Evil clowns, as part of our cultural fabric, have included Batman's archenemy the Joker; Buggy the Clown in the anime series One Piece; Sweet Tooth the Clown in the Twisted Metal video games & similar c;pwms in the video games CarnEvil & Harvester; as the villain of an episode of Star Trek: Voyager titled "The Thaw"...
There's Captain Spaulding in two Rob Zombie horror films House of 1,000 Corpses (2003) & The Devil's Rejects (2005); as a menacing semi-sidekick to the hellborn hero of The Spawn (1997); the evil clown-doll in Poltergeist (1982), besides being the central figures of an annually expanding sub-genre of slasher films about psycho killers who dress as clowns.
The majority of the psycho clown movies aren't much to shake a hatchet at, though I've made it one of my more ridiculous goals in life to see all of them.
Now & then there's one that rates pretty darned high, like the very disturbing Vulgar (2000) with a killer clown out for justifiable vengeance; Clownhouse (1989) which artfully understates its psychotic clowns premise; Final Draft (2007) with killer clown as psychological manifestation; or Let's Visit the World of the Future (1973) which postulates a dystopia ruled by tyrannical clowns.
More often the psychopath who dresses as a clown might just as well have dressed up as an automechanic, he's just a maniac with a knife who has no distinctly clown-like qualities.
An exception was the ultra-low budget Torment (2008) with the villain eager to perform standard clown tricks that have decided bite.
And then there's 100 Tears (2007) which more than overcomes its tiny budget to deliver everything a slasher should, with a clown that has creepy panache.
Gerdie the Clown's rampage gets a high rating for amount of gore, & in general 100 Tears does exactly what one expects from an exploitation film. It's a good film of type, not one of those "so bad it's good" sorts of good, but honestly well done.
The victims are numerous & for the most part nameless & without personality, though one couple has a superb dialogue about escaping & running away (though the girl has had her legs chopped off) & "for what the film intends to be" that was a wickedly funny piece of genuine pathos very convincingly delivered by the soon-to-be-dead lovers.
That sequence reminded me of a comic strip by underground comix genius Vaugn Bode, with one of his lizard-characters having had his arms & legs lopped off & stowed in the back of a cave with his stumps bandaged. He's got a sneaky look in his eyes as he thinks, "When they go to sleep tonight, I'm escaping."
The short version of a review would end here with the promise that indeed this is a gore flick that delivers, plus a footnote to "Be sure to stick around to the end of the credits."
But I'm gonna tell ya more than that. So you should consider not reading the rest of this until after you see the film, as if you're a gorehound in search of the slashers that are actually worthwhile, this one's on the priority list, & you won't need too much revealed beforehand
The opening credits deserve their own review. We're treated to a themesong by The Voodoo Organist, who is impersonating Tom Waits. Waits is so maximumly excellent that even a half-as-good imitation is pretty cool.
The behind-the-credits imagery is pure art-horror with close-ups of a rather amazing & creepy collection of clown figurines. These figurines are all the grosser for having not been designed as horror.
That clown collection actually belongs to the director, who started collecting them when he was a child. When he got too old to collect such nonsense, he kept at it anyway, suspecting even before he entered the film industry that he'd someday need them for an evil clown movie!
Intercut with the figurines are images of Gertie the Clown putting on his black & white clown make-up. He's so effing disgusting!
He's played by Jack Amos, an older characater actor of real talent. He had to create a body language that was part classic European clown, part American psycho, & reveal an intriguing array of emotions or intentions without ever having a speaking line. He was absolutely brilliant.
Often times in low-budget films, the first few minutes of are superb, as they've been put together by very expert opening-credits specialists whose talents exceed those of the filmmakers proper.
That's why so many films start out looking & sounding totally professional & even the score is well done. But then it all take a nose-dive in quality when the credits end & the first inept actor opens his mouth to speak a moronic line.
This time though the director in charge of the whole film did those credits. There'll be a musical number later that is practically a music video unto itself, in an art-horror style similar to the opening. And eery scene with Gertie in it is artful & appalling.
There is one thing to criticize about that opening, which ends with a "money shot" just before the film-proper begins. It's confusing because one doesn't know this whole bit was a foreshadowing, & we'll return to it near the end. So one can wait the entire film wondering how the first scene fits.
