GAGS THE CLOWN (2018) Movie Review

Gags the Clown Movie Review

Eight days have passed since the clown first showed up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Now, over the course of one night, four different groups of people cross paths with the clown everyone calls “Gags” and his true intentions are finally revealed.

From the first few minutes, it was hard to enjoy what could have been a great movie. Some very irritating camera decisions were made, even by found footage standards, though the film gets better as it goes (or at least our tolerance of it does). Ignoring all else — every good or bad thing that could be said about the film — this one decision really ruins things.

Now, I would love to be a champion of the film, as it has an important place in the growing Northeast Wisconsin horror scene. John Pata (DEAD WEIGHT, PITY) co-wrote and edited; Jake Martin (PITY) has a supporting role. Chicago natives Aaron Christensen and Tony Wash (both honorary NE Wisconsin residents) were actively involved. Great things have been coming out of the corridor between Oshkosh and Green Bay. This film’s use of Green Bay locations is excellent, though those familiar with the area will immediately notice that the Time Theater in Oshkosh doubled as the “Green Bay Theater”.

With the acting, Lauren Ashley Carter (“Jug Face”) is the strong point, really carrying the film. Her banter with Wyatt Kuether is the highlight of the picture, hands down. Others have said her talents were wasted, being reduced to a bumbling, foul-mouthed reporter. But quite the opposite is true. Carter’s delivery made her character arguably the “lead” in a four-way tale. Aaron Christensen also gives a great performance with a fair bit of range, though knowing him personally made it hard to see him completely embody the character of Charles Wright. (Sorry, Aaron, it’s me, not you. You did great playing against type.) Halley Sharp (who played Sara) was the acting weak spot, overemphasizing when she could have just let the role come naturally.

Genre promoter Michael Gingold, writing for Rue Morgue, feels the characters spend too much time arguing with each other (true), and believes director Adam Krause “throws a lot of postproduction glitches into the handheld/body-cam footage, which play as annoying distractions”. This is really the biggest problem with the film, hands down. Being “found footage” is annoying enough, but then to purposely make it appear worse? Aesthetically, it was the wrong decision.

Adam Patterson comes down even more harsh than Gingold, summing up by saying the film “is disappointing not because the performances are atrocious (they are) or because the story is generic (it is) but because there’s a seed of a good movie here”. While this is too strong of a rebuke, the final point is accurate. There is a good — maybe great — movie in here somewhere. Gags is scary, with a great makeup / costume combination. And his origins and powers have potential.

What seems to have happened is that Krause and company received a good deal of publicity for their original (staged) Gags sightings and thought, “Dang, now we need to do something with this!” The script was put in the oven, but taken out before it became a cake. Why is Gags back from the dead? What is the powder in his balloons? How does he pick his targets? There seems to be a lack of mythology here. To some extent, it could be argued this makes things more mysterious… but you have to at least give audiences a hint.

Like Gingold and Patterson, I must conclude I was ultimately disappointed. “Gags” played at Cinepocalypse 2018 in Chicago on June 26. This was its world premiere. Future screenings will happen in Green Bay and Oshkosh, where it no doubt will be a hit amongst audiences thrilled to see their hometown on the big screen. Distribution might be a bit harder to secure, though the creepy poster alone might make it a valuable property while clown tales like “IT” are back in the spotlight.

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