Tag Archives: Clown

CAPSULE: CHINGASO THE CLOWN (2006)

“Chingaso the Clown” runs for 15 minutes (12 minutes without credits) and can be viewed on YouTube in its entirety by clicking this link. The film is mildly Not Safe for Work (NSFW) and would likely be rated R for language and violence.

DIRECTED BY: Elias Matar

FEATURING: Quinn Larson, David Hyatt, Roberta Orlandi

PLOT: A man paints his face and heads off to seek revenge on crime kingpin Bastard the Clown and his Clown Army.

Still from Chingaso the Clown (2006)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Ending on a cliffhanger, “Chingaso the Clown” not really a full length standalone film; it’s a pitch for a feature that was never made. It’s not bad, but even at full length this action movie parody wouldn’t be weird enough to qualify for the List solely because its chief combatants wear greasepaint and crack bad puns.

COMMENTS: We at 366 Weird Movies pledge that we’ll give any movie a hearing, so long as it meets a basic minimum level of weirdness and quality. “Chingaso the Clown” is proof of that promise. However, we don’t promise that we’ll get to it promptly. The short film “Chingaso the Clown” was made in 2006, and we were asked to review it in 2010; at that point, director Elias Matar was still hoping to expand the short into a feature. He’s since made a different feature film (Ashes, a about a doctor who accidentally creates a zombie virus) and let the chingasotheclown.com domain expire, which suggests the project has been abandoned. Which is a bit of a shame, because “Chingaso the Clown,” the short, isn’t half bad, and almost certainly could have been turned into a viable feature ( has released much worse full length films, some of which were probably completed for less than it cost to make the short version “Chingaso”). The premise—an alternate universe in which unscrupulous clowns run the world’s crime cartels—is high concept enough, although the mime vs. clown rivalry angle is lifted from 1991’s Shakes the Clown. The acting is much higher quality than is usually seen in this level of filmmaking: as vengeful Chingaso, Quinn Larson has only one note but nails it; David Hyatt is suitably Joker-esque in the most difficult role as the villain; and former Miss Italy (and sometime television actress) Roberta Orlandi adds a touch of Hollywood glamor that legitimizes the project. The direction is also competent: angles and lighting are interesting, visual effects are inexpensive but judiciously used, and the film shows good attention to detail with no obvious continuity problems. The fight scene choreography could be improved but isn’t off-putting, and the script is mildly amusing throughout, with one, maybe two decent belly laughs. Is it weird? Not so very, but the B-movie spoof crowd would have eaten this up, if it was served to them cheaply enough (they’re a miserly crowd). Unfortunately, ‘s impressive The Last Circus was released in 2010 and pretty much stole the thunder from any subsequent clown vs. clown slugfests. Sorry we didn’t get to the review before that, but even a glowing review from us wasn’t likely to make the difference between funding “Chingaso” and letting the poor guy hang up his floppy shoes for good.

More important than the fate of “Chingaso the Clown” itself is what the movie says about the state of the low-budget film industry today. Two decades ago, before cheap digital cameras and the proliferation of broadband internet, the skill required to make a film like “Chingaso” would be in high demand. Today, however, competition is cutthroat: anyone can make a short movie, and most people who do are giving them away for free on YouTube. We, the entertainment consumers, are drowning in a sea of product, and at this moment in time it’s not good enough for a producer to be skilled. You’ve got to be lucky, too, and even going viral only gives you Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes to exploit your popularity.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…the film is so wonderful that it’s a shame the feature-length version has yet to be made… the excess of violence achieves a unique balance between the hilarious and the grotesque.”–Phil Hall, Film Threat (festival screening)

(This movie was nominated for review by “zinotchka.”  Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

Watch “Chingaso the Clown” on Youtube

CAPSULE: THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL (2012)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Terrance Zdunich, , Briana Evigan, Jessica Lowndes, Dayton Callie

PLOT: A suicide, a jewel thief, and a thug’s girlfriend die and find themselves at an afterlife circus run by the Devil; he reads the stories of their sins retold as fables, which they re-enact to musical accompaniment supplied by carnies.

