Ambush Bug here, shamelessly donning my Ringmaster top hat to put the spotlight on a special series of AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS columns—Send in the Clowns! To celebrate the news that my new circus horror comic, PIROUETTE from Black Mask Studios is available for order in July’s Diamond Previews (item code JUL140937), I am going to be taking an extensive look at all kinds of clown horrors in film and other media over the next few weeks.
PIROUETTE is a comic I’ve been developing for a quite a while with interior art from the fantastic Carlos Granda and a first issue cover by Ale Garza. The story is described as Raised from infancy by duplicitous clowns who entertain by day and menace by night, Pirouette dreams of washing the paint from her face and escaping to a better life far away from her cruel circus family… because when the spotlights dim and the crowds disperse, the clown princess’ big-top dreams give way to a nightmarish world of monsters with painted smiles. The book hits all of the coolest of cool comic shops in September, but you’ve got to tell your store owner to order it now in order to get it!
I can’t wait for folks to see the book which I promise is filled with big top terror and death-defying danger. In the coming weeks, I’ll share some behind the scenes stuff about PIROUETTE at the top of each of these “Send in the Clowns” columns along with a look at some cinematic examples of Coulrophobia (the fear of clowns) and try to get to the bottom of why clowns are so damn scary!
Time to look into the future as this film isn’t due out for some time and is gearing up to tour festivals soon. But I had a chance to check it out early and below are some thoughts on CIRCUS OF THE DEAD!
CIRCUS OF THE DEAD (2014)Directed by Billy 'Bloody Bill' Pon
Written by Lee Ankrum & Billy 'Bloody Bill' Pon
Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Parrish Randall, Chanel Ryan, Roger Edwards, Brad Potts, Tiffani Fest, Ryan Clapp, Rusty Edwards, Mike Williams, Jed Duesler, Travis Steele, Steve Brooks, Jordan Bell, Madi Lane, Kyle Mueller, Sergio Gracida, David Chacon, Roy Shuck
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Rampaging clowns have been showing up in the news lately in the UK where reports of a clown scaring people on the street and even trying to open unlocked doors have not done well for the image of the children’s entertainers those in the clown community try to maintain. Billy “Bloody Bill” Pon’s new film, CIRCUS OF THE DEAD isn’t going to help matters much either as it follows a group of clowns on a rampage unlike any put to film before.
The story follows a band of clowns who work in a traveling circus, but this seems only to be a front for their main activities which is sadistically murdering and raping anyone who happens to cross their clowny paths. When the lead clown Poppa Corn (played maniacally by the hardest working man in horror Bill Oberst Jr.) notices a family in the audience that he takes a liking to, he leads his posse of insane clowns to the home of Donald Johnson (played by Parrish Randall ) where they stalk and kill his wife, abduct his children, and force him to join them on a crime spree across the countryside. Now the authorities are after Johnson, thinking he murdered his wife and abducted his kids, but little do the authorities know that Johnson is an innocent prisoner, pushed to his mental and physical limits by the evil clowns.
There’s a TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE vibe to this entire film as the level of lunacy reaches a fever pitch early on in this film and doesn’t let up until the end. There are all kinds of depraved horrors going on involving just about anything you can think of (and a few you dare not) that the clowns do to innocents and not so innocents. Though the clowns seem to be motivated by mayhem, this seems to be the only inkling of why these clowns do the crazy things they do. While Papa Corn in particular is quite eloquent in the way he doles out his torture and horrors, still, these guys are evil for the sake of being so and those wanting some kind of meaning to this madness might come up wanting.
I don’t want to take away from Oberst’s performance as Popa Corn. He is absolutely terrifying as the lead clown with his white face hiding penetrating blue eyes that seem to never blink. Oberst goes beyond any other performance I’ve seen him in, channeling a lunacy that is both memorable and horrifying.
While the film is full of scenes that will haunt and disturb, I did feel the runtime (clocking in at 1 hour 48 minutes) could use a bit of time in the editing room. While the violence does seem to intensify and there is a point to it all, I think some cutting, especially in some of the earlier scenes, could have made the whole thing view a whole lot smoother. That said, the climax at the movie theater, which is playing TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and JAWS as a double feature does exemplify that there’s a lot of love for horror going on with those making the film and the comparisons to TCM are accurate in the uncapped craziness that ensues.
Bill Oberst Jr.’s performance, some sadistic kills, and a level of lunacy few films have reached make up for the simplistic plot and semi-amateur performances by some of the background characters. The clowns are fully realized, with makeup indicative to their own personalities and different levels of lunacy among their ranks. Plus references to Pon’s previous short film DOLL-BOY (reviewed here) pop up all over the place and even show up in a great after-credits sequence. All in all, if you’re looking for mayhem with painted faces, CIRCUS OF THE DEAD is going to be for you and with a suggested sequel showing up after the credits, it looks like this is just the opening act to something warped and horrifying.
And finally…here’s the creepy clown of the day!
SPLASH AREA: NIGHT OF THE FREAKS/CLOWN HUNT
DOLL-BOY/ALL HALLOW’S EVE
THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL
FEAR OF CLOWNS I & II
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Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller. Don’t forget to order his new comic PIROUETTE from July’s Diamond Previews (item code JUL14 0937) today!