Monday, March 15, 2010

My Year in Disturbing Film: Week 11 - only 41 weeks to go

My year in disturbing film is my weekly column where I devote a few paragraphs to the most fucked up films ever made. Each week I plan on subjecting myself to the most horrific and mentally damaging imagery my mind can handle. I can't promise you this won't be the week I wind up in the hospital...

HERE is a reminder about my rating system for these films

Hmmm so what torment is in store for me this week...

Vulgar – The Tears of a (Raped) Clown

What was the movie about?
Back in 2000 when Vulgar was put out View Askew had already made a name for itself with several of Kevin Smith's comedies, Thankfully for us they decided to try their luck with this little gem. It’s incredibly low budget, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the content that’s what’s important. Vulgar is essentially about a sexually abused clown who makes it big after the incident and has to deal with the culprits. Though ultimately the question remains the same though. Well…

Little known fact, Flappy wasn't even supposed to go in that day

Is the film disturbing?
If Clown rape isn’t disturbing then I don’t know what is. It doesn’t start like that though. Actually the film starts on a bit of a goofy note as we follow Will running late for a clown gig. He finds his hillbilly neighbor in the back seat of his car. When he finally makes it to the party he arrives just in time to see the father being arrested by the cops for a domestic disturbance. So he’s out pay for this party, but to be fair he refuses the payment because he’s a genuinely good guy. When Flappy the clown gets home he listens to his messages only to discover a multitude of insulting and degrading messages. Especially the one from his mother, who is one angry woman. She happens to have one of the meanest lines (in an already pretty mean film). She tells him “I wish I’d had the courage to take that trip down the back alley” and from Will’s reaction it sounds like this isn’t the first time she’s told him she should have had an abortion.

But if she had, We'd be minus one clown...some say that's a good thing

Going through the want ads he comes up with the brilliant idea of being a clown for hire for bachelor parties. His idea is to show up 15 minutes before the real entertainment and put on a little show in fishnets and a garter belt. Every great clown needs an equally great name, he now has a third face in Vulgar the clown. Which is a really great name for an equally great idea, but shit goes horribly wrong on his first event when he realizes that the “party” he was attending was just a man and his two borderline retarded sons. They proceed to beat him and get him drunk and then rape him. I’ll never be able to sum it up better than the father in two beautifully written lines “I’m gonna make hate to you” and then when he actually inserts “here comes the shame” it’s a amazingly tragic scene to watch. Will suffers through it and they let him live. By some miracle he manages to get himself home where he passes out. When he wakes he flips once the reality hits him of what happened. This is Brian O’halleran’s shining scene. I’ve never seen him act as well as he does in this one scene. Which is why it’s so powerful. You feel for Will and the torture he’s just been through. The end of this scene is particularly depressing and moving. Vulgar trashes his apartment in anger and break the mirror in his bathroom as he screams at himself that he’s a “fucking nobody”. After squeezing a piece of mirror till his hand bleeds he sets a bath and they do a really amazing job of making you think Will’s going to slice his wrists, but he bypasses the piece of mirror and grabs a washcloth and cleans himself off. This is the second time I’ve seen this film and I still thought he was going to off himself.

Needless to say, Vulgar's stint as a clown fares a little worse than Flappy

The next day Will’s best friend Syd stops over and finds Will sitting in the mess of his apartment. After some convincing he finally tells Syd what happened. It’s an emotional scene shared between friends. Speaking of friends, this is the point where our very own Tarbosh proclaims “this is the part I fapped to” obviously having been titilated by the sight of two grown men hugging. A client sucks back in Will, who is on the verge of getting out of clowning. On the way, however, a police barricade stops him and he soon realizes it’s the same house from earlier. In the most unrealistic aspect of the film, Flappy manages to get into the house and takes out the father who is holding his daughter hostage. Flappy becomes a local hero and is soon on the tabloid talk show circuit.

Thankfully Martan (Kevin Smith) has been paying attention to Flappy and he’s in a position to make Flappy one successful clown. Martan is also a welcome dose of comic relief in a film that was beginning to suffer from a bad case of seriousness. Martan gets Flappy his own show and through a well-placed montage Flappy becomes a huge star. Sadly this is not such a good thing as the man who raped Flappy discovers that it’s the same guy and he blackmails him out of $50,000. In the meantime, he’s already kidnapped another guy, but this guy doesn’t fare so well. Let’s put it this way, he gets himself a blowtorch body rub.

I hope kevin smith appreciates that I picked a relatively flatering picture of him and failed to make a fat joke...

The man decides that 50K isn’t enough and sets up a meeting for them so he can have one more taste of Vulgar. So Will comes up with a plan to take care of his problem. Unfortunately for him it doesn’t go to plan at all and he almost winds up dead. In a good turn of events though, thanks to the sons being half mental, Frankie (Ethan Suplee) winds up shooting himself in the face. It’s at this time that Syd shows up and Gino winds up shot as well. The father takes off and Vulgar gives chase in what leads up to the most unsatisfying climax ever. Sorry folks, it just is. But the filmmakers do give us a happy ending…Flappy gets away with it.

I tried...couldn't help myself

Most of these films I’m watching seem to rely on one central brutality to get through all their disturb potential, but most of them leave well enough alone when the scene is over. Vulgar does not follow suit. It keeps rehashing old wounds and manages to keep reminding us constantly about what happens to Will. This is what is truly disturbing about Vulgar. The film itself is not bad, but it could be better. It's obvious that first time director Bryon Johnson (who plays Syd in this film and Steve-Dave in a bunch of other View Askew pictures) needs more practice, I personally would love to see him try his hand at filmmaking again. Brian O’halloran saves the film from being a "meh" with his excellent performance as Will/Flappy/Vulgar.

4 Raped Clowns out of 5

Disturbitude: 6: as violent as the material is, there’s enough comedy mixed in to lighten the mood enough and the happy ending make for a pretty easy watch (except the clown rape scene)

Next Up: Happiness – The Eternal Quest for (and Constant Failure to Find) it

P.S. Obviously if you’re the type who dislikes clowns, you may want to skip this one.

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