Showing posts with label horror movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror movies. Show all posts

27 April 2015

Clownsploitation

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For me clowns have never been scary, just odd. For the horror genre, clowns are an easy fix, ready made monsters building increasingly ominous public relations with a dubious audience. Last year American Horror Story; Freakshow pulled clowns into the spotlight with the macabre Twisty. Jon Watts’ Clown has already kicked of 2015 with its graphic, but considered, remoulding of clown mythos, whilst the poster for Gil Kenan’s Poltergeist update is shameless clownsploitation. The remake of Stephen King’s IT has been announced and supposedly bogged down in a 6-month hunt for the new Pennywise. It’s the perfect time to take advantage of killer clowns, but why?

Ronald in 1963
Firstly, clowns are perfectly poised to embrace a darker reading, so it’s no surprise there’s been a flip in public opinion. The clown is granted certain rights to behave in a transgressive manner, his history of over-blown exaggeration, childish sentiment, and disturbing mood swings a socially alienating display. All of it performed through a disguise. As a race, we’re not overly comfortable with masks and makeup since they obscure the face, making it harder to read. In a clown’s case the make-up is meant to offset the behaviours and facial expressions, purposefully drawing attention to the conflict of emotions. Pair this with the clown’s specificity to children and it’s like instant-mix monstrosity. So I wonder, really, when were clowns ok?

I also wonder what the public reaction was to Ronald McDonald when he first appeared back in 1963. With his soda-cup nose and food-tray hat, he was arguably the first televised commercial clown- besides Bozo. He probably didn’t act as creepy as Burger King’s ‘Creepy King’ in the 2003-2011 ads, though. The famous Burger King adverts are a masterclass in how to make your brand as recognisable as possible for all the wrong reasons. In them, The King appears in passive aggressive silence to accost folks with food. Ronald never got up to this kind of nauseating eeriness, but it calls into question the idea of a mascot in general, especially a clown.

R. McDonald Patent
Though perhaps not purposefully eerie, Ronald is a thing of questionable origin. Clowning is a full performance, a thing meant to be respected and admired on many levels but it’s been robbed of its nuances. The make-up and outfit were originally exaggerated to be seen at the backs of large crowds and sound usually accompanied movement. It seems unsurprising that face-to face confrontation with this larger-than-life persona would become uncomfortable. But remove the clown from its home environment, strip away the many levels of performance, and you remove a dimension leaving the clown a 2D TV advert. Even the patented image of Ronald McDonald submitted in 1963 is startlingly eerie. Ronald didn’t ruin clowns, but the low-res 2D image of him might have.


Screen Clowns


Pennywise kicked off a whole generation of Clown-fear

Say what you like, but the clown is now a horror icon, tellingly earning a place in the climactic “revenge of horror” sequence from Cabin in the Woods. The horror genre pegged clowns’ potential for nightmarish stardom early on. Tobe Hooper’s classic 1982 film Poltergeist famously brought clown terror home in the form of that doll. The 1990 TV adaptation of IT seems to have cemented
the clown in the public conscious and become the killer clown. Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise is arguably the perfect case study in the sub-genre because in actual fact the threat of IT is an amorphous otherworldly being who takes on the guise of whatever its victim fears most. Its default setting is Curry’s camp-as-Christmas loony, hinting that clown-fear is the common fear amongst the children. So even the most famous evil clown isn’t even a clown! It’s a thing that exploits the history of the clown to terrify or lure depending on its prey. Though, two years before IT visualised King’s Lovecraftian terror, Killer Klowns from Outer Space crafted a pop bubble-gum sci-fi adventure out of our relationship with clowns. Killer Klowns seems somewhat dumbfounded, citing them as space creatures in an attempt to point out just how abnormal they and their collective iconography really are.

Captain Spaulding
Indy horror flicks kept the beating heart of clown horror alive through the 90’s, until Rob Zombie’s debut feature House of a Thousand Corpses in 2003. In it, Sid Haig plays sadistic carnie Captain Spaulding, a deep-south House of Horrors host and member of a Manson-esque family of sadistic killers. An animal in or out of make-up, oddly likeable in his blatant insanity, terrifying in his brutality, Spaulding is a very contemporary kind of killer clown. In her essay for Horror After 
9/11, Linnie Blake cites Zombie’s creation as the embodiment of hillbilly horror; a kind of blue collar under-dog rising up to consume middle-America.

