Killjoy 2: Deliverance from Evil

Director: Tammi Sutton (2002)
Starring: Trent Haaga, Charles Austin, Debbie Rochon
Find it: IMDB

The only reason this sequel exists is because people, for some good reason, are scared of clowns. While the clown is a perfectly legitimate horror villain, a lot of shit has been excused in the name of Coulropohobia. Horror's most famous horror clown, for example, is all anyone remembers about the otherwise mediocre IT adaptation, hiding in storm drains, offering out balloons to his victims-to-be. Make no mistake, Pennywise is a fantastic creation, and IT is perfectly servicable in places, but if it weren't for its clown, no-one even would remember its existence. Struggling to get your crummy slasher movie off've the ground? Stick a clown in it.

With that in mind, Killjoy 2 is a thing that actually exists, totally because of artistic merit and not simply because clowns are popular whether they're any good or not (usually the bleeding latter). Trent Haaga takes on the greasepaint and gloves this time, stepping into the mighty big shoes of Angel Vargas. While Haaga has found cult acclaim as the killer klown of the piece, his is a much less entertaining performance than the one Vargas gives. Even worse, there appears to be less of it, with most of our time spent with a gang of cops and their community service detainees (IMDb lists them as 'juvenile delinquents', but they look at least thirty years apiece, so I'm not perpetuating that nonsense) taking off to the county (hence the tenuous 'deliverance' in the title) where they run into killer clown Killjoy.

Just a guess, but this sequel is one you probably won't hear mentioned when Women in Horror Month rolls around. Saddled with a bad cast and incomprehensible story, director Tammi Sutton struggles to elevate the material but winds up producing something even worse than the film which preceded it. Killjoy himself looks horrible, like a really bad Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain (crossed with something Mighty Boosh), remarkable only for a decent face melting scene and a slight increase in the onscreen action. At least it has this though, which almost redeems the whole thing.

With one song, the £6.99 I spent on this box set is justified. The rest of it, I could have done without.


Director: Craig Ross Jr. (2000)
Starring: Angel Vargas, Vera Yell, Lee Marks
Find it: IMDB

After years of seeing Killjoy bothering the shelves of my local Poundland and 99p Store outlets, I finally chanced my arm and picked the bastard up, in the form of HMV's exclusive (although you can less-than-exclusively buy it on Amazon) 4 film set containing the movie and its sequel. With the set costing me £6.99, that equates to roughly £1.75 per film. That's a bargain by anyone's maths, right? Right? Um, guys?

Watching the title credits roll, there's that familiar feeling of watching a no-budget nightmare unfold before your very eyes. There's the dodgy music, the even dodgier, apparently thrown-together credits, and the very dodgiest grime of a camera lens that you could probably buy on eBay these days for less than a tenner. Everything about Killjoy screams 'we have no money'. That said, early episodes of The Wire and Oz also happen to have the same sheen of penniless-ness about them, so you shouldn't disregard these things entirely. I should have guessed from the DVD case that looks like a 90s era video game. And, to be fair to director Craig Ross Jr. and the folks at Full Moon, Killjoy looks pretty great. If the entirety of their budget went on that Killjoy get-up, one has to commend them for being wise with their pennies.

Everything else makes me think I was overcharged for this £6.99 box set. While there's nothing out-and-out terrible here, we do spend the entirety of our time following around a gang of, well, gangbangers who make the criminals of The Wire look like upstanding members of the community by comparison (although one of them was Idris Elba,so maybe that's a tad unfair). When they murder a poor nerd obsessed with a girlfriend, so demon clown Killjoy (a superb Vargas) comes to claim revenge on his behalf. Alas, with all the money spent on the make-up, this vengeance amounts to little more than an ice cream van, warehouse, some cardboard boxes and a bit of green CGI. There's death for everyone, but none that you'll actually remember. Somehow, though, it managed not just one but three sequels. If the law of diminishing returns applies here, poor Killjoy is fucked.

While not as bad as its 99 pence reputation might suggest, it's hard to recommend Killjoy for much beyond an entertaining bad guy performance and its entirely black cast (wasted on such nonsense). If nothing else, it's proof that non-white people can have awful horror movies too.

Next: Killjoy 2.


