Bingo the Clown-o
TORMENT. 2008
Director: Steve Sessions

THE CLOWN MURDERS. 1976
Director: Martyn Burke

THE CLOWN MURDERS. 2008
Director: Chris Hanson

FEAST OF FOOLS. 2003
Directors: Robert Kleinschmidt
& Tracey Waaka

SAUSAGEHEAD. 2004
Director: Josh Williams

BINGO THE CLOWN-O. 1995
Director: Chris Landreth

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Torment I've been trying to guess why pseudo-filmmakers with no qualifications have in the first decade of the new millenium been so attracted to putting their psychos in clown costumes.

Formerly abject amateurs at filmmaking made zombie flicks because any moron can buy some hamburger meat & film their friends eating it raw, splashing themselves with crushed cherry jello all the while.

In an even earlier generation of either childish or actual child filmmakers, Ray Harryhausen inspired stop-motion filmmaking of playdough dinosaurs shot frame by frame on top of a wobbly cardtable.

I'm guessing the the current generation of no-talents are so young, or at least so immature, that they've really not as yet noticed that anything but clowns are scary. They screamed in terror at the party clown their misguided momma hired for their sixth birthday, & the've never developed a greater understanding of fear.

And of course there's the issue of how easy it is to get dressed up as a clown. Often the outfits look store-bought from a discount costume company. At most, the filmmaker just needed his mommy to sew him some motley.

TormentBy saving up his lunch money he can buy a variety of colors of grease-paint, unless he's too fat & food-obsessed to skip any meals, in which case he can just get a clown mask marked down 70% the day after Halloween.

Add to that mommy's best steak knife, if she'll trust the guy not to fall on it, & the only other thing you need is a borrowed digital camcorder from a pervy uncle who likes to film him & his girlfriends doing it.

Before the new millenium, if you could raise ten thousand dollars to make a movie, you'd have all the basics in hand for a five-minute film. To self-fund a feature film on a frycook's salary was impossible, therefore talentless wannabes really had to think deeply about the achievement-to-debt ratio.

But with a digital camcorder, the same ten-thou can result in a feature-length amateur movie, which might actually get distributed. This, at least, is how I explain the existence of such films as DeadHouse (2005), Purvos (2004), Killjoy (2000), The Fun Park (2007), Hellbreeder (2003), or Mr. Jingles (2006), & a slug of others.

TormentAnother such example is Torment (2008). Dissecto the Clown (Lucien Eisenbech) wants to do his magic tricks for the young Mormon missionaries who've come to his country home & not been allowed to leave.

Most slashers delight in killing nubile maidens so I guess we've got to give director Steve Sessions a Brave Little Toaster Award for daring to menace a couple guys even John Wayne Gacey wouldn't do.

In complete clown drag with an enormous pull-over clown head of hideous design, Dissecto looks rather like a Punch doll come to life. Creepy enough, though nothing even close to the horrific clown on the box. As so often with films that have nothing in them much worth looking at, the dvd box features a painting of an event nowhere to be seen in the film's content.

We get to see first one & then the other Mormon painfully killed in Dissecto's torture-chair, to the sound of jolly music from a vintage 78 record.

This is an obvious bid to cash in on the torture-porn craze sparked by the Hostel & Saw franchises, cross-fertilized with the growing number of psycho clown movies. The torture is lamely choreographed & very badly photographed. But at least the clown has a special little magic-act guillotine with which to take off a chubby Mormon's hand, & it's nice to have a prop that might actually belong to a clown, unlike most psycho-clowns who have the same weapons as non-clown psychos.

TormentLaura Wiggington (Suzi Lorraine) is perhaps so-named because she's known to wig out. She has just gotten out of the nuthouse.

Her alcoholic husband Roy (Tom Stedham) has promised to take her to a rented cabin in the woods. Instead of the typical slasher's cabin, however, this one's a two story house by a drainage ditch. It looks like any suburban home in the interior.

Here in the tract house that's supposed to be a cabin, Laura & Roy can express their mutual hatred & neediness, while Roy refuses to believe his batty wife is seeing a clown outside the house. When he's summarily killed it's nice to just be rid of him as a character.

Production values are what one might expect from any thirteen-year-old-kid who made a short film for youtube. The director must really find clowns creepy since he already made a zombie clown movie, Dead Clowns (2003) which was no better than this one.

