Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review: Clownado

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet

Written, directed and edited by Todd Sheets
Extreme Entertainment / FilmCore / Mem Ferda
100 minutes, 2019

A mash-up – given the right manic proportions – can be a fun ride. For example, the original Sharknado (2013) is a mash-up of disaster films like Twister (1996) and Jaws (1975). Well, now classic b-film director (truly meant in the most admirable way ) Todd Sheets has smashed-up the mash-up by combining Sharknado with the recent clown mania that has culminated in the remake of IT (2018; as of this writing, IT Part II has not been released yet).

John O'Hara (top), Bobby Westrick, Sierra Stodden,
Dilynn \"Fawn Harvey, Antwoine Steele
There are actually many film tropes used throughout Clownado that the aficionado of the genre are able to easily check off, but here is the thing: Sheets takes those – okay, let’s use the term clichés – and turns them on their heads by de-cliché-ing them and making them his own. Here is an example of what I mean: usually, when you get a group thrown together it’s usually overaged teenagers, such as the jock, the virgin, the whore, and the shy guy. Here, Sheets gives us the trucker, Hunter Fidelis (Bobby Westrick), the innocent Rachel (Sierra Stodden), the stripper with a good heart Bambi (Dilynn Fawn Harvey, a Sheets regular), and an African-American Elvis Impersonator (Antwoine Steele, also part of Sheets’ ensemble), roaming through Dixie Country. Why are they together and on the run? Well, that’s where the plot takes us.
Savanna (Rachel Lagen) is trying to rob and escape the evil clutches of her abusive husband, Big Ronnie (John O’Hara), who owns a run-down traveling circus. Of course this idea goes bad (as the bon mot states, “Make a plan, God laughs”), and she knows he is going to kill her. What else to do? Get the gypsy woman, Autumn Moonspell (infamous amputee ex-porn star Jeanne Silver) to place a curse. Through this action, Ronnie and his clown henchmen become demonized, able to use tornados to travel after her and our quadrant of heroes, who are eventually joined by tornado hunters Chris (Jeremy Todd) and Molly (Millie Milan, both also frequent Sheets flyers).

Rachel Lagen
Taking place all in one night, the story is one continuous chase and capture, filled with lots of blood and gore and a very nice body count when all is added up. Not only is the viscera not shied away from (i.e., off-camera), but it’s usually shown in close-up. Note that the kills are mostly SFX by Buckets of Blood Productions, which are not ”clinical” but are still rather quite juicy and filled with internal organs. Of course, with the inclusion of tornados and some of the splatter, there is a bit of digi-work added as well.
The acting is way over the top, as it should be in this kind of spectacle, but it should especially be noted about the performance of O’Hara, who plays Big Ronnie as a cross somewhere between James Cagney in White Heat (1949) and a shrill Margaret Hamilton in “I’ll get you my pretty!” mode, with lots (and lots) of teeth gnashing. He steals just about every scene he’s in.

The big cameo is from Scream Queen extraordinaire, Linnea Quigley, who plays the really nasty owner of the strip club that employs Bambi. In a geekizoid homage fashion, she is Spider, the same character from Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama (1988).

One of the things I really like about Sheets’ films is that he is not limited by a particular body type. Not everyone is a model who is size 0, or plastic surgery’d to the point where chests are practically immobile from overpacking. There is also lots of upper female nudity and cleavage to keep some viewers happy. As for the men, there are no Zac Efron wannabes who look like they fell out of a boy band catalog. Rather, Sheets’ cast is filled with people who look like those you might actually meet on line at the bank, eating at the table next to yours, or fighting a gaggle of giggling killer clowns from cyclone space.

This is actually a beautifully shot film overall, and Sheets gets some great angles and frame-work (especially when he combines the two), and the story never drags. There are some questionable actions taken by the characters to add time to the story, but these nasty clowns are entertaining as hell, and the fodder characters are fun as well and keep the viewer interested. When any main character is killed here, you may find yourself saying, “Oh, maaaaaan!” That’s a sign of viewer commitment, which is a positive squarely on the shoulders of the writer/director.

Right now, Clownado is playing on the Film Fest circuit; if you get the chance to check it out there, go for it. Distribution on a power label is bound to follow, and you could add this to your Todd Sheets collection. I will add it to mine.



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