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Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Heebie Jeebies | Fear of Clowns

By Steve Anderson
October 1st, 2005

Heebie Jeebies
***
DVD Directed by Doug Evans, Michael Hawkins-Burgos
Written by Doug Evans, JJ Shabesta
Starring Bobbie Jo Westphal, Michael Hawkins-Burgos, Jeff Lee, Angela Kane
Produced by Doug Evans, Jeff Lee
R
86 mins

Scriptwriters, lock up your vaults--"Heebie Jeebies" is at the door and it's stealing a fortune in plotlines. But what it DOES with those plotlines will leave you amazed and breathless.

So what we have here is yet another run at the Cassandra complex. And in a twist of fate that can only be described as a yawn so immense it defies logic, the main character's name is actually Cassandra. And Cassandra's been having dreams about old and dear friends, whom she hasn't seen in years, being murdered one by one. So rather than take the chance that she's right yet again, she throws a party, inviting all those old friends and placing them all in one place.

Naturally, you can figure out what's going to happen to these poor schmucks.

The reason why you should be slightly indignant about what you're watching right now is because Cassandra was a figure in what I believe was Roman mythology (maybe Greek...I'm not sure offhand) who was given the gift of prophecy, but cursed by being totally unbelievable. Everything Cassandra saw in prophetic vision would come to pass, every time, without fail, but absolutely no one would believe her. Ever.

Which beats the hell out of most so-called "prophet" types we get today--pretty much all of them are WRONG without fail.

There was even a movie back in the eighties called "Cassandra" that ran off this same basic theme.

And despite a plot that's built around a theft so balls-out egregious that it should be criminal, "Heebie Jeebies" still manages to be a fairly scary movie. Espeically in light of the fact that it turns out to be a three-vignette classic approach. Much like "Deadtime Stories" and the "Tales From the Darkside" movie, it's three stories with an overmastering theme.

The first backstory about shear-based serial killer Bobby Skates is an excellent example. Man, that sucker's creepy, I don't mind telling you. Especially the end of it right around nineteen and a half minutes in.

But then we get our first look at what shapes up to be the villain of the piece, a bag-headed machete-toting slasher.

This is ANOTHER highly egregious theft that should have horror mavens howling their dissatisfaction.

For those of you who don't habla, horror legend Jason Voorhees, before switching to the hockey mask in the third or fourth Friday the Thirteenth (I'm batting oh for two in terms of solid memory this time around) covered his head with a burlap sack, in much the same way THIS guy did in this movie. Jason's weapon of choice also was the machete.

But I can forgive THIS theft too when the first scarecrow shows up. Man, that's just creepy how that works out at twenty nine minutes fifty five seconds in.

The second little vignette, a clever little thing about three homicidal stone statues, is a HUGE ripoff in its own way to both "Trilogy of Terror" with its Zuni doll focus, and "Pitch Black" to its monsters that don't stand up well to light.

And the third, an alarming piece about a girl who hits a guy in the backwoods with her car and from there rolls off into a very disturbing series of events involving a wood chipper and some crazy backwoods folk (which was similar to "Fargo" but in a way so remote it almost doesn't bear mentioning) that is pretty much unlike anything I've seen lately. A real surprise, sure enough.

As somewhat of an aside, I applaud the fact that, while there are only Spanish subtitles, there's also English closed captioning available. Which, if you have the right TV, is basically the same as having English subtitles.

The ending, rather endings, are continually twisty and packed to the gills with surprises. This is like watching four good movies at the same time. The final ending, one hour twenty four minutes in, is positively fantastic.

The special features include deleted scenes, Spanish subtitles, English closed captions, bloopers, and trailers for "The Mangler Reborn", "Bloodline", "Ghostwatcher II", and "Saw II".

All in all, despite more thievery than Ocean's Eleven (through Forty Two) with a whole bunch of Italian Jobs added on for flavor, "Heebie Jeebies" is a formidable scary movie that is alarmingly well done. It is an excellent effort by any standard, and would be absolutely amazing if it weren't so dependent on homages.

 

Fear of Clowns
***
DVD
Directed by Kevin Kangas
Written by Kevin Kangas
Starring Rick Ganz, Jacky Reres, Mark Lassise, Carl Randolph
Produced by Marauder Productions
R
106 mins

"Fear of Clowns" is going to show us two very critical points of the entire concept of direct to video.

One, you can have original and truly well designed storylines that'll make you cringe from the suspense and leave you guessing up until the last few minutes.

Two, you've got to be really, really careful. Chances are you do NOT have the budget to do anything really funky with your special effects, and so anyone who's paying any kind of attention--coughTHECRITICALCOMMUNITYcough--is going to spot the wires real easily and that's going to hurt your credibility in the long run.

That having been said, let's take a look at what's under this particular big top. Lynn Blodgett is a professional artist who specializes in clowns. And in a horror movie, you know that's going to end poorly. Indeed it does, too, as Lynn finds herself, her friends, and her family terrorized by a clown. The one on the box art too--a real winner named "Shivers the Clown". Lynn's also going through a rather messy divorce from her insufferable prick of a hubby and a custody fight over her son Nicky.

The really big plus about "Fear of Clowns" is its fantastic plotting. There are a panoply of options open to us, and it's nigh impossible to tell just where the plot is going. You've got a clown stalking a woman. Is this a serial killer getting started? Is hubby out for payback? Is hubby just trying to discredit mom for the sake of the child custody? Is this possibly even demons from hell out for Halloween fun?

That's right. Halloween. This all takes place right around Halloween.

The first five minutes is stacked high and deep with creepy moments. Thirty seven minutes in will give you an excellent suspense building sequence with a good payoff, and more of these can be found throughout.

Which brings me to the one problem with "Fear of Clowns"--an overambitious special effects department.

Oh, where do I begin?

The beginning, I suppose. Like three minutes and forty four seconds. Way to ruin a perfectly creepy sequence with lousy special effects, guys! That clown was plenty scary on his own WITHOUT the poorly done tearaway face effect!

And then, we segue into this truly godawful sequence featuring a cop at the one hour and forty eight second mark. If you watch the way the arms are positioned as the "cop" gets his head taken off, you can tell that they've just swapped out for a mannequin.

Plus, a human head probably shouldn't CLATTER when it hits a windshield, nor should a corpse's leg bend at almost a right angle upward like that (one hour one minute twenty eight seconds), nor should the eyes on the head close of their own volition (one hour two minutes thirty three seconds).

Unless of course I've misinterpreted my limited medical training again, which is always possible.

The ending, shot in a movie theatre, was a fantastic touch, plus there's an excellent twist somewhat involving this gruesome clown lamp at one hour ten minutes thirty seconds.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, English closed captioning, audio options, and a collection of trailers that I can't seem to find on this promo DVD I got.

So all in all, "Fear of Clowns" was a solidly put together movie. Not all of the bells and whistles work the way they should, but that's not to say that the underlying movie isn't at least fairly well done. Closer attention and a bigger effects budget probably would have solved most problems, so rent with confidence.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line. 

Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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