie looks that good. The editing is solid. The composition and framing is perfect for this type of film. There's also quite a lot of style here. For example, the opening sequence, which is supposedly shot on a VHS camcorder in 1991, is being watched on said VHS tape with grain, snow, and just worn out footage to make it look authentic. The flashback with Edwin is shot in black and white, almost noir-style. Even a lot of subtle touches, such as the blood stains that resembles a clown face on a mirror, to all the well-shot homages of previous horror films, are just well planned and well structured visually. Usually having more than one director could really screw up a project, but Gunn and Valdez obviously love the genre and were able to collaborate very well together to come out with a superior product. The film is called KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE and these two men give you exactly what you're expecting visually. I dug it.
I won't get into all the actors in the film, but they were all great in their roles. They were silly, over-the-top, and dedicated to each of their roles. I felt Jared Herholtz stood out as the killer Edwin, embracing the role. I also thought Isaac Kappy as Butzer Pie was very funny. And the cameo by Troma's own Lloyd Kaufman was great as well. I really liked the cast as they all worked well together to bring the script to life.
The DVD also has 2 hours of Special Features including:
- Audio Commentary by Co-Directors David Valdez and Philip Gunn and Executive Producer Darren Gunn
- Deleted Scenes
-"The Making Of..." Featurette
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE BLOWING UP MY WHOOPIE CUSHION
- Edwin scalped his roommate and squeezed his brains into the roommate's colorful cereal. Ironically, the Fruit Loop is Edwin himself.
- Some creepy dude warned the clowns not to go to Camp Sparkly Lake. I agree. Those TWILIGHT idiots live there. I'll take my chances with the mentally challenged mama's boy at the other lake.
- Edwin hooked the Southern Cowboy Clown and grounded his body into a machine that took grass and grouped it into a box. I guess the cops are gonna have to find a needle-dick in a haystack!
- One of the clowns had her boobs painted as puppies. This explains why her pussy is foaming at the mouth. Ew...
- A pie exploded in one of the clown's faces, killing him. This is usually a great thing...in bed.
THE FINAL HOWL
Never judge a film by its title or cover, because KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE happens to be a lot of fun and well worth a look if you love slashers. The film looks great, the narrative is solid for the most part [not all the jokes work], the acting is pretty good, and the homages will leave horror fans with smiles on their faces. If you like your horror-comedies tongue-in-cheek, you'll get a kick out of this one. Just make sure you laugh often. You don't want a bitter clown leaving you a deadly whoopie cushion on your seat...
3.5 Howls Outta 4