ClownTown is the first full-length feature directed by adorable Tom Nagel, who got plenty of horror experience acting in movies like Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove, The Beast of Bray Road, Hillside Cannibals, Dracula’s Curse, The Butcher, The Dead Matter, and The Burning Dead. I’ve already blogged about The Burning Dead and The Butcher, so now it’s time to take on a bunch of Nagel’s other films…and to take note of the circle of pretty boys that seem to be a staple of films in which Nagel is involved.
THE BEAST OF BRAY ROAD (2005)
A year before Big Bad Wolf rocked my world with its werewolf camp, there was indie film The Beast of Bray Road. Together, these two films would make a good tongue-in-hairy cheeks werewolf double feature for sure.
In a small town, an adorable sheriff investigates the disappearance of a young woman last scene leaving a bar. Of course, we saw her in the opening kill, which is fun, fun, fun, as are all the kills. It’s a cheesy werewolf costume and buckets of blood party! Victims aren’t even safe from the beast while indoors, because this fucker breaks right in and rips your throat out!
The Beast of Bray Road has an 80s creature feature feel, with practical special effects and makeup, loads of werewolf attacks, sex scenes and boobs, and a likable cast that is clearly having a good time. It’s better than all the CGI monster crap they air on SyFy these days.
And of course, there are the boys. Tom Nagel rox a tank top as one of the local hicks.
Cutie Jeff Denton, who plays the sheriff, gets shirtless. Wahoo!
Jeff also appeared in ClownTown and Dracula’s Curse with Nagel, and has been in horror movies like One-Eyed Monster and Automaton Transfusion, as well as starring in the webseries Gay Top Gun.
Thomas Downey, who also appears in Jolly Roger, Dracula Rising, The Burning Dead, and Hillside Cannibals with Nagel, is one of my horror faves (Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan, Sorority Party Massacre). Here, he’s sizzling hot as a dry-witted werewolf hunter.
And aside from having a small role as a redneck, luscious Joel Hebner plays the werewolf!
He was also in the gay vampire film The Brides of Sodom, played the monster in movies like Frankenstein Reborn and Shapeshifter, and was “The Man With No Head” in two Creep Creepersin flix (Orgy of the Damned, Orgy of Blood). A shame to cover that pretty face in monster makeup…not to mentioning cutting it off completely.
JOLLY ROGER: MASSACRE AT CUTTER’S COVE (2005)
In the spirit of campy crap like Leprechaun and Miner’s Massacre, this one features a rotting pirate with a pickaxe to grind. He “grrr” and “arghs” his way through a slew of victims in the hunt for his treasure.
I’d swear our killer Jolly Roger is wearing a costume from Miner’s Massacre, but Jolly Roger definitely has a better sense of humor. From the very start, he goes the old school route of delivering entertaining kills, beginning with splitting a chick in half on the beach while she’s in the middle of riding her boyfriend. He also eats goldfish from a fish tank, gets a lap dance at a strip club, and has the power to kill by giving his victim a heart attack during a chase scene!
There’s plenty of hacking and slashing (a little too much of it is CGI), as well as boobs and blood as Jolly Roger goes on a methodical killing spree motivated by a backstory not unlike that in The Fog. Meanwhile, Tom Nagel and his girlfriend are suspects in some of the murders Jolly Roger committed, so they end up teaming up with the detective on the case, played by Thomas Downey.
It’s stupid slasher fun for sure, but it’s definitely a cut above the quality of similar films Full Moon has been putting out in the new millennium.
HILLSIDE CANNIBALS (2006)
Leigh Scott, the director of The Beast of Bray Road, goes for a The Hills Have Eyes plot with Hillside Cannibals. Tom Nagel and his friends come to a desert area to explore the caves.
Crazy thing about this one – almost all the characters die within minutes! They’re totally ravaged by the deformed cannibal people (some of which look like witches and zombies), which leaves us with over an hour of time to kill.
So Tom and the main girl repeatedly escape and are then recaptured, with Tom getting tortured a little more each time and the main girl finding new dudes to drag back to the caves to help her rescue Tom again.
At least the film is loaded with gruesome gore. Really good, CGI-free gore. A heinous face peel scene is the winner for me. Even so, maybe I’m just too desensitized, but for me, no matter how hard the film tries to live up to other inbreed/cannibal films, it never quite captures the gritty, grisly atmosphere of the subgenre.
The cannibals end up looking like a bunch of drama students wearing over-the-top costumes and overacting a state of barbarism in a class exercise. Hillside Cannibals just never manages to scare, horrify, or make the stomach turn, all a must for this subgenre.
THE DEAD MATTER (2010)
Rather than a horror movie, this odd little film feels more like a low budget vampire series that would have aired on syndicated channels back in the late 80s. From the moment you see horror icon Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster) as a fiendish vampire in a horrible white wig, you know what you’re in for.
The zombie scene that opens the film is a tease, because this isn’t a zombie film.
Instead, we meet a group of friends doing a séance in the woods. The main girl (Tom Nagel plays her boyfriend) is hoping to contact her dead brother.
The séance seems to work, and the main girl is soon encountering creepy assed corpses wherever she goes. The dead bitch in a library is creepy as fuck. EEK!
But then she scores a living dead assistant that she controls with the help of an amulet she finds in the woods, bringing a hokey angle to the bulk of the film.
Meanwhile, Divoff is on the hunt for that amulet, which means he’s coming for the group of friends! The film is slow-paced, and too many of the “scary” scenes are just dream sequences.
But there are some highlights, including Tom Savini as a vampire running a drug den, Divoff ripping off a guy’s jaw then nonchalantly handing it to him, and even some love for The Carpenters!
The vampires finally get pretty vicious during the final act, and the main girl summons a horde of zombies (complete with a cemetery scene), but as I said, this feels like a low budget TV show, so the final battle is anything but epic.
Finally, we get to Tom Nagel’s full-length directorial debut. If you’re missing horror with the simple elements that made post-Scream slashers from the early 2000s so much fun, ClownTown is the way to go.
From the opening kill scene, when a young woman babysitting at the Strode’s house (wink wink) shows her boobs, and is then spooked by a boy in a clown costume, with plenty of soundtrack stingers to add to the jump scares, I knew I was in hands capable of delivering good old fashioned cheap thrills and chills.
Next, a group of friends is headed to a concert. There are cute boys, beefy bears, bearish boys, a couple of girls, an old man trying to warn them of the danger, and plenty of crazy clown action as the group gets stranded in a deserted town and is chased by three killer clowns.
One just looks like an average guy in makeup, another is a hulking man clown, and the third gives off a Chop-Top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 vibe.
The very first clown attack delivers a wickedly surprising jump scare and is brutal. From there, we get plenty of running, screaming, and suitable gore, plus, the friends really get into kicking clown ass by the end.
There’s also a simple but satisfying backstory to tie the babysitter scene into the current situation, as well as the promise of a sequel.