Thursday, December 13, 2012

No Clowning Around (2012) Review - Behind the Grease Paint

Chances are good that if you know what Red Stag is, well, you’ve probably ended up in a stranger’s bathtub, stinking of booze and awakened by a small child with a “what the fuck are you doing in my bathtub” look on her face. However, you probably were not wearing clown makeup. Further still you most likely did not have a clown outfit on and said little girl probably didn’t refer to you over and over again as HER clown. Now if I’m wrong (and there’s a chance that you might be sipping on the Old Grand Dad in lieu of Red Stag which might make you exempt from the clown costume exception) then you’re either a truly gifted alcoholic, probably have befriended Bill at least once OR… you’re name is Rob Dimension… or rather Mumbles the Clown. So brings us to one of the funniest and actually somewhat touching short films of 2012, No Clowning Around, directed by Rob Dimension and Matthew Burd.
What happens when Ed aka “Mumbles the Clown” reaches his emotional limit, pushed to the brink by a life that is both unforgiving and sadistic? The sad clown, drunk and depressed but undoubtedly in love and in want of a better life, has to learn how to adapt to the new misery of a life without love, without hope, without anything and, in turn, searches for a way to laugh again. They took his dignity. They took his woman. They took his sanity. Now he’ll get the last laugh.

Dimension has been pretty quick from the start to dismiss No Clowning Around as a “killer clown” flick and that’s absolutely the case. You can’t go into No Clowning Around and expect to see cotton candy cocoons filled with blood meals of towns folk. No Clowning Around is an emotional side show exhibit. Initially you may laugh or reach for the vomit pale, but you’ll leave No Clowning Around feeling disturbed, fulfilled and quite possibly a little sad. The film truly plays on the idea that while the clown may be laughing on the outside, the internal struggles are far greater than any normal, non-clown might be able to handle. It’s the story of depression. It’s the story of a life lived in anticipation of the fulfillment of a great dream, a dream never fully actualized. The scattered mine field of life has blown apart Mumble’s emotional limbs. He continues as a war torn shell of clown.  Does this sound like Kill Joy? Does this sound like Clownhouse? Does this sound like Fear of Clowns? The answer is definitely, no!  The reinvention of the dark clown films start with No Clowning around. It is a movie to be seen, to be taken seriously and by all accounts true to its title… there will be no clowning around.

There’s a sick perversity that invades the viewer when watching No Clowning Around. It offers the audience the ability to both root for a vengeful Mumbles after he is pushed to his absolute limit, but somehow we’re able to laugh at his descent as he drinks his way to rock bottom. Imagine you’ve thrown a children’s birthday party and Mumbles shows up; stinking of vomit and then, the damn clown devours the birthday cake! Dimension plays for keeps first making you laugh at his performance only to have you realize that you’ve just laughed at your hero or anti-hero as the case may be in state of deep emotional turmoil. You feel bad at yourself for treating Mumbles that way. He’s got feelings too. You just have to find them underneath the swill, grease paint and the debauch. 

No Clowning Around is a short film that clearly has room to develop into a full length feature. The cast played by Dimension’s wife, Kim and cohort in an innumerable number of crimes, Steve Corino,  as well as puppet master, Sal Valente, is believable and powerful; Each actor is well equipped to bring despair, angst or absolutely fuming anger to the unsuspecting viewer. It’s a great early effort by Dimension from the performances he can draw from his cast to the complexity and variety of shots that keep the film looking fresh and visually exciting. Perhaps the greatest attribute to keeping the film disturbing and actually conveying the emotions of Mumbles is the use of a variety of subtle variations and distortions in the clown makeup. From battered and broken clown with grease paint peeling back to the “on with the show” Mumbles’ makeup later smeared with birthday cake, the audience knows what to expect of their clown and can prepare emotionally for how they are about to be mindfucked or lovingly spoonfed into the melancholy hopes of a sad man or… ready for the mental “snap into a Slim Jim” vengeful clown, ready to kill.

No Clowning Around is available HERE on both limited VHS (only 48 so get ‘em while you can) and DVD at a very reasonable price. You can also follow the writing of Rob Dimension on his regular blog HERE.  If you see a screening of this film in your area please support independent filmmakers and check it out. This is the kind of movie that Hollywood doesn’t understand. It’s the kind of movie that leaves you entertained and emotional with retro sensibilities and shock value; the way the indies do it best. From the sideshow of brutal, unforgiving reality to the big top of true madness, No Clowning Around will have you crying until you laugh.


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