Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Borderline Cult | Dead Clowns

By Steve Anderson
August 1st , 2005

Borderline CultBorderline Cult
no stars
DVD
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Written by Ulli Lommel

Starring Elissa Dowling, Christian Behm, Patrick Faucette, De Vida Grey
Produced by Ulli Lommel, Nola Roeper
81 mins
R 2007

Why?

Why do I open my mailbox and find a Lions Gate package only to find that Ulli Lommel is still allowed to make films?

Every time I crack open a box with that man's name on it, I die a little inside. I can almost feel it shrivel up and wither away to a cracked, bleeding nothingness as I come to the inevitable conclusion that this monster is still given a shooting budget.

And, as the opening menu rolls, scenes of women being tortured play out before me and the back of the box cries its assent--"Borderline Cult" is rated R. For strong brutal violence, torture, and language.

You know what to expect by now...it's Ulli Lommel. Three serial killers band together to kidnap and torture hundreds of women in the border town of Juarez. That's it. No plot, no story, not even the basic rudiments of narrative to break up Lommel's latest string of kidnap-and-torture. Lemmel has apparently given up on even trying to put out a story in favor of just pure, full-on, misogyny and torture. Which is probably just as well--every time he's tried before I've mocked his feeble, shoddy efforts mercilessly and he probably figures it's better to just not bother.

Ah, but there is HOPE, o my readership. Apparently you and those like you have been paying attention. The torture porn subgenre has been losing ground of late--after the box office slow death that was "Captivity", it does not bode well for vile, one trick ponies like Ulli Lommel.

But if this is one of Lommel's last--which I certainly hope it is--he's going out in grand style even for him. The first five minutes will involve what looks like needlenose pliers. In fact, Lommel's work will be enough to make you wonder if he's getting kickbacks from Home Depot by the end of things...he's got pliers and a foldable limb saw and a shovel and just all manner of home improvement devices put to their most diabolical of uses.

Cannibalizing his own miserable body of work, "Borderline Cult" uses much the same plot devices as "Black Dahlia", in which Lommel brings in one victim, kills them, and then goes back for another, over and over again, until he's run out of film or budget or even just paper to write the horrible misery of a script he's shooting from. He even goes so far as to lock them in the same chickenwire cage.

Not even the ending can dredge up a point for this vile bit of Lommel slop--it's mostly just the last torture victims screaming their lives away interspersed with a trip to a fortune teller before revealing the final "scores" of so many other serial killers, and how they stack up against our killer here.

The special features include Spanish subtitles, audio commentary, a stills gallery, deleted and alternate scenes, and trailers for "Borderline Cult", "The Condemned", "Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck", "Brutal", "Mummy Maniac", "Haunted Boat", and Fearnet.com.

All in all, what a complete waste of time this movie is. What a complete waste of money and effort that could've gone into something with a story, but no. No, this is a movie where a bunch of people die for no clear or convincing reason, just three assholes in the desert who wanted to get famous and be remembered for something.

What a complete waste of time.

Dead ClownsDead Clowns
*
DVD
Directed by Steve Sessions
Written by Steve Sessions
Starring Debbie Rochon, Lucien Eisenach, Brinke Stevens, Eric Spudic
Produced by Carol Reordan
94 Mins
R
2007

You know...when I first got a copy of "Dead Clowns", I looked at it, and all I could think was, this is too good to be true.

Zombie clowns. Seriously. Zombie. CLOWNS. That's what "Dead Clowns" is about. A circus car carrying a load of clowns fell into the bay, and fifty years later, in the midst of a hurricane, the clowns come back from the dead to take revenge on the living who left them buried in their watery tombs.

Now, think about this. It's zombie clowns. Two of horror's biggest archetypes rolled into one? It's like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup that fits in my DVD player and lasts for ninety minutes! You got ZOMBIES in my evil clown movie! You got EVIL CLOWNS in my zombie movie!! Even if this sucks it still can't be that bad! The sheer ballsy audacity required to bring together these two elements--a move, I might add, that has never been done before that I can recall--is a stroke of originality unlike anything seen before.

But then, I was forced to reconsider. An all-too-familiar name drifted by on the cast list, and my jaw dropped. None other than one of my most reliable bad movie barometers: Eric Spudic. Oh holy shit, I couldn't help but think, Eric SPUDIC is in this? Every movie I've ever seen that involved Eric Spudic in any way has been relentlessly craptacular.

So what could I do? I held my breath and plunged on in. Either Eric Spudic would continue to serve as a reliable indicator of a bad movie or, dammit anyway, he would break the streak and force me to regard his presence as merely a wild card. Either result would frankly be unpleasant; either I would be stripped of one of my most reliable indicators of a bad movie or I would be cheated out of what should have been one of the best freaking movies EVER.

Sadly, Eric Spudic's status remains unchanged. It's a downright tragedy. There's a laundry list of problems with "Dead Clowns", and it all boils down to the same thing:

Steve Sessions has not one damn clue about how zombies work.

First off, zombies don't care about damage that to them is nonfatal. They don't know how to use tools, and they definitely can't remove a piece of plywood nailed over a window. Sessions' zombies recoil when hit in nonfatal-for-zombies places like legs or arms. Sessions' zombies have mastered tool usage, which even Romero zombies had a tough time with before they advanced (taking nearly thirty years to do so) to the level of Big Daddy from "Land of the Dead". Sessions' zombies even managed high-level strategic thinking like removing barricades piece-by-piece. And don't even ask me how they get in through otherwise locked doors. I'm beginning to wonder if, according to Sessions, Bozo of the Dead here can pick a lock.Worse yet, it took more than half the movie for someone, ANYONE, to actually fight back against the zombies. Everyone else either tried to hide or was too dumbfounded to move. No, it took some psychopath and his lady, in the worst goth Mickey-and-Mallory knockoff I've seen to date, to actually PULL A WEAPON on the walking dead.

At least Sessions' zombies manage to eat flesh. I was beginning to wonder if they'd even bother to get THAT right.

Seriously, I'm pissed off. This could have been UNBELIEVABLE. But no. Because Steve Sessions is so mindlessly fucking inept that he can't even figure out a basic zombie movie, the most incredible concept I've seen in years is just shot all to hell and gone.

The ending...oh, the ending. The ending has to be the most ridiculous conclusion to a zombie movie I've ever seen. And frankly, it doesn't even make much sense when you factor in the evil clowns, either.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for "Dead Clowns", "Dark Ride", "Drive Thru", "Mr. Jingles", "Grim Reaper", "Dark Harvest 3: Scarecrow" and an advertisement for Fearnet.

All in all...well...at least my Eric Spudic barometer still works. But this is the coldest kind of comfort. A beautiful idea has been utterly, utterly ruined by the most miserable execution I've seen since the last time I put on an Ulli Lommel film. Today I mourn.

 

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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