Imagine a horror hybrid (of sorts). Take Pennywise the Clown from It, give him Freddy Krueger’s ability to manipulate dreams and transport victims between worlds, and then give him the Cryptkeeper’s campy and macabre sense of humor. Now put him in a really bad movie series. Presto! You have the Killjoy series. To be honest, the idea sounds pretty good though the killer clown concept isn’t entirely original, however a wisecracking, quasi-demonic killer clown with a catchy name like “Killjoy” has the potential to be a longstanding, financially profitable franchise. With a solid script and good directing, it could be a blockbuster series featured heavily on the big screen. Unfortunately it got a poor start, and though it seems to be picking up recently, with Full Moon’s behind the helm, there exists the potential for longevity but I doubt it will ever reach the big screen.
But let’s take a look at the first few installment’s. I am very fortunate to have a friend who understands my love of campy, fun horror movies. I’ve enjoyed most of the Puppetmaster series and both Troll films. Heck, I grew up as a MSTie, so terrible cheap films with a humorous tinge is my personal pleasure. I will admit that I have watched Killjoy 1-3 THREE TIMES and laughed my head off each time, so I can honestly say I took great joy in watching these films, but to deny they are bad, horrible, terrible films (this side of The Room and Troll 2 bad) would be a HUGE understatement.
So let’s get to it…
This film makes Troll 2 look like a masterpiece, though the direction and acting in both films come VERY close. However the production values on Killjoy is quite atrocious. It’s literally not much better than something I could record on my cell phone. I was shocked to find that this was filmed in 2000, with a budget of $150,000. Granted, $150,000 is pennies when film-making (and you have crew and cast costs to consider), but considering that Clerks was shot for UNDER $30,000 by a film school drop out novice and looked a million times better (as well as having superior acting, a better script, and better direction) I really find this appalling. It looks like someone’s home movies. I’ve seen graduate films that looked superior (and I guarantee they too had a miniscule budget). Matter-of-fact, THERE ARE PORNS THAT LOOK BETTER THAN THIS! This is supposed to be funded by a professional studio. What gives? It’s not like they had a big soundtrack or an ensemble cast. There was no expensive CGI graphics to create, nor significant wardrobe considerations, and it all appeared to have been filmed locally on minimal sets. What gives? Why does it look sooo cheap? Did the director pocket all the extra cash? Bring strippers to the set? Or flat out just not give a darn?
The acting is appalling. I’m still trying to figure out if the director and script were trying for a legit horror film or playing it tongue and cheek (like Demonic Toys and Leprechaun, both which are not considered true horror films). I’m hoping it was the latter. The actors are often incredibly flat in their delivery, particularly as the plot advances (maybe they gave up mid-way through the film), or in some cases went to the opposite extreme of over-the-top camp (looking at you, Angel Vargas, because I genuinely though it was Chris Tucker under all that makeup!). To say their acting is unconvincing is being nice. And what’s with the pointless dubbing? At one point a female castmate screams, but it’s horribly dubbed over with an over-used and clichéd stock scream that I have not heard since its last pointless overuse in Werewolf.
Plot holes, plot holes, plot holes. Whose got the plot holes? KILLJOY does, in spades! How the heck does the homeless bum know what is going on and how to defeat Killjoy? Is Jamal secretly practicing white magic? How does he know not to break the circle? And why is Jada so stupid?
Was the camera person drunk during filming? Why is the camera shaking all the time?
And what’s with the ending? There is like, FOUR endings? Unless you are Peter Jackson, forget it!
So what’s good about this film?
