Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on July 3, 2007, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.
To a lot of people, clowns are scarier than the average person; those painted faces are freaky, and you never know what expression or intent is really hiding behind those big greasepainted smiles. So why has it seemed so hard lately for anyone to turn out a decent evil-clown movie? Killer Klowns from Outer Space and the miniseries of Stephen King’s It provided heebie-jeebies a couple of decades ago, but lately this sub-subgenre has been a haven for dreck. The modestly entertaining Fear of Clowns stands as the exception that proves the rule among the three-ring cesspool of S.I.C.K., Dead Clowns and the jaw-droppingly amateurish Mr. Jingles.
Slicing through this field of foolishness with the world’s largest meat cleaver is 100 Tears, a new independent production from director Marcus Koch and writer/producer/star Joe Davison. It ain’t perfect, but it’s the best killer-clown flick to come along in quite some time, and certainly showcases the most ferocious butchering Bozo in screen history. As Gurdy the Clown (Jack Amos) wields that monstrous blade against an assortment of innocent victims, heads roll, guts spill and the walls are painted red. All the bloodshed is no surprise considering Koch’s background as a makeup FX artist on the likes of Citizen Toxie and Ghost Lake, and he brings a carnival atmosphere (pardon the expression) to the mayhem that makes it over-the-top fun instead of simply gross.
One nice touch in Davison’s script is that the villain actually comes from a circus background, instead of randomly donning his getup for effect. That history is gradually uncovered by tabloid reporters Mark (Davison) and Jennifer (Georgia Chris) as they look into a decades-long series of slayings perpetrated by the so-called “Teardrop Killer.” Ignoring the typical advisements by the local law not to stick their noses where they don’t belong, the duo delve into the seedy carnival underworld to find out the truth behind Gurdy’s grisly crimes. But as they uncover more of his dark secrets, while attempting to track down Christine (Raine Brown), a young woman who may be fated to be his next victim, Mark and Jennifer have a couple of nasty surprises awaiting them…
One of those twists propels the story into particularly perverse territory, and while it adds an unexpected new level to Gurdy’s story, the movie might have benefitted from exploring it even further. Instead, the emphasis tilts a little too much in favor of Mark and Jennifer—which is not to say that they’re unwelcome presences. The duo (it’s fairly ambiguous as to whether they’re actually a couple) share a good chemistry and fun moments of banter, and represent a refreshing change from the mindless teens and driven detectives who usually serve as protagonists in this sort of fare. Still, there are times when a little of their investigation goes a long way, and the sense that it would be more interesting to spend time with Gurdy rather than being told about him.
Koch and Davison spice things up with occasional comic relief, most effectively when it involves a circus little person named Drago (Norberto Santiago) to whom Mark and Jennifer go for information. He’s not especially willing to spill, and the funniest part of the ensuing foot chase is that out-of-shape Mark can’t keep up with his diminutive quarry. Santiago stands out among the supporting cast, which in general is of a higher caliber than one often finds in homegrown horror fare. For his part, Amos exudes palpable menace from behind his painted face.
Gurdy’s carnage, created by Koch’s Oddtopsy FX Group, is extreme in a manner that will delight gorehounds while not bursting beyond the bounds of realism, while set dresser Melanie Dean has whipped up an appropriately spooky lair for the evil clown to hang out in. Indeed, the film’s final act, in which the reporters and a couple of detectives converge on Gurdy’s home base, seems a bit too devoted to showing it off, and some of the wandering through its darkened passages could have been trimmed. Overall, though, 100 Tears packs enough thrills to paint a smile on the face of anyone who appreciates good, grisly grassroots horror fare.