Still from The Devil's Carnival (2012)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The Devil’s Carnival is a lot like director Darren Lynn Bousman’s previous horror musical effort, Repo: The Genetic Opera, only on a smaller scale. If that one didn’t make it onto the List, then logically this one shouldn’t, either.

COMMENTS: Hell is eternal musical theater! I knew it! The Devil’s Carnival looks like refugees from a circus took over unused sets from Moulin Rouge. Hell’s color scheme is candy apple red and hot dog mustard yellow, and all the demons have mime-white faces with black and red designs equally inspired by medieval harlequins and KISS. The plot to this musical is delightfully warped, in more ways than one. It involves suicide, thievery, and women in masochistic relationships, but it also benefits from a wild narrative that veers between reality, fantasy, and song and dance numbers at a whim. Fittingly, none of the denizens of the carnival seem the slightest bit surprised by any of it; the three hellbound souls receiving their poetic punishments wonder why they’re suddenly at a state fair designed by David Lynch for all of five seconds before they start accepting the dream at face value. I always like it when a movie script takes on too much and mixes its metaphors. Carnival starts off as Dante by way of Cirque du Soleil, then, one-third of the way in, after each of the three stories is already in progress, the Devil starts reading a book of Aesop’s fables which illustrate the sins (adding to the confusion, the last section, “The Devil’s Due,” doesn’t even refer to Aesop—the quote’s from from Shakespeare and the plot’s from nowhere in particular). Along with the three fables, we also get a backstage peek at the Devil’s lieutenant casting the night’s morality plays and a subplot about the Lucifer-God rivalry, all shoehorned in around a dozen songs in a movie that’s only an hour long. The script’s a mess, but I don’t mean that as a criticism: the overabundance of ideas and references in The Devil’s Carnival gives the entire enterprise a loose and crazy feeling that’s appropriate and appealing. The costume and set design is superlative, and the demonic hoofers—the Hobo Clown, the Painted Doll, and plastic-haired greaser Scorpion—are all a morbid hoot. Where The Devil’s Carnival loses me is with the songs. They are impressively staged and consistently performed in a Weimar-era German cabaret style. The Hobo Clown, ragged hat extended for alms, croons a demented doggerel silhouetted by footlights while a topless woman is whipped in the background (like all of Carnival, this is a surprisingly PG-13 rendition of some very dark material). But the melodies, while appropriately carnivalesque, aren’t memorable, and the libretto can’t match the ambition of the mise-en-scene. There’s too much repetition, and more than once the lyrics fall back on the cheap trick of incorporating children’s nursery rhymes to cop a little irony. Songs like “Kiss the Girls,” with a man menaced by a gang of sexy clowns in Bozo’s of Hollywood lingerie, look great, but make little sense. The lip-syncing is also frequently off, providing another distraction. Ivan L. Moody, a veteran of several minor metal bands with a surprisingly melodious baritone, gives the best performance; but the best conceived number is “Prick,” a love badly sung by a painted waif to a bullfrog that makes clever use of the double meaning in the title. Still, there is nothing here that you’d want to put on your I-Pod (Repo cultists, many of whom bought this soundtrack on the release date without having heard a note, may naturally disagree). Divorced from their presentations, the songs are all competent but forgettable, and, like its predecessor Genetic Opera, it’s that lack of memorable tunes that keeps The Devil’s Carnival from making the leap to the next artistic level. If Bousman could just borrow the talents of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, or even , for just a week sometime, he might make something really magical. The film is part of a planned series, and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Carnival may not have blown me away, but the best compliment I can give it as that it has me looking forward to the next installment—and, it makes me consider looking backward to reassess Repo.