The plot is actually not too terrible: a bullied outcast summons a being known as “Killjoy” through a doll to exact his revenge against his tormentors, one of whom is dating his crush. Unfortunately the spells don’t work in time, and he is accidentally killed by one of the bullies. One year later, Killjoy appears to avenge the boy’s death. This is a very workable plot. It has a lot of great potential to it. I have to wonder what could have come of this had Wes Craven directed this (I could see a very similar treatment as his wildly successful Nightmare series) or had written the script. The subject of bullying has been a very potent topic in the media for a while, and who isn’t scared of freaking clowns? Slasher films were still in (because apparently we can’t get enough of young nubile teens getting shredded). It’s a real shame when I think about such a wasted potential (please refer back to my Hellraiser movie posts).
Now Killjoy himself is an interesting character, in many ways he is like Freddy (the later version) in that he likes to play with his victims, makes several funny comments, even rhymes on occasion. He clearly enjoys messing with people and plays up his freaky clown nature to the fullest. He dances, he plays tricks, he’s sarcastic, and even has a few genuinely menacing moments. He is basically what makes these films watchable (and the only thing worth watching in this first piece of garbage). He keeps me laughing and entertained. Unfortunately the first film hadn’t quite figured out what to do with him. His full capabilities and limits are still a bit confusing to me (even after three films), but again, that has to do with scripting problems (which I honestly have too much of a headache to go over).
The unintentional (?) humor. Boy, there is a LOT of that! I’m often laughing from sheer embarrassment of line deliveries, crappy dialogue, and corny jokes. But there are some serious WTF moments. My favorite is toward the climax. When the character of Jamal and the two female leads enter Killjoy’s realm for the first time, Jamal not only FLUBS his line (which the director kept in!), but he tells them to stay together before a SPLIT SECOND LATER telling them to split up! What the hell? Serious Troll 2 territory there. And let’s not forget that awful stock scream we hear as Lorenzo’s current squeeze is ambushed by Killjoy. How hard was it to record the actress screaming?
Bottom line: This was a film made for Rifftrax. Mike, get on it!
Can someone please explain to me how a sequel that was made with less than a third of the budget ($30,000) than its predecessor looks more professional (if somewhat grainier and still low-budget)? The direction and camera work is also better as well. The acting in this is a mixed bag, though I feel that every member of the cast has at some point taken an acting class or two (even if they didn’t necessarily pass). No flubbed dialogue either. Also the casting for the title role has changed (for the better).
Plot holes still exist. THe script is garbage so there’s no surprise there. Why is there a voodoo priestess living in Incestville, USA? How can ANYTHING be summoned through that dinky little chant? Is he like Candyman? That boy in the previous film did daily, elaborate rituals and Killjoy didn’t manifest himself for a whole year. Some girl does a mini chant half heartedly by some bushes and he’s there in ten minutes. Did he take the express gateway to hell? And why is he even there? She doesn’t want vengeance against anyone? Matter of fact, why does Nic want Killjoy to be resurrected? How is it supposed to save Ray Ray? Where was Harris the whole time? When one of the characters gets shot, why wasn’t he left in the van instead of hauled all over the woods to find a PHONE BOOTH in the middle of nowhere? Wasn’t that what Harris was supposed to be doing?? Did a monkey write this script with his private bits while high??!
Sadly Killjoy is the only interesting character in this dreck, so we have to suffer through half the film before we are entertained. But don’t worry, we have a lot of pointless trope type characters whining and being, well, stereotypes to bore us to death in the mean time. It’s a total snoozefest. I have a feeling that some of my earlier questions may have been answered during all this time, but during all three viewings I was so darn bored during the first half I couldn’t focus. Get to Killjoy already!
Thankfully, Killjoy delivers. His dialogue and mannerisms are so much better (mainly because it’s a different actor playing him), but he only has so much to work with here. Thankfully the Voodoo lady provides some unintentional comic relief with her insipid toned dialogue (in case you haven’t figured it out, the plot really sucks in this). Her words are so cheesy and riddled in clichés, often delivered in varying degree’s of blandness. And is she a voodoo priestess or a hypnotist? Maybe both? Who cares, bring on the killing.
No more ice cream truck by the way, but Killjoy looks extra snazzy in his new suit!
