The Night Watchmen
Three inept night watchmen, aided by a young rookie and a fearless tabloid journalist, fight an epic battle for their lives against a horde of hungry vampires.
Max Gray Wilbur
As in Clown Vampires.
That’s the central idea behind The Night Watchmen, a new horror/comedy showing at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal.
So if you’re afraid of clowns and vampires in their own separate categories – you’re in for a bloody squeaky-shoed treat with this raucous combination!
Justin (Max Gray Wilbur) has left behind his heavy metal band days as a drummer – to take on a more responsible gig as a night watchmen at a major Baltimore-based newspaper. He joins watchmen vets Ken (MLB veteran and co-writer Ken Arnold), Jiggetts (Kevin Jiggetts) and Luca (co-writer Dan DeLuca) as they waste away their shifts playing poker, eating donuts and ogling the women in the offices upstairs. Thing is – a coffin has been mistakenly delivered to their facility one fateful evening. And that coffin houses beloved clown Blimpo, whose body (and those of his clown cast-mates) has been brought back from Romania following his and his troupe’s sudden deaths. A vampire outbreak traps our watchmen inside the building. They must band together with one of the only survivors from the office floors above – Karen (Kara Luiz) and fight to make it through the night toward the precious and life-saving sunlight.
The Night Watchmen is a short and spry 80 minutes. It’s never dull, it completely entertains and offers up some genuine guffaws.
The film is reminiscent (in its bloody vampire attack in an office setting) of Bloodsucking Bastards from a couple of years ago (check out my review here).
Unless you suffer from coulrophobia (a fear of clowns), the film’s not terribly scary. There are a few decent jump moments and the multiple appearances of Karen’s co-worker Penny (Diona Reasonover) will have you thinking of Lamberto Bava’s Demons and the main demonic (and terrifying) monster of that legendary film, Rosemary (played by Gerretta Gerretta).
I’m surprised by the choice of names for the film. I would have expected some higher-ups to have changed it up to Clownpires. The Night Watchmen makes it sound like it might be a cold, calculated thriller with a murder mystery to be solved by a rag-tag team of rent-a-cops. Perhaps Clownpires is just too on the red, squeaky nose.
There’s nothing ground-breaking here (other than the notion that once the vampires are dispatched, their bowels relax and they put forth the smelliest of all farts – this was laugh-out-loud funny every single time), but it’s a darn fun movie. Solid performances, a sleek production (the editing is top-notch) and ridiculous over-the-top jokes and gore.
With so much spraying blood, the film should have a warning: “The first two rows WILL get wet!” The film is on the level of say – Evil Dead 2 and Neil Marshall’s The Descent – for the amount of blood and bile and gore thrown across the screen. It’s all in good fun, and obviously very comic-book-esque. And the “clownpire” make-up is appropriately creepy, rotten and gross. Seriously… if you have a clown phobia – you should probably avoid this film.
The film’s visual effects – in the clownpire deaths and in the zombie apocalypse-esque city devastation outside of the picture’s main facility – are all very well done. It paints a perfect picture of the damage these freaky clowns can do over one night in a big city.
The dialogue and many of the gags are fun – including plenty of “brah”-type relationships, bromances which may be more than that and sexual innuendos all around. But the introduction of such things as a garlic-y meatball sub (and subsequent indigestion) being used to ward off the blood-suckers – is quite frankly, inspired. And the continuous mix-up of Justin’s name (sort of reminiscent of the “Snake Plissken – I heard you were dead” gag) is a comic highlight. There are plenty of other well-done bits which carry on throughout the film and the dialogue to accompany these jokes is spot-on.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of the performances. Every actor knew the sort-of broad stereotype they were meant to play, and they went at their work like gangbusters. But as good as an ensemble as this is (and it is a very strong group of actors), I have to give an edge to former Major League Baseball player Ken Arnold. His bumbling, ex-military rent-a-cop is adorably dorky. I don’t know what kind of a baseball player he was (for such teams as The Chicago Cubs and the Baltimore Orioles), but his comic timing and physical comedy abilities are worthy of singling out and celebrating. He brings some actual depth (in a nice exchange with Justin) in this three-ring circus and it seems that acting (comedy in particular) was this man’s true calling. A great performance in a sea of strong ensemble acting work.
There’s also a bit of romance here, but thankfully, it’s never a major focus. And surprisingly, it’s sort of touching. But I was confused – wasn’t there mention of Karen being a lesbian, with Penny as her lover? Or was that a tactic to keep the drooling, sex-hungry men at bay? A minor quibble.
James Remar shows up as the paper’s big boss, Randall. He also co-produced the film. And horror regular Tiffany Shepis appears as one of Kara’s other co-workers.
Currently working across the landscape of film festivals, The Night Watchmen does not yet have a wider release date. But you should lift up your flashlights and keep searching about for any potential DVD/VOD (or perhaps theatrical) release information. This is a bloody hoot of a horror/comedy and will definitely be worth your time and your dime.
But again – BEWARE! CLOWNPIRES!
Or to be clear – clown vampires.