16th Oct2014

‘The Killjoy Collection’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Angel Vargas, Trent Haaga | Written by Carl Washington, Douglas Snauffer, Tammi Sutton, John Lechago | Directed by Craig Ross, Tammi Sutton, John Lechago

killjoy-cast

In the late 90s/early 2000′s there was a distinct new trend in the horror genre: that of “urban horror”. A genre that brought urban black cinema, and all-black casts, together with the horror genre in much the same way as it did in the 70s during the blaxploitation era. Whilst films like Bones and Vampire in Brooklyn (despite being something of a critical failure) had iconic stars such as Snoop Dogg and Eddie Murphy respectively, it was smaller movies such as Rusty Cundieff’s Tales From the Hood that had all the ideas (if you haven’t seen Tales… you should really track it down).

Not one to miss a trick when it comes to cashing in on popular crazes, Full Moon head honcho Charles Band set up a new sub-label Alchemy Entertainment/Big City Pictures which was purposed with creating and releasing straight to DVD urban horror films, output that included films such as Ragdoll (1999), The Horrible Dr. Bones (2000), The Vault (2000), Cryptz (2002) and the Killjoy series (2000 – 2012).

Having already released the fourth film in the series, Killjoy Goes to Hell, under the more supermarket-friendly title of Killer Clown, 88 Films return to the demonic clown well for a HMV exclusive 2-disc, four film, box set of all Killjoy movies – so far – collected together for the very first time anywhere in the world (how much of a celebration that is depends on your tolerance for Band’s super-low-budget, shot on DV output).

Before we get into reviewing the four movies in this DVD box set, know this: unlike your typical horror franchise, which usually see the law of diminishing return in effect, the Killjoy series actually IMPROVES with each and every installment!

It’s hard to believe that a film such as Killjoy (2000) could ever spawn three sequels. Obviously shot on a [uber] low budget – even by Charles Band’s standards – the film is an exercise in what not to do when making a low-budget film. Cheap sets (how anyone could be afraid of Killjoys “realm” is beyond belief), even cheaper production values, and a cast that haven’t been heard or seen since (wasn’t that marketing for video nasty Snuff?). The story sees a teen killed by a gang of “hoodlums” after making it known he was in love with one of the gangs girlfriends; only before he was murdered he called upon the evil spirit Killjoy to help him kill the gang! Too late to help him, instead the teen becomes Killjoy and seeks revenge… If you can call throwing people into cardboard sets and covering them in cheap make-up whilst delivering cheesy (and frankly risible) one-liners, revenge.

Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil (2002) follows the, by now, standard horror trope of a group of “troubled teens” being forced to work off their community service – in this case by renovating a run-down shelter. Of course not everything goes according to plan and the group accidentally unleash Killjoy (why the hell anyone would mess around with voodoo is beyond me). Well I say accidentally, but when two of the group actively call forth the demonic clown to prove it’s “bullshit” it’s there own bloody fault! Thankfully part two is an improvement over the original film in all aspects – from production to acting; and more specifically Killjoy himself (now played by Trent Haaga, who would continue to feature as the character up to its very latest installment) who, instead of the more overtly-comical approach of the first film, manages to perfectly balance laughs and terror in a similar style to that of Robert Englund’s Fred Krueger. Plus this sequel benefits from the appearance of scream queen Debbie Rochon… Though in all honesty it’s not hard to improve on EVERYTHING in the amateur-hour original!

It took eight years, and a rejuvenated Full Moon, for Killjoy to return to our screens in the uninspiringly monikered Killjoy 3 (2010) but the wait was worth it. Shot back-to-back with Puppetmaster: Axis of Evil (this was at the time Band and co. were resurrecting their past “hit franchises” with an eye to returning to their former glory), the third installment in the series sees the titular character take on even more of a persona similar to that of Freddy – amping up the wisecracking and violent slapstick to levels seen in the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6. With Trent Haaga now in total control and comfortable in his role as Killjoy, the character is joined by the real highlight(s) of the movie: the trio of Freakshow, Punchy and Batty Boop – three more evil clowns to terrorise the cast of teens who cross into Killjoy’s realm through a cursed mirror!

Released two years later, Killjoy Goes to Hell (2012) is, surprisingly the pinnacle of the franchise (rather than the nadir, which one would be expecting from a FOURTH film in any horror series). This fourth entry follows on directly from the previous effort and sees the titular character – once again played by an on-form Trent Haaga – put on trial by the Devil himself for being “incompetent, irresponsible, impotent, inadequate and not evil enough,” after letting one girl, Sandie (Jessica Whitaker), survive in part 3. The concept allows writer/director John Lechago – who also wrote and directed Killjoy 3 as well as the ridiculously fun Blood Gnome – to play about with the tropes of the franchise and even poke fun at what has come before. This time round the visuals are on point, even if we’re still pretty much working with just one core set. Plus Tai Chan Ngo, Al Burke and Victoria De Mare, return as the clown trio of Freakshow, Punchy and Batty Boop respectively; and De Mare, as always, is a joy to watch. If you thought they couldn’t up the ante on the wisecracking, profanity and slapstick of the third film, you were WRONG!

The first two Killjoy films have, at least here in the UK, been a mainstay of bargain bins and pound shops across the country since the early days of DVD and, having already released the fourth film in the series – admittedly under a different title – you’d think there was little to recommend picking up this collected set. You’d be wrong. The first two parts in the series are, for the first time anywhere, presented in 16×9 anamorphic transfers; and whilst no one will admit to wanting to see the two shot on DV entries in anamorphic widescreen (and they don’t necessarily warrant a decent transfer), this presentation is at least the best these films have ever seen, even trumping Full Moon’s own US releases. But, and for fans of the series here in the UK this is the kicker, this release from 88 Films astonishingly marks Killjoy 3‘s UK DVD debut! Plus with a low RRP of £5.99 there’s really no excuse for Full Moon aficionados and killer clown lovers to at least give this release a shot.

The Killjoy Collection is available exclusively at HMV now, courtesy of 88 Films.

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