When Dissecto gets Laura in his torture-chair & prepairs to do a clown act for her, he keeps threatening to do bad things he doesn't do, but finally breaks all the fingers on one of her hands. Then a police officer comes to the door & Dissecto gets sidetracked killing that idiot.

This gives Laura a chance to loosen her bonds & prove shes' got some fight in her when Dissecto returns. He turns out to be a fairly wussy clown. After she kills him, she's cleaning blood from herself in the bathroom, kind of forgetting her fingers were all broken. She looks at Dissecto's array of clown make-up, & realizes she wants to be a psycho clown! Movie over.

Sessions can't direct people, & these people probably couldn't act even if a competent director tried to get something at least average out of them. The script is beside the point, the "twist" ending as lame as they come. Dissecto has no back-story or depth, but he does have a creepy mask & he does have clown traits.

TormentIf the only important thing in a Z-slasher is the gore, it perhaps doesn't matter if it scores zero stars on everything else.

And yet even for the gore, apart from the hand-amputation & about two seconds of what happens to Dissecto's eye, there's not a lot of gore either. The body-count is low & the film is unnecessarily dull from bad pacing.

I've seen very few positive reviews of this & it's easy to see why it has no champions even among fans of truly awful films. I did stumble on a couple positive reviews on bulletin boards that permit anyone in the public to post commentaries, but these are easily detected as the director or his friends posting stealth spam.

I wouldn't condemn it as strongly as most have done. I'll give it, instead of stars, a shrug & a so-what. It's not the worst Z movie I've seen this week, but it's sure not the jewel in the sewage tank I'm always hoping to discover.



The Clown Murders Despite how the dvd has lately been packaged, The Clown Murders (1976) is not a psycho-clown movie & nothing particularly bloody happens, unless killing a chicken counts.

The Canadian film predates the drive-in-movie slasher craze of the 1980s, & the killer-clown subgenre really only arose with a vengeance in the new milleneum. In 1976, though, The Clown Murders probably seemed fairly novel for a junky thriller.

An early role for the late John Candy provides opportunity for fat-people jokes. Even when he overacts his weepy emotional breakdown, you can almost tell he was a talented guy, & he is the stand-out amidst an otherwise unheard-of cast.

On Halloween night, a group of businessmen who seem to know each other through the country club dress up as clowns & set out to kidnap Allison (Susan Keller) who got married to despised land developer Philip (Lawrence Dane).

The Clown MurdersThese fools act out of sundry churlish grudges, yet had somehow convinced themselves this was a good practical joke. As the seriousness of what they've done seeps in, they begin to bicker among one another, at least two of them potentially dangerous.

Personalities of various characters unravel in front of each other, each revealing their flaws, fears, life disappointments, bad tempers, or insecurities. As a set of character-studies it's not invariably boring but it's certainly not what viewers want when they rent a dvd with an evil clown on the box.

There is an killer clown on the loose, & eventually there's even a tiny bit of killing, not necessarily intentional.

The "mystery" is which clown is mostly likely to be trying to kill the others. Misleading clues are supposed to keep us from guessing right, but it's an easy guess. Just ask yourself "which one of 'em is least likely to be the culprint" & you'll have the answer.

The four guys aren't sure whether or not it's one of them, for they aren't the only ones dressed as clowns. They themselves provided twenty-six other country club members with clown costumes. And this evidently takes place in an alternate universe where ordinary businessmen just generally prowl neighborhoods on All Hallow's Eve.

The point of the film is to reveal everyone's unfortunate natures. Though cheap to the highest degree, with a poor dvd transfer, it's nevertheless atmospheric, & would probably be enjoyable for viewers who like minor, biting trillers. But it's apt to be boring to most folks who picked it up because of the false promise of a psycho clown.



The Clown Murders Encountered on youtube under the title The Clopwn Murders: 1966 True Crime Case (20088), this short subject is six & a half minutes long consisting mainly of an 8mm home-movie footage introduced as having been taken in 1966.

It shows creepy clowns in an actual Christmas parade, edited, with a very evocative carnival-terror musical soundtrack, to enhance the creepiness of the mundane.

Featured among these clowns is Danny Finan aka Danny the Clown, who on Christmas Eve not long after this footage was taken killed his wife, mother-in-law, & two children.

The fact that clowns seem creepy even when they're trying to be fun guys worthy of children's love seems all too ironically proven authentically evil by this footage.