Zombie followed up this psychedelic cult jigsaw puzzle with his far superior horror road movie The Devil’s Rejects. In it, Spaulding’s anarchic behaviours seem born of a similar rage to those of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, embodying a kind of post 9/11 self-consuming nihilism. The terrorist slant on Ledger’s Joker, along with the amplified psychosis and terrifying public displays of apathy, only helped to put stock behind our uneasy relationship with clowns. No scene better encompasses this unease, perhaps, than the film’s bank-heist opening. In it, Ledger’s Joker moves anonymously amongst a group of clown-masked robbers, only to orchestrate their deaths, and reveal himself as wearing even creepier clown make-up under the mask. The fear we have as an audience stems directly from the fear that even once the make-up is removed and the disguise is lifted, we are still left with a monster.
The Joker

2015 has seen the release of Watts’ Clown, an Eli Roth-produced monster flick with some surprisingly horrific moments of violence towards kids. The perpetrator? A loving father slowly transforming into a child-eating monster after donning a demon clown’s skin suit. Clown even goes back, Rare Exports style, to incept an ancient demonic origin for the clown costume and make the outfit a carrier of evil. Wisely the whole film plays off just how odd clown iconography is, very similarly to Killer Klowns from Outer Space, it’s just less interested in making us laugh. Exploiting a growing trend, Clown fulfils the promise of violence to children in some wholly gruesome ways.

It doesn’t matter how many clowns we see on the screen though, because we’ve already accepted the clown as an archetype of terror, like a scarecrow or a zombie or a vampire, the clown now has its own language and representations in the real world. The immersive world of zombie role play has guaranteed flesh-eating undead their place in the canon for years to come, but that doesn’t come close to the possible grounding of clown fear.

True Crime Clowns

Clowns got a bad rap, we got that down now. Putting deep-seated psychological discomfort towards disguises aside, and ignoring the haunting cinematic representation of clowns, there’s a much darker and frankly more unsettling idea at the heart of clown horror.


Gacy as Pogo
In the 70’s John Wayne Gacy murdered some 30 young men and buried their corpses under the crawl-space of his house. It’s a famous story now, the man-hunter who performed as a clown at children’s hospitals. Awkwardly, Gacy never wore his make-up whilst killing, but the public like to imagine he did because it would make more sense. In 2012 James Holmes stood up in the middle of a screening of The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire on the audience, killing 12 people. It was the largest shooting in Colorado history since the Columbine disaster of 1999. When the police apprehended Holmes, he had dyed orange hair and allegedly identified himself as The Joker.

Movies don’t make people kill. It’s impossible for a film to make a sound-minded person go out and murder people, but Holmes’ case does prove the allure of the clown’s anarchic side, or the willingness to dump transgressive behaviours on the character.

Here in the UK, operation Yewtree, the ongoing apprehension of unchallenged sex-offenders, is revealing something awful about the permissive persona of the entertainer. Jimmy Saville’s once glimmering public opinion poll has collapsed under the strain of his innumerable and graphic offences against children. His hair, cigar, and outfits now the costume of high-profile sex offender. Though it isn’t a direct feed into clown terror, it’s part and parcel of the public view towards entertainers in privileged positions. Saville was widely respected for years as a children’s entertainer, but his hospital visits have racked up more offences than Gacy’s ever did. It’s shaken the foundation of British opinion, and the numbers are still tallying.

Google creepy clown and a hundred pages of hear-say will flood the screen. Chicago 2008: a clown is seen all over town, approaching kids in play parks, standing on street corners, the news has a field day warning people about a man carrying balloons, he’s also driving a white mini-van. The event seems questionable; no one reports any crimes, just as they didn’t when it happened back in 1981 in Boston. Surely both are just resurgent memories of Gacy, acted out by fresh-faced newbies to their home city’s bloody history?


