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Gavin Schmitt

Fantasia Film Review: "The Night Watchmen" (2017)

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Three inept night watchmen, aided by a young rookie (Max Gray Wilbur) and a fearless tabloid journalist (Kara Luiz), fight an epic battle for their lives against a horde of hungry vampires… and clowns.

Where to begin on this one? First of all, it is hilarious, original, quirky, and a true midnight movie. Time will tell if this becomes a cult film, but it seems to have enough elements that repeat viewings are inevitable. Horror fans might be lured in by seeing the names James Remar and Tiffany Shepis attached, but really they are neither the stars of the film, nor anywhere near the best part.

The humor is what sells this film. And it is not so much the jokes (such as a black man who fumbles with “black culture”) as it is the timing and delivery of them. There is almost a Marx Brothers quality to some of the banter, with comments flying by quickly that might be easily missed if you are not fully invested. Then again, some of the jokes are impossible to miss – such as what happens when vampires are killed. We even get a “Twilight” reference or two.

On the horror end of this horror-comedy, credit must be given for what may be a new invention: the clown vampire, or “clownpire”. With the hundreds, if not thousands, of vampire movies in the world, it stands to reason that at least one of them would have had a clown who became a vampire. But nothing immediately springs to mind. And this film owns the idea, not just making it a throw away, but really the central plot device. You might think that would be silly, cheesy or just plain dumb, but in fact it works very effectively and adds to the creepy factor.

The blood keeps coming, just as it should. While not over the top like “Dead Alive”, there is enough red to keep everyone happy. There are also a few shots of gratuitous nudity, if that is what you’re into. I’m not, but I know it’s what the kids want. The only real complaint is the inclusion of an unnecessary romance angle. While it certainly works, it was rather cheesy and even less believable than the clown vampires.

For a great genre film shot in Baltimore (with absolutely no John Waters connection), you will want to check out “The Night Watchmen”. Already winning awards on the festival circuit, it screened August 2, 2017 at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Who knows what sort of havoc it will cause upon wider release.

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