Director:  Jordan Barker (2014)
Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Robin Dunne, Peter DaCunha
Find it: IMDB

One day, Katharine Isabelle will make a horror film worthy of her talents, living up to the mighty Ginger Snaps. Until then, there's Torment. A dour, drab, donkey punch of a movie, it wastes its good cast and strong concept in a dull re-do of You're Next, minus the wit or inventiveness. It does have serial killers in animal masks though, which is right on my money every time.

Isabelle and Dunne play a recently married couple, heading off to his holiday home in the country for a little family time. Things are complicated by two things: his son (from a previous marriage, with a dead wife) being a twat to his new mother, and a home invasion visited upon them by a cult of mask wearing loonies set on stealing said twat away from his family. The first is easily worked around (via a great conversation in which daddy tells his son that, if you're lucky, mummies die, and sometimes you get two). The second: not so much.

You know the ritual: an awkward road trip, a creaky home, missing neighbours, friendly local cop (hello Stephen McHattie) and ominous signs. Little Liam goes missing in the middle of the night and his handily oversized teddies are found beheaded in the garden. Next thing you know, ma and pa are beset by the aggressors, who come at them with axes, rifles, various torture implements and useless bondage. First to free herself, Sarah (Isabelle) must battle to stay alive and rescue the wee rat getting in the way of her and a happy marriage. This she does with considerably less competency than we may have been used to of late: forget the kick-assery of Sharni Vinson, Pollyanna McIntosh (White Settlers) or Wrenn Schmidt (Preservation) Isabelle gets to be about as passive as they come here. There's a time and a place for that sort of retro Scream Queenery, but that time is usually the 1970s and the place is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Halloween. Cynical haters of nice people winning against the odds rest assured: any victories that might occur in Torment are purely Pyrrhic.

Still, there's enough at play here to keep the thing afloat for its duration. The bad guys look pretty great, in a grubby, hillbilly kind of way, while its atmosphere is similarly down-and-dirty. The story nips along at a fine pace, being over before one has time to really gripe about it, and Isabelle is likeable as ever as the female lead. It's a better use of her time than the inexplicable See No Evil 2, but only barely. Torment does just the bare minimum to stay out of completely forgettable territory; it's not quite a Mickey Mouse operation, but straddles the line.

(Sorry, I already used my 'torment' joke on the other one).

When the Lights Went Out

Director: Pat Holden (2012)
Starring: Kate Ashfield, Tasha Connor, Steven Waddington
Find it: IMDB

The true story of England's most prolific poltergeist haunting, except for the bit where it was debunked and proven not to have happened. Understandably, no-one mentions that part. Myself, I would have put it just before the end credits, like a big 'fuck you' to the audience, which is why I am not a filmmaker.

Whether it happened or not (it didn't), When the Lights Went Out tells the story of one family's torment at the (invisible) hands of a malevolent spirit living in their new home. As it takes a shine to daughter Sally (Connor) Mum (Ashfield) and Dad (Waddington) must do everything they can to survive on a working-class budget. Which seems to consist mostly of thumping poor Sally around the chops whenever the ghost does anything wrong. Not in an abusive NSPCC kind of way, you understand, but in a working class parents of the 1970s manner that was apparently fine back then. Mind you, a lot of things were 'fine' back then, if you ask Rolf Harris or Jimmy Savile. Life on Mars could have been a very different television programme if Sam Tyler had waited for Operation Yewtree before being twatted by that car*. What I'm saying is that 1970s England was a fuck-awful time and place to be a child.

The best reason to watch When the Lights Went Out is for that depiction of retro England. A traditional haunted house movie set in 70s Yorkshire, it courts amusement by replaying hoary old spook cliches from a very British, working class perspective. There's something to be said for a horror film in which one of the main scare sequences is seeing a possessed slinky pop down the stairs towards our terrified heroine. Or poor Kate Ashfield's wallpapering mishap. As a result, a lot of the shocks fall flat and most of it is more comical than scary, but the unusal setup is appreciated. It looks great and is well-acted - particularly by its young leading lady.

Those hoping for genuine scares from When the Lights Went Out will be disappointed. It's unintentionally funny where it should have been scary and not even brave enough to do anything original with its debunked 'true' story. After watching I went straight to sleep last night, after the lights went out. It's not even spooky enough to warrant a second thought, let alone leaving the lights on.

*Note to self, send idea for Life on Mars sequel to BBC.