The Northampton Clown

The Northampton clown, an eerie but otherwise harmless character, popped up mid-2013 and officialised himself via Facebook on Friday 13th of September after months of standing on street corners creeping townsfolk out. Despite the hopes and dreams of a thousand horror fans, he certified his good-natured prank as simply that, a prank. Check out the Killer Clown on YouTube to see some wholly upsetting clown-related scares but know that 5 French teens were arrested for forming a weapon-wielding anti-clown brigade in the wake of those prank clown appearances. Now fear of clowns is inciting “vigilante justice”? Images spread via social networking do most of the work for the clown, our repertoire of horror iconography fires into gear along with that primordial distrust. Though social media cuts away the third engrossing dimension of clowning, it doesn’t help that people are actively feeding the fire of the “killer clown”.

The transformation from innocent entertainer to monster has come with years of clowning around in the horror genre and proximity to macabre crimes. Each event adds to a tapestry of references that make clowns a faster shorthand for chaos and deviant behaviour than anything else. Real life stories of clown horror have given grounding to our anxieties, but this repetitive exploitation of the clown has made it totally unknown to us and that’s the problem. When reduced to a visual, slapped on products, tweeted, and reblogged, the clown is more anonymous than ever before. On the cinema frontier, Clown seems destined for a franchise, The Return of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space is slated for 2016, and Cary Fakunaga’s IT will eventually find a Pennywise. The future of clown horror seems secure, flourishing even. The future of clowning however seems questionable; the craze of their suspected evil-doing a trans-national hoax spinning wildly and worryingly out of proportion.

SCOTT CLARK



Clown 2015




               
               

                

11 December 2012

Horror Channel to screen Classic Cronenberg Season

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Pascal Laugier, Simon Rumley & Sean Hogan present three of Cronenberg’s most influential masterpieces,Saturdays January 12 until January 26, 10.55pm

Horror Channel showcases three of David Cronenberg’s most defining films with a season that can’t fail to shock and awaken the senses. SHIVERS, RABID and THE DEAD ZONE all receive their Horror Channel premieres, exclusively introduced by top horror directors Simon Rumley (Red White & Blue), Sean Hogan (The Devil’s Playground) and Pascal Laugier (Martyrs).

Saturday January 12 @ 22:55

The season kicks off with the premiere of SHIVERS (1975), Cronenberg’s debut full-length feature that helped coined the phrase ‘Body Horror’. The infectious plot sees a parasite enter the bodies of people living in a Montreal apartment block and consequently turns them into libido driven, sex mad zombies. Clearly a fan of the genre, Cronenberg cast the unforgettable Hammer Horror siren Barbara Steele in what was to become one of the most iconic scenes in the film.

Sean Hogan on SHIVERS: “I chose Shivers because, much like the sexual parasites that drive the plot, the film burrows under your skin and leaves you with strange, dark feelings. It announced the arrival of a bold new voice in horror and after it, the genre was utterly transformed: The New Flesh had arrived”.



Saturday January 19 @ 22.55

Next up is the premiere of RABID (1977) in which Cronenberg is once again flirting with the themes of strange science and even stranger sex in this blood-lusty follow up to Shivers. This time a young woman becomes a test subject for an experimental skin graft when she survives a horrific motorbike crash – but her new skin demands feeding…Starring Marilyn Chambers, this is Cronenberg’s twisted take on the Vampire genre.



Saturday January 26 @ 22.55
Last in the season is THE DEAD ZONE (1983), in which Cronenberg teamed up with Stephen King when he adapted his novel THE DEAD ZONE. Filmed during a relentless deep freeze in Southern Ontario, this horror thriller stars Christopher Walken. As Johnny Smith – a man who wakes from a coma to find he’s lost five years of his life but gained psychic powers to foresee the future – something of a gift that soon becomes a curse.

Simon Rumley on THE DEAD ZONE: “This was one of the many classic small town American movies I watched when I was growing up and for a teenager from Kent it was intriguing and creepy and had, at the time, two of the coolest actors in the world - Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen”.


