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PUTTING ON YOUR CLOWNFACE
Written by Dr Mark Adams
Unlike many horror fans, and indeed unlike our director Alex Bourne, I cannot claim to have grown up on eighties horror films. Sure, I was born in the early eighties, and grew up through the prime of horror, but the fact was, quite apart from understandably protective parents, I was a bit of a coward.
This isn't to say I was unaware of the genre as this was also the era of the video rental where even my small town had a local stores stacked with the large, brick-like boxes of yesteryear. There was a section, meant to be hidden away, but paradoxically by the main desk, where the shelves were lined with horror films and their lurid covers stared out at me. A man, snarling, his head covered in spikes. A strange hairy creature, with sharp teeth, and beady red eyes. Hockey masks and clawed gloves. These images intrigued as much as they terrified.
In many ways it was this avoidance of horror that cemented me as a fan. As I hit my rebellious (by the standards of the scrawny weird kids) stage, I started seeking out the sources of the nightmare imagery that dominated by childhood. I'd grown up terrified of BBC's Doctor Who television series, at the time starring Sylvester McCoy and featuring ghosts, vampires and demons. I watched The X-Files in a state of fear and dread, often looking away. But even as these notably 'soft' horrors terrified me, the pull of those video cases could be felt.
Late night sleepovers with friends became terrifying trips into discovering what lay behind the artwork. Often it was truly disturbing, with early viewings being Hellraiser (the art lied, the guy with pins wasn't even the scariest part!), The Evil Dead, and Braindead living up to the hype. Others, like Waxwork 2 and Critters, less so, but nevertheless this world opened up to me. An addiction for horror that began with art and monsters and led, eventually, to the discovery of the quintessential eighties horror icon - the slasher.
I honestly can't recall who came first - Jason or Michael - but these faceless, silent killers intrigued. In the pre-download days I would begin searching the stores, looking for the ever elusive Friday the 13th Part 3, filling in the gaps with my collection and hoping I didn't get ID'd. I liked the worlds, the characters, the stalking, the gore; I liked how each film's focus changed, from Friday the 13th Part 2 with its tensions and scares, to Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason lives! with its humour, gore, and action. I knew, fairly early on, that I wanted to create my own slasher.
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Of course, CLOWNFACE isn't my creation, stemming initially from the mind of my good friend Alex Bourne. But I think he'd agree it is fair to say I worked closely with him in developing the character, the scripts, and ideas behind it. What appealed when I first spoke with Alex about him, was not only the 80's feel of the character, but how it seemed to evolve from them. He has both the twisted humour personality of Freddy, but remains silent and stealthy like Michael Myers, while exhibiting the brutality of Jason Voorhees. At the risk of disturbing your mind with visuals that won't wash out, he is the bloody love child of this slasher ménage à trois (not to mention, you could throw Leatherface in there too).
When clowns choose their unique look, they are choosing an identity for their performance. Clownface himself is creating his slasher identity. We see flashbacks where it's a more rough look, his mask unfinished. He is constantly in the process of Becoming Clown, stripping flesh from his victims, forming his own Clownface and painting it with make-up. He isn't overtly clown-like, but carries many of the signifiers. Bunches of hair jut out of the bald mass. A large grin is cut into the mask, the nose a darker red. Rainbow braces re-worn. It's a twisted, dirty variant on the clown. Clownface is a killer in the process of creating himself, his own iconography, and having fun doing it.
It is with this central character, a representation of the eighties horror slasher icon in all its forms, that Alex had me hooked. The image of CLOWNFACE, the mask made by Alex himself, sold me on the project, intrigued me to learn more, just as those VHS covers had years before. We got together, we formed a team, and a couple of years ago we shot what was a short film and what would become the opening sequence of the feature film CLOWNFACE. It took time, and we learnt a great deal, but it was worth every second to begin this journey.
CLOWNFACE is now filming to become a feature film. Once again, we've shot a block of material, the character scenes and a few early gory deaths. This surpasses everything we've done so far, and we're hoping with our current kickstarter campaign we can push this to the next level. Because, for me, CLOWNFACE isn't just another slasher film. It's a celebration of the genre, modern take on those 80s classics, without being a pastiche or a parody. CLOWNFACE is going to be bloody. It's also going to be tense. Psychologically twisted. And it's going to put its characters, and hopefully the audience, through the wringer.
Most of all, I hope we can get CLOWNFACE on the shelves of a supermarket DVD section or, even better, one of the dwindling numbers of media stores out there. It'll have a lurid cover featuring this twisted, terrifying villain. And, hopefully, it will both terrify and intrigue another young boy who, one day, will discover a passion and enthusiasm for the the world of horror. Perhaps they'll even go on to make a film themselves someday.
Clownface is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. You can check out the campaign page and rewards here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hellboundmedia/clownface-eighties-influenced-british-slasher-film and follow the film on Facebook for regular updates.
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