While Bousman continues to make horror movies like Mother’s Day within the Hollywood system, The Devil’s Carnival cements his credibility as a cult filmmaker and suggests he’s dedicated to the more interesting, less-marketable horror-musical concept. The mid-range production values, cable TV-friendly naughtiness, cliffhanger ending and hour-long length of Carnival make it look like a pilot for an HBO series, although there’s no evidence it was ever intended for the small screen. The marketing of the film, which was self-financed by Bousman and partner Terrance Zdunich (who wrote the script and plays the Devil), is innovative: a VOD/Netflix streaming release, supplemented by a collector’s edition DVD/Blu-ray (limited to 6660 copies) and a “carnival road tour.” Hopefully this nontraditional distribution strategy will work and allow the pair to retain their artistic independence by selling directly to the fans.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Dismiss Repo and Carnival as weird musicals for weird people if you like, but there’s always room for a filmmaker who treats his ticket-buyers well and delivers something sort of … unsafe.”–Scott Weinberg, FearNet (contemporaneous)

VICTOR SJOSTROM’S HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (1924) STARRING LON CHANEY

He Who Gets Slapped (1924) is part of the 2011 Warner Archive Lon Chaney collection, and in this film Chaney gives one of his most natural, assured performances—in no small part due to director ,  who also directed Chaney, with Norma Shearer, in the following year’s Tower Of  Lies (unfortunately, yet another lost film).  Victor Sjostrom is something of an icon.  He was a favorite director of stars Greta Garbo and Lillian Gish, and his masterpiece, The Phantom Carriage (1921), was a considerable influence on .  After the coming of sound Sjostrom retired from directing to return to his first love of acting, but he still served as mentor to the young Bergman; Bergman repaid the favor by casting Sjostrom in the extraordinarily beautiful role of Dr. Isak Borg  for Wild Strawberries (1957, possibly Bergman’s greatest film).

After seeing the films Sjostrom had made in Sweden, Producer Irving Thalberg  recruited Sjostrom to Hollywood.  He Who Gets Slapped was the first film the director made at MGM, and it proved to be a lucrative endeavor for all concerned.  Sjostrom was one of the few directors respected by both Louis B. Mayer and Thalberg.  He Who Gets Slapped is based off the 1914 play by Leonid Andreyev.  The resulting film looks, thinks and acts far more European than anything Hollywood studios had produced at that time.

It is a tale of degradation, humiliation, pathos, and sacrifice.  Thankfully, it is a film in which we do not find ourselves rooting for the Donald Trumps or Paris Hiltons of the world.  Chaney is the destitute but prolific scientist Paul Beaumont, so dedicated in his work that he, inevitably, is rendered the oblivious fool.  Beaumont’s filthy rich patron is the Baron de Regnard (Marc McDermott).  Regnard has been helping himself to Beaumont’s selfish wife Maria (Ruth King) and additionally plans to steal the fruit of Beaumont’s scientific labors.

Still from He Who Gets Slapped (1924)The world of Paul Beaumont comes crashing down when Regnard presents Beaumont’s work, as his own, to the Academy.  Beaumont tries, in vain, to convince the Academy of the theft, but they take the side of the affluent Regnard as opposed to the unknown, poverty stricken Beaumont.  Beaumont is belittled  by his patron’s betrayal, by the mocking laughter of the academy, by the discovery of his wife’s infidelity, and, finally, by Regnard’s humiliating slap to his face.  It is a slap which Beaumont now obsessively echoes in repetition every night.  On the Continue reading VICTOR SJOSTROM’S HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (1924) STARRING LON CHANEY

FILM FESTIVAL DOUBLE FEATURE: THE LAST CIRCUS [BALADA TRISTE DE TROMPETA] (2010)/RAINBOWS END (2010)

Your faithful correspondent has returned from the field with reports on two offbeat festival films…