TV: Sky 319 / Virgin 149 / Freesat 138 


25 September 2012

Horror Channel Stalks The Airwaves With Slasher Season

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Horror Channel will be slicing its way through our TV schedules every Friday night throughout October as it celebrates slasher films, both classic and contemporary, From Oct 5 there will be four double-bills, headed up by four UK TV premieres. Seen as the most controversial of horror film sub-genres, the slasher film has delighted fans for over 30 years with its iconic psychopaths, trend-setting special effects, horny teenagers and outrageous plotlines. From ‘Psycho to the hilarious Scream franchise, these endearing films forever changed the face and fortunes of horror cinema.

Fri Oct 5 @ 22:55

The season kicks off with the premiere of  GOING TO PIECES: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SLASHER FILM (2006) a documentary which features a host of genre legends including Wes Craven, Rob Zombie & John Carpenter, who take us on a journey to the darkest recesses of cinematic shock. This is followed at 00:40 by BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). Bob Clark’s Sorority House
horror classic, which stars Olivia Hussy, influenced such spine-chilling greats as Halloween and Scream
Fri Oct 12 @ 22.55
Next up is the premiere of the bone-crunching WRECKAGE (2010) directed by John Mallory Asher in which four friends head to a scrap yard to look for spare parts – but soon realise the only spare parts they’ll be getting their hands on are their own!. This is followed at 00:40 by high-school slasher favourite PROM NIGHT (1980), starring the original scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielson. There is also an actress in the film called Liz Stalker-Mason.
Fri Oct 19 @ 22.55


Martin Kemp, the famed actor/musician has turned his hand to horror, bringing us his impressive directorial debut STALKER (2010).  Its not often that a woman stalks another woman in this genre and here Jane March, who found fame in ‘The Lover’, plays the part of a psychotic female to chilling perfection. This is double-billed at 00:25 with HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981) starring Melissa Sue Anderson as a high school senior whose birthday party guests are being killed off one by one…

Fri Oct 26 @ 22:55
The last double-bill of the season features the TV premiere of THE TORTURED (2010), directed by Robert Lieberman, in which a desperate mother and father (played by Jesse Metcalfe & Elise Landry)decide to take the law into their own hands after the kidnapper and killer of their son receives a light sentence. .  Concluding the series at 00:30 is cult classic MANIAC COP (1988) written by Larry Cohen and starring Bruce Campbell as the suspected cop who goes in search of the real killer.
TV: Sky 319 / Virgin 149 / Freesat 138

30 August 2012

Gore goes global as Horror Channel serves up A World SINema Season

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Gore goes global as Horror Channel serves up three slices of sinful celluloid in its World SINema Season – three premieres that highlight taboo, terror and blasphemy

Fridays at 22:55 from 7 Sept, 2012

 


The season kicks off on Friday Sept 7, 22:55 with THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001) from Spanish Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Torro.  Beautifully shot and immensely creepy the film explores two different types of horror – the very real horror of war and the exploration of horror experienced through a child’s eyes (Carlos), one of ghost’s and the supernatural.

Guillermo has stated this is his favourite work so far, and was a 16 year labour of love. It was influenced by early memories of seeing his uncle come back as a ghost and the creepy spectre that appears to Carlos was based on the pale faced ghosts in Japanese horrors like The Ring.


Next up on Friday Sept 14, 22:55 is THE ANTICHRIST (1974), which delves dangerously deep into the blasphemous aspects of demonic possession.

Ippolita, a young woman wheelchair-bound and sexually frustrated, finds herself under the spell of Satan himself when she becomes victim to an ancestral curse of witchcraft and possession. She starts seducing local men, only to kill them and an exorcism seems to be the only solution to stop the madness

The controversial Satanic orgy scene will certainly have a few tongues wagging with its implication of bestiality


The last in the season on Fri Sept 21, 22:55, is one of the most absurd, gruesome French horrors ever made – BABY BLOOD (1990)

Yanka, a young circus performer, is pregnant but morning sickness and fat ankles are the least of her problems when a new leopard from Africa is delivered to the circus – a beautiful beast hiding a hideous creature within.

And as the months progress, Yanka suffers from an overpowering appetite... for blood. Or rather, her unborn baby is screaming for it. And she is forced to kill and kill again…


TV: Sky 319 / Virgin 149 / Freesat 138