“Dead Clowns” from director/writer Steven Sessions is without a doubt an underrated gem. Never have I seen such an ambitious, delightfully ghoulish, super low-budget indie horror film get so undeservedly shit on by the horror community. Reviewers say the film is boring and cheap, however my response is that they simply did not understand what Sessions was going for.
The film follows several different characters in the Florida harbor town of Port Emmet as a heavy storm is slamming the area. Unbeknownst to the residents the storm has also awoken a group of clowns that died 50 years ago in the deep waters of the bay following an accident. Yes, the movie is about clown zombies and these clowns are out for revenge as the town has tried to erase the accident from history.
One aspect of the film reviewers fail to appreciate is its slow burning, rainy day atmosphere. The mood and atmosphere is constant and you become enthralled in it. While many may disagree with me I also like the pacing of the film. Most zombie films have a “get to this, get to that” kind of pacing. “Dead Clowns” on the other hand takes it time. While this might seem like a weird parallel it reminded me of the “Twilight Zone” episode The Invaders, as there is very little dialogue. There is much more of an emphasis on nightmarish and ghoulish imagery, particularly the scenes with the wheelchair bound Timmy (Eric Spudic) and the scenes with the Night Watchmen (Jeff Dylan Graham).
The clowns themselves are monsters that any horror fan can be proud of. These are not your typical low budget, pale zombies. Rather they are super rotten, ghoulish and remind me of something out of “Tales from the Crypt” or E.C. Comics. Steve Session deserves a lot of credit for going that route. Considering the backstory of the ghosts and the methods used to kill their victims the clowns also remind me of the pirate ghosts from John Carpenter’s “The Fog.”
Lastly, I can’t skip out on telling you horror hungry fiends about the gore in this film. These clowns don’t play nice with their victims. Heads are bashed, arms are chopped off, guts are ripped out, throats are slashed and eyeballs are mutilated in a nice nod to Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie.” All these death scenes are done in a very “Splattery” manner. Have I sold the movie to you yet?
I refer to this film as the perfect rainy day ghouls ’n’ gore fest. If you can forgive the low-budget, shot on DV look of the film and have the attention span. then you should be able to enjoy this one as well. Enjoy.
-James J. Coker