Still from The Last Circus (2010)Alex de la Iglesia bolsters his already fine cult film résumé (Acción Mutante, The Day of the Beast) with this b-movie styled action/melodrama that’s also an allegory for the Spanish Civil War. The movie’s best sequence is the prologue, where the Republican army conscripts a circus troupe into emergency action (“a clown with a machete—you’ll scare the s**t out of them”!) Flash forward to 1973, when the embittered son of one of the Shanghaied carnies embarks upon a career as a “Sad Clown,” but is immediately smitten by a beautiful trapeze artist. Unfortunately for him, the acrobat Natalia is the personal property of the “Happy Clown,” a psychotic, drunken woman-beater who just happens to be great with kids. The two mountebanks’ working relationship quickly turns sour as they take turns beating the greasepaint off each other in a brutal rivalry that eventually leaves both of them mutilated and insane. Which mad harlequin will Natalia choose? The Spanish Civil War angle is simplistic and neither adds nor subtracts from the narrative, which starts as a tawdry carnival melodrama and morphs into an action movie with a high-flying, clown-mauling showdown atop a giant cross. A few Sad Clown dream sequences–he keeps seeing his dead father and archival footage of Spanish pop singer Raphael singing a vintage ballad in clownface—add nominal weirdness, but these touches aren’t pervasive enough to raise the film above the level of aggressively offbeat. Still, there are those who are going to want to check out any film where an insane jester uses lye, an iron, and some clerical vestments to improvise his own clown costume, then steals a cache of automatic weapons and walks the streets of Madrid armed to the teeth with homicidal gleam in his eye. One final note: my movie-going companion was disappointed in the lack of variety in the clown-on-clown violence; he had been hoping to see a wide variety of Bozos brutalizing each other in an all-out melee. So be forewarned—if you consider two killer clowns too few, this Circus is not for you.

THE LAST CIRCUS [Balada Triste de Trompeta] (2010). Dir. Álex de la Iglesia, Featuring Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, .

Rainbows EndIf The Last Circus is edgy, Rainbows End occupies the opposite end of the offbeat spectrum—it’s whimsical. Ostensibly a documentary about six east Texas eccentrics on a road trip to California to pursue a motley assortment of dreams, it’s also one of the funniest movies yours truly has had the privilege of checking out in 2011. It’s the characters who drive the bus in this episodic feature—and in this case that bus needs a push start, leaks radiator fluid, and at times is literally held together with duct tape. Continue reading FILM FESTIVAL DOUBLE FEATURE: THE LAST CIRCUS [BALADA TRISTE DE TROMPETA] (2010)/RAINBOWS END (2010)

CAPSULE: BIG MONEY RUSTLAS (2010)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: Paul Andresen

FEATURING: Violent J, Shaggy 2 Dope

PLOT: Sugar Wolf, son of slain sheriff Grizzly Wolf, returns to restore law and order to the town of Mudbug, now in the grips of gambling baron Baby Chips.

Still from Big Money Rustlas (2010)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Despite the fact that both hero and villain wear “insane” clown makeup and speak in hip-hop patois, it’s the existence of this movie that’s really strange, not its content.

COMMENTS:  If you assumed there was no way a Western performed by washed-up white rap stars in greasepaint could fail to deliver some sort of camp value, then you’ve seriously underestimated the lack of wit of the bizarre cultural phenomenon known as the Insane Clown Posse. (So you’ll know what you’re getting into, in the DVD commentary, clown Shaggy 2 Dope confesses that, to him, a closeup of a horse’s anus is the funniest feces ever [to paraphrase]). Starting from a script that would have been rejected by Troma studios as too lowbrow, tasteless and juvenile, Big Money Rustlas ambles its way onto the screen with all the charm of a syphilitic cowpoke and all comedy value of Eminem doing a vaudeville routine. Since they’re merely inserting their generic gangsta personae into a generic Western revenge tale, the insane clowns need to stuff the movie full of gags to keep up the interest for ninety minutes; but the jokes overwhelmingly fall flat. The incongruity of two dudes in Stetson hats and evil harlequin makeup speaking dialogue like “give him his f***in’ money you platypus lookin’ motherf***er!” only goes so far. The novelty value fades away after about fifteen or twenty minutes, and Shaggy and Violent’s boastful, grating personalities take over instead. To be fair, there are a few decent jokes in Rustlas: Sugar Wolf’s mother, the town prostitute, also wears clown makeup, and there’s an Indian who sits by the town entrance with a jar of corn liquor and changes the Mudbug population sign every time a villager is killed. There are also isolated weird moments to jerk you awake: a gunfighter who inexplicably shoots laser beams from his eyeballs, and an S&M whipping scene with a mini-dominatrix lashing a clown wearing a baby bonnet. Most of what little entertainment value there is here, however, comes from watching the parade of near-celebrity cameos: besides relatively big roles for cult star Jason Mewes (the “Jay” of “Jay and Silent Bob,”) and retired dwarf porn star Bridgette Powerz, we also catch sight of Todd Bridges, Jimmy Walker, Brigitte Neilsen, wrestler Jimmy Hart, Dustin Diamond, Vanilla Ice, Tom Sizemore (!), and Ron Jeremy (it just wouldn’t be a crappy low budget comedy without a Hedgehog sighting). Most of the cast is made up of rap “stars” unknown outside of the Insane Clown Posse galaxy, guys like Monoxide, Boondox and (I kid you not) Blaze Ya Dead Homie. There is no rap music outside of the opening credits. More surprisingly, in a movie packed with profanity, violence, homophobia, toilet humor, and macho posturing, there is no nudity; this must be because of the Insane Clown Posse’s enormous respect for bitches.

This movie is a more expensive remake of/prequel to Insane Clown Posse’s 2000 effort Big Money Hustlas (which told the same basic story in a faux-blaxploitation style). Insane Clown Posse is a rap duo who had some success in the late 1990s. Until this movie, I was unaware that they still had a dedicated cult following (emphasis on “cult”) a decade later. ICP have created a small media empire for their fans, consisting of a stable of all-white rappers on their own “Psychopathic Records” label, an internet radio station, and a pro wrestling venture. Followers call themselves “juggalos,” emulate their hero’s makeup, and have their own private lingo revolving around “clown love.” If this internet petition is to be believed, some of them consider being a juggalo to be a religion. There have been so many violent incidents involving ICP fans (including the stoning of former bisexual reality star turned failed rapper Tila Tequila) that “juggalos” have been defined as a gang in some school districts. The fact that the mediocre music of these two arrested adolescents could inspire such slavish devotion in thousands of susceptible youth, without the band having scored a charting single since 1998, is far weirder than anything Shaggy and Violent could ever put on film.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…what the movie is essentially about is how much more awesome the two guys in clown makeup are than anyone else they encounter. That’s the movie’s worldview: women are objects, and anyone not wearing clown makeup should hand over their money and then be killed, presumably for not wearing clown makeup. Or maybe because they’re ‘insane.’ The Rational Clown Posse would never act that way.”–Patrick Bromley, DVD Verdict (DVD)

SATURDAY SHORT: UNCLE JACK (2010)

Jamin Winans, director of the Certified Weird film Ink, was commissioned by Pentax to shoot a short film using only the K-7 HD DSLR camera.  They couldn’t have picked a better person for the job.  Winans thrives on making quality cinema with a minuscule budget. Most everyone agrees, though, that Winans and his team would benefit from better funding for their future projects; they definitely deserve it.

BORDERLINE WEIRD: XTRO (1983)

DIRECTED BY: Harry Bromley Davenport

FEATURING: Bernice Stegers, Phillip Sayer, Danny Brainin, Maryam d’Abo

PLOT: A husband and father disappears one day while playing frisbee with his young son; three years later, he returns to the family as an amnesiac who eats snake eggs for sustenance.

Still from Xtro (1983)

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINEXtro is vying for the spot on the List reserved for an incoherent low-budget sci-fi/horror combo movie.  Unfortunately, that spot has already been filled by Phantasm, a more involving and iconic film; is there room for two films in the genre?  Xtro is definitely a b-flick of interest, but it’s inconsistent, and there seem to be better candidates for the List running around out there.

