Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
Give us a horror movie with a greasepaint-laden felon, and we’re a contented crowd. CLOWN KILL, the latest low-budgeter with a red-nosed wretch may hover precariously over the second-hand dustbin of doom at times, but it just about manages to surf the crest of mediocrity to be a passable entry into the ever-growing legion of direct-to-video clown fodder.
“It all came about because the finance collapsed on a project called Ed Wallace and the Z Team”, director Mark Howard told me this week. “They brought a new backer on board, but he had his own pet director, which meant we were off the gig. So as not to breach the contract, they ended up completely rewriting the script and changing the title to The Zombie King. This left us a six week hole in our schedules, and as we already had a second draft of Clown Kill we just went for it”.
While The Zombie King may boast a cast that includes Corey Feldman and Edward Furlong, the fact that it’s forgettably turgid must at least provide Howard with a satisfied smirk at being pushed aside. All the more pleasing is that it pales in comparison with Clown Kill, which centres around the life of Jenny (Jessica Cunningham from The Apprentice), who after being subjected to a heinous sexual assault in a pub toilet, finds herself working as an advertising executive in an out-of-town office complex six months later.
It’s a motley crew of cohorts that accompany her in these drab confines, trapped under the unrelenting glow of fluorescent lighting. From John (the excellent Roy Basnett), her dictatorial arsehole of a boss, to the leering maintenance guy known as Cyclops (co-producer Steven Greenhalgh), to the slimy building supervisor (Simon Entwistle) who’s partial to under-the-desk fellatio, to the mixed bag of security guards – it’s an infestation of the type of misogynistic male that you swore had died a cinematic death sometime in the eighties.
Thankfully Cunningham brings her renowned assurance to Jenny, which comes in handy in the final third, as while staying behind to tackle a never-diminishing workload, she discovers that she’s being stalked by Charlie Boy, a psychotic clown. It’s here that Clown Kill shrugs off the shackles of an overly talkative first forty minutes, and heads into a real purple patch thanks mainly to the delicious accent and gloriously over-the-top performance of the pasty-faced villain.
Whether or not Howard would have forseen this career turn to micro-budget movie-making a few decades ago is unlikely. Embedded in London and working as a photographer for the music press, it was only in the last ten years that the Mancunian decided to step into the director’s chair, and with Clown Kill being shot three years ago, it must have been a surprise to see it finally hit DVD. “Well, the original VOD release after the Horror-on-Sea screening in 2014 did help to raise the films profile, but we found that sales soon dropped off, so I’m delighted to see it getting a second lease of life on disc. We did a deal with Wild Eye Releasing at the end of 2015, and Rob [Hauschild] came up with the title – which I think is great! He’s the 21st Century Roger Corman! He really knows how to sell a film”.
With regard to the films UK distribution, it was handled by perennial also rans Left Films. I must admit though, I’ve been buoyed with a slight upturn in the quality of the acquisitions at the Wales-based indie of late, with My Little Sister (2016), Scars (2016) and The Horror Network (2015) all managing to avoid the shameful turnaround of supermarket purchase on the Monday, eBay on the Tuesday. It was a relationship though that Howard admits didn’t quite meet expectations; “Well, I didn’t get a copy of my movie. It’s pretty disappointing to have to go down to ASDA to buy your own copy. We also spent a lot of money mastering in 5.1, so I’m very miffed at the two channel stereo mix that they used. But hey, I like their cover design.”
I’ll agree, it’s certainly an eye-catching sleeve, and despite the gradual deterioration of the UK home entertainment sector, the face of a rabid clown gracing the box art of a DVD will still manage to guarantee you sales of a few thousand units, with a little supermarket backing of course. Mark Howard deserves that exposure too, for despite its flaws, Clown Kill does come with a tentative DTV Junkyard recommendation, measuring a reputable Killjoy 2 (2002) on the five-pronged Trent Haaga inspired clown scale of ascending awesomeness, with Killjoy 5 (2016) being the pinnacle. “It’s ok”, concedes Howard, “It’s entertaining. I like the humour, the security guards are great and I love some of the moments of verbal sparring. I’d change shitloads if I was to re-edit, as I had to cut a lot of the clown breaking the fourth wall, but it just resembled Funny Man (1994) too much!”
Currently sitting with a Liverpool-based zombie infection movie in the can, Howard is keen to revisit the wild insanity of his lead character in Clown Kill. “It might happen if the sales are good, and we do have a really decent script ready, that goes in a direction that you wouldn’t expect. It just takes a little time to pull these things together”. I’d certainly give old Charlie Boy another opportunity to impress, and hopefully next time out Howard will unleash him for a longer spell, as he’s sitting on a character that could really make an impact on barebones British schlock.
Clown Kill was released in the UK on the 15th May 2017
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