Some of the deaths are funny. Ce-Ce’s discovery with the squirting blood kills me every time. Eddie’s death has some funky editing that makes it look like Killjoy is propelling him with his….lower torso. The scene where he is antagonizing Charlotte is hilarious. I love Trent Haagan as Killjoy. Such a huge difference. I honestly think he is the main reason there is even a franchise, like Robert Englund as Freddy or Gunnar Hanson as Leatherface. A scene without him is barely worth mentioning.
Speaking of which, I have nothing further to say about this one. Let’s move one to the third installment (keep in mind so far there are four of these, but I haven’t viewed Killjoy 4: Killjoy Goes to Hell).
Surprisingly it took eight years for this to be released (2010). Personally I think it was worth it. It’s overall the best of the first three films. Now, saying that, is it any good? Well, considering the standards of Full Moon Productions: Yes! In fact, I found it pretty amusing (intentionally so). I love that they finally decided to embrace the schlock-camp and let Haagan have some fun and be featured more in this film. We’re also introduced to three more characters: Freakshow, Batty Boop (I love that little Succubi), and Punchy, who provide a lot of the slapstick humor in this film. They (along with Killjoy) are what make this film entertaining.
And Killjoy lives to entertain! Thankfully, this is a full blown comedy (with a horror theme), so the deaths are either quick and anti-climatic, or comical. His character is fleshed out a little more, which is nice, but none of the other characters have any real substance to them. The four college students (of course, hate to break that tired trope) are bland, bland, bland, and I find myself rooting for Killjoy more than ever. The scripts not bad either, but kind of lazy. I’m still confused as to the extent of Killjoy abilities, because this time he can only use portals (unlike the second film) but now he is the soul collecting business which, unless I missed something, hasn’t been mentioned before. And how do the college students know who Killjoy even is? And why can’t the evil gang grab all the students and drag them to hell? Yet again, we are faced with some plot holes, but remember, this is Full Moon we are talking about here, let’s just be thankful we have a film that doesn’t look like it was shot in someone’s basement and actors that can exude some form of emotion (sort of). So while the script may not be the worst thing ever, it probably could have benefitted from another rewrite or two. But do I really care? Hell no! This is a KILLJOY film! Let’s just be thankful it HAS a script! The ending is kind of clever though, in a way it reminds me of the ending to the first A Nightmare on Elm Street, but that’s kind of fitting being that Killjoy reminds me a lot of later incarnations of Fred Krueger. I also loved (what I presumed was) several nods to the 1974 classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
I feel like I haven’t spoken enough about this last one, but what can I say other than there are better jokes and a script that allowed the actors to have some fun.
My overall ratings:
Killjoy (2000) – Comedy factor – (B-) – much of which is unintentional, but it has a strong Wiseau factor
Script – (D+) – so much potential, so much waste
Acting – (F-)
Directing – (F)
Production – (F-) – I would go lower if I could!
Horror factor – (F+) – only because clowns creep me out (especially 6 foot tall clowns in dirty ice cream vans)!
Killjoy 2 (2002) – Comedy factor – (C+) – only because of the efforts of Trent Haagan
Script – (F+) – it had a script?
Acting – (D+)
Directing/Production – (D+) – at least it looked like there WAS a crew and director
Horror factor – (F+) – virtually non existent, but the (+) is because rednecks with firearms and the woods can be very, very, very scary!
Killjoy 3 (2010) – Comedy factor – (B+) – most of its slapstick and kind of corny, but it’s all delivered so well by Killjoy and the gang.
Script – (C-) – I actually felt like there was more than one draft to this, and it utilizes Killjoy and the gang well.
Acting – (C+) – no one is winning any awards here, and it’s still a mixed bag, but refer to the above.
Directing/Production – (C+) – yes! Someone finally put some time/effort/money into this!
Horror factor – (F-) – it’s only horror themed (with dark humor), but otherwise pure comedy