COMMENTSXtro makes the most of some fascinating and inventive exploitation moments that stick out all the more because they’re set against a poorly developed background story.  It features so-so acting (particularly from the not so precocious child co-star), dull patches of domestic drama, and an annoying synthesizer score by the director, who is no John Carpenter.  But people tend to forget all that, remembering instead the graphic scene where a woman gives birth to a full-grown man, who helpfully chews off his own umbilical cord after emerging!  It takes some work to upstage the nude scenes by a debuting future Bond girl Maryam d’Abo, which by themselves would have insured the film a semi-legendary status, but Xtro manages to come up with multiple gross-out tableaux that push d’Abo’s ta-tas into the background.  Most notable is a sequence where a dwarf clown kills the French nanny by conking her on the head with a rubber hammer, then uses her body to incubate alien eggs. Bizarre, perverse sexual imagery abounds: a woman is impregnated (through the mouth) by a phalluslike appendage that emerges from an alien’s body through a zipper built directly into its skin. At other times characters exchange what one presumes is alien DNA by sucking on each other’s sides or shoulders, which appears to produce sexual ecstasy.  A murderous giant plastic solider and a prowling panther who appears from nowhere add to the mad quality. The movie is set in comfortably cliched horror movie territory, so you always feel like you know where it’s heading, and yet the plot often makes little sense.  Most significantly, there’s no explanation for the alien’s motives for returning to Earth.  Presumably, Sam only wanted to retrieve his son, but why kill random folks and hire a clown to train the tyke in phantasmagorical techniques to murder the neighbors?  Why not just zap the lad up to the mothership, the way Dad was abducted in the first place? Arthouse patrons will want to stay far away, but fans of crazed, excessive b-movies may want to snatch this one up; the weird money scenes make the film linger in the memory longer than it really deserves.

Xtro was mentioned in the same breath as films placed on the British “video nasty” list, but it was never actually banned.  Although it’s shocking and definitely earns an “R” rating, it’s hardly among the most sadistic and offensive movies ever made.  The original ad campaigns played off the success of Spielberg’s then recent E.T. with the tag line, “Some extraterrestrials aren’t friendly.”  The DVD contains the original ending (lopped off by New Line Cinema for the American release), which is much different in tone and even weirder than the climax with which most viewers are familiar.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Weird but not wonderful low-budget horror that is a succession of odd moments rather than a conventional narrative.”–Halliwell’s Film Guide

52. SANTA SANGRE (1989)

AKA Holy Blood (literal translation)

“My mother is dead.  I had a terrible relationship with her.  She had many problems with my father, and she never caressed me.  So I didn’t have a mother who touched me.”–Alejandro Jodorowsky in La Constellation Jodorowsky

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Alejandro Jodorowsky

FEATURING: Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra, , Sabrina Dennison, Guy Stockwell

PLOT:  Fenix, a young carnival boy is understandably traumatized when he sees his knife-thrower father cut off his mother’s arms in a domestic melee.  Years later, he lives an animalistic existence in a mental asylum, until one day he escapes when his armless mother calls to him from outside his cell window.  The two perform a stage act where the son serves as the arms of his mother; she dominates his every move offstage, makes him serve as her arms, and orders him to kill, repeatedly.

Still from Santa Sangre (1989)

BACKGROUND:

  • After completing The Holy Mountain in 1973, Jodorowsky planned to make an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel “Dune,” which fell through.  He did not direct again until 1980’s poorly regarded Tusk, a film over which he had little creative control and which he has since disowned.
  • Santa Sangre is supposedly inspired by the story of a real life Mexican serial killer (whose name is variously given as Gregorio Cárdenas or Gojo Cardinas).
  • Young Fenix and adult Fenix are played by Adan and Axel, Jodorowsky’s sons.
  • The MPAA originally rated Santa Sangre R for “bizarre, graphic violence;” when the NC-17 designation began in 1990, the film was reclassified to the more restictive rating for “extremely explicit violence.”
  • Empire Magazine’s combined readers/critics poll voted Santa Sangre the 476th best movie of all time.
  • Before making this film Jodorowsky had founded an unofficial school of psychotherapy called “psycho-magic”; one of the basic tenets of the theory is a belief in a “family unconscious.”
  • The mother’s given name—“Concha”—is slang for “vagina” in many Latin American countries, including Jodorowsky’s native Chile.
  • The movie is an Italian/Mexican co-production, and was co-written and co-produced by Claudio (brother of horror maestro Dario) Argento.
  • OBSCURE CONNECTION: Producer Rene Cardona, Jr., himself a prolific B-movie director, was the son of the Rene Cardona who directed El Santo movies and appeared in Brainiac.