Well, it's a microbudget film after all; there had to be at least one problem. Still pretty great when most such films have a new problem with every running minute.
Our heroic leads aren't world-class actors to say the least, but they quickly grew on me because their roles were so interestingly written.
A guy writer & gal photographer for cheap tabloids work together, seemingly live together, even fall asleep fully clothed in each others' arms. But whether or not they are or could ever be actual lovers is never clarified.
What's more important is their devoted friendship, something all too rare in any sorts of films, such as rarely assume men & women can be each others most intense best buddies without it being sexual.
Mark (Joe Davison, who also wrote the script) is a chubster. Jennifer (Georgia Chris) is a babe, pretty much the same couple you see in a lot of sitcoms with a fat comedian & his sleek beautiful wife.
Mark is satisfied to write for tabloids, but Jen wants to report something serious, which somehow she has imagined would be a full investigative report on an unsolved serial murder case of twenty years prior, a killer who seems recently to have started anew.
They set out to do their own detective work. They've soon linked the murders to the comings & goings of a carnival.
As they close in on their subject, there are numerous cut-aways to Gertie's activities, providing us with a series of well staged gore-gags heightened by the presence of Gertie's frightening gigantic meat-cleaver.
The limb-severings & head-loppings keep coming at regular intervals, alternating with Jennifer & Mark interacting with carnies, & getting closer & closer to Luther Edward Baxter; aka, Gertie the Clown.
Particularly winning is the carnival dwarf, Drago (Noberto Santiago), who is in the middle portion of the film quite a lot, & even has a special ringmaster sequence for a sampling of the carnival act.
Foremost Santago's a very talented guy , which can't be said of all the support cast. Plus I've said it before, & I'll say it many more times in the future: No film with a little-person in it can ever be completely worthless. How much better to have a little-person in a good film!
Gertie is searching for his daughter Christine, who he has never known due to his twenty year absence.
She turns out to have inherited dad's psychosis & has recently murdered her mother. When the clown shows up he manages, though mute, to reveal to her who he is. Father & daughter quickly bond & she takes up sledgehammer to join him in a festival of carnage.
Christine is played with fantastic aplomb by Raine Brown, who in one of the extras notes that she'd formerly played doomed scream queens & was delighted to be the killer for a change.
That delight shows in her body language, facial expressions, & delightful giggle. There's a commentary track among the extras & even the director conveys amazement at the mad genius of her performance.
Gerdie had been so well played that it is phenomenal having a secondary psycho enter the story didn't result in a comparatively poor performance. How can a pretty slip of a girl compete with a gross-out clown for demented charisma?
Well, she pulled it off. They are both truly excellent; the familial connection makes them equals at insanity, the mute clown & the happy-go-lucky Christine wondrously slaughtering together.
And thus a film that had already been entertaining me no end suddenly got me bouncing in my seat with hoorahs when daddy's little girl joined the fray.
The final encounter between hero & heroine, & Christine & Gerdie in the warehouse, is protracted & delirious, in contrast to the often perfunctory killings leading up to this climax. Mark though a fat guy leaps about like a ninja trying to survive. Jennifer's beat-down is I must admit stomach-churning.
We hope oh so much that our leads survive, they've been such likeable mutually supportive people. But there's also a niggling fondness for the two psychos who if killed won't be able to come back in a sequel. How it works out I won't reveal, but it's got a couple good little turns to it, & will greatly satisfy.
The closing credits feature a song by Voltaire "When You're Evil" that was so dementedly excellent that it induced me to stick around to the very end of the lengthily rolling credits. And I'm glad I did, for the film's closing notes.
Then I was off to the Extras, which for a truly bad movie I wouldn't've bothered with, but for a good one I wanted more. Nice extras, that reveal how much affection for the horror genre went into this work.
It's so nice to find that when a gore flick works really well, it's because the talent involved deeply understand that most of us love horror because it has precisely this potential for a darkly beautiful aesthetic, not because we're nutcases who don't care if a film completely sucks just so long as the blood flows. We may have gotten used to settling for less, but 100 Tears is our furtive dream.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl