Gingerclown might be the strangest damn horror movie I review this year, a fate I valiantly accepted after discovering that rookie director Balázs Hatvani created the very first 3D horror comedy in Hungarian history. Hatvani’s ambitions are sky-high, but a horrid production quickly drags Gingerclown down to an Earthly realm filled with hammy acting, perverse puppeteering, and genre sensibilities that can’t decide between being a Gothic house of horrors or a slapstick comedy gag.
Filing Hatvani’s film under “horror” is an insult to movies that begrudgingly attempt a scare or two, even when laughs are at a premium, as this haunted attraction isn’t worth a lick in the terror department. With each passing moment of high-school-crushing and laughably inferior showmanship, the voices of Tim Curry and Brad Dourif are lost amidst stumbling villains with zero mobility. Cussing teacups, Eastern-European-Californians, shoddy costumes – what the hell did I just watch?
The year is 1983, the location is Los Angeles, and the story is the same. After a night of cliffside drinking, a group of alpha-male jock types convince a geeky boy named Sam (Ashley Lloyd) to explore an abandoned amusement park to impress one of their girlfriends. Sick of being picked on, Sam agrees to the task, even after a heavy protest from his crush. After telling off her football-star boyfriend Biff (Michael Cannell-Griffiths), Jenny (Erin Hayes) chases after Sam and the two find themselves wandering aimlessly around a creepy theme park thought to be empty – until the lights turn themselves on.
From the moment we meet Tim Curry’s hobbling Gingerclown, the movie takes a turn towards being an Evil-Bong-esque copycat by featuring a slew of incredibly low-budget puppets who do nothing but curse, make disgusting sound effects and talk about eating brains. But Evil Bong is cheeky fun at times, hindered by low-budgets and independent releases, where Gingerclown fails miserably at achieving the same stoner stupidity. Hatvani’s creeps can only be described as actors dressed in gigantic costumes straight from a Halloween display at Party City – with half the personality.
These Henson-creations-on-crack look like raggedy Halloween decorations, which can be excused if executed correctly, but Hatvani’s biggest misstep is trying to capture his monsters moving in real time, having actors sluggishly shuffle about inside gigantic creature suits that look as if they’re about to topple over at any second. Dourif and company spew comedic dialogue most likely written on toilet paper, resembling grotesque Chuck E. Cheese’s characters, while all the monsters sport singular facial expressions due to technical restraints presented by rubber masks. In other words, NONE of the “unique” creatures are worthwhile villains, even when voiced by a slew of horror legends and Police Academy‘s Michael Winslow.
Getting stuck in an 80s mentality favoring screeching actresses over enjoyable performances, both leading roles become incredibly unsavory over-actors who NEVER compose themselves as proper characters. Erin Hayes spends most of her time screaming bloody murder in an attempt to shatter our eardrums, while Ashley Lloyd’s backpack-wearing, comic-book-reading nerd whimpers and whines around every corner, uselessly guiding audiences without any manageable grace. Gingerclown most certainly harps on an old-school feel, purposely creating horrifically stereotypical characters in an effort to muster comedic fare, but once again we have a director who doesn’t understand that cult-worshipped-classics didn’t TRY to be bad. Hatvani attempts to replicate an 80s slasher phenom, kicked off by a cast of athletic neanderthals who yell every line like barbarians, but it’s this very scene that gives audiences a taste of the annoyances that only worsen with each new hellish game.
There’s something magically enchanting about blending horror elements with a location meant to represent innocent fun and exciting thrills, yet Gingerclown epically fumbles one of the most unique atmospheric advantages in all of horror. Everything about Hatvani’s funhouse fails in its own unique way, from a laughable production to painstaking performances, redefining the concept of Z-Grade horror. I mean, this movie isn’t just bad – it’s aggressively bad. Like, “I’d rather take a pie full of nails to the face” bad. Like, “Why the hell is Tim Curry even wasting his voice on this disaster” bad – and he’s solely been doing vocal work on children’s programming for the last few years. Gingerclown might be the first 3D horror comedy to come out of Hungry, but if its quality is any indication of future Hungarian genre efforts, maybe it’d be better if it’s the LAST as well.
Gingerclown is an 80s homage gone HORRIBLY awry, veering off somewhere around the cursing teapot or oddly-accented Californians.