Thursday, September 23, 2010

'Killjoy' is an aptly named movie; it's not any fun

With another sequel promised (threatened?) before the end of the year, there seems to be no better time than now to review the original Charles Band-produced Killer Clown movie.

Killjoy (2000)
Starring: Vera Yell, Lee Marks, Angel Vargas, William L. Johnson, Dee Dee Austin, and Jamal Grimes
Director: Craig Ross
Producers: Mel Johnson Jr and Charles Band
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Hapless nerd Michael (Grimes) falls in love with Jada (Yell), a local gang-banger's girl friend, and summons a demon to help him get her. However, when the gang leader (Johnson) accidentially kills him, the demon takes the form of Killjoy (Vargas), an ice cream truck-driving clown, and sets about killing everyone that Michael felt crossed him, including the girl he loved.


"Killjoy" was Charles Band's first entry into the "killer clown" genre, as well as another entry in the string of "horror blaxploitation" films that Band created in the late 1990s/early 2000s. And it is a weak example of both, with Killjoy's antics being nowhere near clownish/circus-y enough, and it being far below 1999's "Ragdoll", and even a slight step down from "The Horrible Doctor Bones," which was released the same year as this film. On the bright side, though, we only have to sit through one pointless second-rate pop tune, unlike the excesses in the two previously mentioned films. Band must have either given up the dreams of a music side-business at this point, or someone related to the production got a clue that inserting lame music videos into the films wasn't helping anything.

The biggest problem with "Killjoy" is it was made with only a fraction of the budget needed to do this film right, a mere $150,000. The concept of a demonic clown recreating a mystical sideshow/fun house in an urban environment has the potential to be very creepy and visually very cool, but that potential is wasted here, as it only manifests itself with a few badly done signs and a couple of garishly lit, cramped sets that look more like generic alleys than part of a demonic fun house with an inner-city theme. The lack of budget also meant a minimizing of make-up and special effects needed to make the trio of gory kills committed by Killjoy as powerful as they could be. The filmmakers clumsily try to make up for the lack of effects budget with creative camera angels, but there was no Mario Bava or Alfred Hitchcock within miles of this production. I think there was even an occasion where the editing made the cover attempts look even clumsier, such as when Killjoy runs into one of the characters with his ice cream truck.

Second, the script is badly written and relies almost entire on the characters being dumber than snot while uttering some of the worst lines of dialogue I've come across in a Full Moon picture. I've no doubt that most inner-city gang-bangers are idiots--if they weren't, they'd be able to hold down jobs and make honest livings--but you've got to be a special kind of idiot to not noticed a revolver is loaded... and downright retarded to get into the truck of a freak dressed like a clown just because he promises you free drugs. There are also a few continuity issues, but I'm not sure whether those arise from a sloppy script, sloppy editing, or missing scenes--such as the sense of disconnect between Jada getting a panicked phone call from her friend following one of Killjoy's murders and Jada arriving at her friend's apartment. And then there's the magical, mystical appearing/disappearing homeless man. What is he supposed to be, other than a vehicle for exposition that they writer was either too lazy or too artless to think of a scene that could have provided it while perhaps even giving some depth to the film's characters and the supposed neighborhood they live in.

And finally, there are the actors. I don't think I've ever expected great performances from the stars of Charles Band films--even if sometimes they do deliver just that--but I do prefer to get something a cut above what we have here.

Admittedly, the featured actors don't have much to work with in this film, but most of them show so little life and talent that they manage to drag the material down even further than it already is. Dee Dee Austin (the heroine's best friend) and Lee Marks (the heroine's new boy friend) are particularly bad. Austin has limited screen time, which is a blessing, but Marks' bump-on-sidewalk performance is like a dead spot in every scene he's in.

The only two actors who are even close to decent in this film are Vera Yell and Angel Vargas. Yell is passable in most scenes--which is a good thing, since she is the most prominently featured actor in the film--but she does very well during the film's climactic fights in Killjoy's "fun house." And Vargas is just a lot of fun as the psycho killer clown... although I think he might come off as good as he does because he is surrounded by so much drabness.

I am giving "Killjoy" what is perhaps a generous Three Star-rating, because the only time I felt the urge to reach for the remote control was during the shoe-horned song/music video/ad near the end. Although far from good, the film did remain mildly entertaining for its 80-minute or so running time.









This film proved to be a tipping point for me. I realized that I was not so much looking forward to viewing it, as dreading it. More and more, I'm coming to feel like there is very little that Charles Band has touched post-1999 that's worth going out of your way for (or even watching at all).

Does anyone out there have a recommendation of a Full Moon or Charles Band-produced film from the past ten years that is good and that I haven't reviewed yet? I've had a long streak of bad movies here. Can someone point me to a good one? Please?

2 comments:

  1. Hate. Killjoy. Just garbage, the 3rd film isnt as bad as it should be, but I cant stand the first. Will try to think of some rec's for you Steve!

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  2. I have heard it's an improvement on previous "Killjoys," so that withering part of me that's a Charles Band fanboy is hoping that it will also be an improvement over most of what his name has been associated with over the past decade.

    "Doll Graveyard" and "Casino of the Damned" gave me hope that maybe things were looking up, but recent releases have been on the level of some of his worst films from years gone by. (Okay, he still hasn't repeated the awfulness that was "The Killer Eye" but I'm growing increasingly fearful that he might....)

    On the other hand, if "Gingerdead Man 3" shows the same level of improvement that "Gingerdead Man 2" had over the first "Gingerdead Man" film, maybe it will be on the level of the "classics." I am holding out hope... but will also appreciate any recommendations. :)

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Thanks for sharing your opinion. I love seeing what fellow fans have to say!