Five minutes in, there's a quick bit of footage of the family members destined soon to be dead, after which some of of the parade footage is shown with artful color-shifting & minor FX, which insures a bit of originality beyond the greater amazement of the film's effectiveness as "found art."

The Clown MurdersAt the end, the vintage footage runs out, & the film shifts to text, with just enough information about the murders to insure a lasting sense of horror & dread.

Danny was "in character" in his method of murdering his family in their beds, each head having been encased in giant balloons causing death by suffocation.

When the balloons were removed by investigators, each of the bodies' faces were "completely made up in hideous clown make-up."

[SPOILER ALERT!] The killer was arrested a few days later while performing in a New Years Day parade, in his new female persona of Bestsy the Clown. Finan is still serving a life sentence, but is occasionally permitted supervised visits to a children's hospital so that children can experience the entertainment value of a psycho clown.

I hate to give away the joke because it's fun to watch this short film with some slight belief that it might be exactly what it claims to be. But most viewers will have surmised from the closing text that this is much more of twisted short story than a "true" crime, & Chris Hanson of Diabolical Brainiac Productions has trumped up a few other "true" crime videos that are cinema verite fictions. [END SPOILER ALERT]

Chris Hanson is one talented weirdo, & hopefully someday his inventive true-crime films will be gathered onto dvd with an actual distribution deal.



Feast of Fools Among evil clown short subjects is the charmingly upbeat & jolly six-minute stop-motion animation for Feast of Fools (2003) depicting a cluster of cannibal circus clowns.

Josh Williams' short subject Sausagehead (2004) is a ten minute evil-clown comedy with a pretty decent soundtrack by Jay Neilson halfway between lullaby & nightmare music, which is what real lullabies frequently sound like. Not much else about Sausagehead is as smoothly done.

It opens with a young woman, Lacy (Johanna Mihalko), on her knees scrubbing the toilet in a public bathroom. She hears someone calling her name & laughing hysterically. She looks in the other toilet stalls, & there's a rotten-toothed yellow-haired clown's head (Matt Scott) stairing up at her out of a toilet.

SausageheadThough he seems to be in a helpless spot, he begins threatening to eat Lacy's head off, "Because your head tastes like sausage." So Stacy stuffs her dirty toilet brush in his mouth & tries to clean him out of the toilet, before fleeing the bathroom. Personally, I would've flushed him.

As she's running through hallways, the clown suddenly appears in front of her not even wet from the toilet. Stacy does a "scream queen" moment, holding the scream as long as she can.

A poorly filmed & badly edited chase sequence follows until Lacy is running through the streets, the clown managing to keep up though he's only sauntering along behind.

In a park, she keeps running into the clown. He acts menacing in a retarded sort of way, & she begs, "Please, don't eat my head." As he's about to bite her head, he smells a string of sausages in her pocket, takes them from her, & runs off into the misty night, hugely delighted.

A nice try at a comedy short, but the humor falls flat, nor is the clown is at all well designed or well played.



Bingo the Clown-o Bingo the Clown-o (1995) is a three-dimensional computer-animated five-minute short about a young man tormented by clowns. They are trying to convince him he is Bingo the Clown-o. It's excellently expressive animation & emotionally harrowing despite that it's laugh-out-loud funny.

The small film's script is an elaboration of a skit or mini-play put on by the Neo-Futurist Theater Company of Chicago, & the opening bit of the film records a fragment of that exceedingly funny 1993 performance. After a scant half-minute of the original skit, it turns into splendid animation with Dave sitting in a chair in spotlight.

Bingo the Clown-oA creepy clown smoking a cigarette saunters into the light & insists Dave is Bingo. When Dave denies it, the clown becomes aggressively insistent. The clown gets bigger & more fightening as he threateningly insists Dave is Bingo the Clown-o.

A very tall gaunt girl-clown enters & demands music. An incredible set manifests all around Dave with robotic televisions indoctrinating him that he's Bingo. He seems to be in a circus ring, terrifyingly manic events focused on him & his imposed identity.

A small childlilke clown then enters & warns "Bingo" that "he's" coming. Soon the innocent looking little clown becomes monstrous.

The attempt to brainwash him into believing he's Bingo persists in the most bizarre manner with various crazed clowns screwing with his mind. At long last he breaks down & believes it. Only after he announces loudly & gaily that he is indeed Bingo is he dismissed, because he's not Bingo. Brilliant wee film, available among other Chris Lambert shorts on the dvd Ryan: The Special Edition (2005).

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copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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