2017 will see the publication of a new book on Charles Band’s Full Moon Pictures. Assembled and co-written by Dave Jay, author of Empire of the Bs, Matty Budrewicz and I were honoured to contribute a couple of chapters which analyse the post-Millennium franchises of Band’s production house.
While both The Gingerdead Man and Evil Bong films have their merits – and I’m serious, Evil Bong DOES have its merits – it’s undoubtedly the Killjoy franchise that’s the greasepaint-laden jewel in the Full Moon crown. Beginning life at the turn of the century as a bid to capitalise on the urban trend du jour, the baton passed to Tempe titan J.R Bookwalter for the sequel, before finding its current home under the wild-eyed insanity of John Lechago.
I mean that as genuine term of endearment too, as out of all the filmmakers I’ve spoken to over the past few years, there’s no-one that can hold a candle to the micro-budget ambition of the Canadian wiz. For example, his enthusiasm as he described to me just how he’d put his slant on the Puppet Master franchise had me slack-jawed in wonderment, but with the conversation finishing on “… then the puppets have to run around like the face grabbers of Aliens”, is it any wonder?
The genesis for KILLJOY’S PSYCHO CIRCUS, the fifth instalment of the series, can be traced back to the 2012 shoot of Killjoy Goes to Hell. “Pretty much all the way through shooting Killjoy 4 I was already thinking about what do to for Killjoy 5”, Lechago told me from his Los Angeles home last year. “I wanted to continue the relationship between Batty Boop and Killjoy, so it’s going to be a love story basically. Well, a kind of love story. It’s them dealing with their new found mortality. They’re dealing with life on earth! Homeland security, immigration, lawyers, paying bills. It’s not easy to be an evil clown in this day and age!”
True to his word, and despite the usual budgetary restrictions that go with low-budget filmmaking, that’s pretty much how it’s turned out, with Killjoy now semi-mortal on Earth and fronting his own Letterman-style web-based chat show, complete with a total earworm of a jingle; “Motherfucking Killjoy, Motherfucking Killjoy…” in a helium-laced Pinky and Perky style pitch. At his side are the ever-faithful Freakshow the (now talking) Mime (Tai Chan Ngo), and also the carny-lingual Punchy the Hobo Clown (Al Burke). However, since Batty Boop (Victoria De Mare) left him, life just isn’t the same for the potty-mouthed harlequin, and Batty’s on-screen replacement, Luanne (Robin Sydney), fails to make his red nose throb. Meanwhile, back down in hell, Beelzebub (Stephen F. Cardwell) plots his redemption for letting Killjoy escape, and sets about heading to Earth to capture his nemesis.
Continuing its remarkable trend for bucking the law of diminishing returns, Killjoy’s Psycho Circus is not only the best film of the franchise to date, but it also ranks alongside The Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust at the very peak of what Charles Band has produced in the last decade: (there seems a satisfying synergy too that both movies are set predominantly at the fictional Cheetham Studios).
Beginning with a cheeky riff on the Brian May-penned Flash Gordon theme, Killjoy (Trent Haaga) is having a Jake La Motta-esque moment of reflection, as Lechago’s picture quickly hits its stride with a never-ending streak of in-jokes, parody, irony and existentialism, culminating in Killjoy welcoming Trent Haaga as a guest on his show. “Now, you didn’t actually play Killjoy in the first movie” ponders the clown, in a moment of meta brilliance that will have you booming “Bravo!” from the comfort of your sofa, as you watch on with a level awe usually reserved for the darlings of indie filmmaking.
Granted, the not-so-subtle product placement may grind a few gears, as well as the Evil Bong crew popping up momentarily, but with Larnell (John Patrick Jordan) wise-cracking to the max (“Don’t piss in my ear and tell me that it’s raining”), you have to give credit to Lechago for blending such distractions in with the minimum of fuss, not least the crowdfunding perk of donors being an extra.
With a budget that amounts to the daily craft service bill of your average Michael Bay movie, Lechago bookends his opus with a visually dazzling interplanetary spaceship battle, which perfectly epitomises the unhinged ambition of the director. If you lost a little love for Full Moon a few years back amid Band’s never-ending predilection for tiny terrors and weed-based comedy, then Killjoy’s Psycho Circus should go a long way to healing that rift.
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