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  The most representative images are any of the moments where Fenix stands behind his mother and acts as her hands, especially when he is wearing his long red plastic nails.  The most affecting sight, however, may be a dying elephant with blood trickling out of his trunk.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  You could argue that Santa Sangre isn’t that weird, but that


Original trailer for Santa Sangre (German)

would only be in comparison to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s previous films.  Although he does deliver Felliniesque carnivals, an elephant funeral, a cult that worships an armless girl, a hermaphrodite wrestler, and graveside hallucinations featuring zombie brides, the obscure auteur actually scales back his mystical obtuseness a tad in this psychedelic slasher movie.  The result is his most popular and accessible film—if anything by Jodorowsky can be considered accessible.

COMMENTS: In a way, Santa Sangre is Jodorowsky lite.  Compared to his hippie-era Continue reading 52. SANTA SANGRE (1989)

CAPSULE: KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

DIRECTED BY: Stephen Chiodo

FEATURING: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson,

PLOT: Aliens from outer space, who look exactly like circus clowns, land their carnival-tent spacecraft near a rural town and begin abducting humans for unknown purposes.

Still from Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Killer Klowns is actually a very conventional spoof with an unusual gimmick that’s well-executed; it’s a bit offbeat, but as far as weird goes, it’s strictly entry level stuff.

COMMENTS: Although Killer Klown‘s kultists will doubtlessly be offended, this movie is gimmicky, rather than original. It’s a shameless retread of the old aliens-invade-the-earth-and-interrupt-teen-makeout-sessions plot with killer clowns substituting for a killer blob. Every standard plot cliche is squarely parodied, right down to the drunken coot who thinks the landing spacecraft is a shooting star and the fact that the cops assume the teen witnesses are pulling a prank. Switching out one-eyed scaly monsters for clowns is nothing but a gimmick, but it’s a good one, and it makes this formulaic exercise watchable. The movie is so stuffed with circus gags that just when you’re certain the script has run out, a new one emerges, like yet another harlequin squeezing out of an impossibly tiny car. Popcorn, cotton candy, balloon animals, shadow puppets, and banana creme pies all become implements of doom that threaten humanity’s very existence. These jokes should be enough to keep you reasonably entertained, but the costume and set design will vie for your attention.  The garish, oversized grinning clown heads evoke a campy coulrophobia. The interior of the big-top mothership is a candy-colored wonderland, with skewed funhouse sets that are even vaguely reminiscent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (and the eye-searingly bright colors and low-tech ingenuity anticipate the following year’s Dr. Caligari ). It’s also fun to see veteran character actor John Vernon ham it up as the crotchety kid-hating cop. All in all, it’s nothing earthshattering, but it’s a good time if your in the mood for a light, lightly bizarre comedy.

This film has a very powerful cult following, with Killer Klowns t-shirts and paraphernalia selling briskly to this day. I admit, I can’t quite understand why its fans show such a depth of devotion to this likable but lightweight flick. It might have to do with the fact that many people first see this movie when they are young and impressionable, when the concept of a comedy involving evil space clowns seems shockingly original and even subversive.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“This krazy, kooky movie strings together the creature feature with the alien movie, and pumps it full of dark humour, using that icon of innocent fun, the clown… Patchy but mostly fun, the basic clowns/circus/theme park-like fun idea is expanded as far as possible and worked to death…”–Andrew L. Urban, Urbancinefile.com (DVD)