Apokalypse Klown (1999)

There was a student film festival during my senior year of high school. Casey, Ty, and myself submitted a certain film to this festival, and it won an award, but I’ll save that gem for another post. This post is about Apokalypse Klown, it happened over 15 years ago, and here’s how I remember it:

In the weeks preceding the festival, Brad, Casey, and I wanted to shoot & submit something but we didn’t know what. I think Brad was the one who came up with the original premise. He had found a puffy clown jumpsuit, and we were going to use it somehow.

We didn’t get around to actually doing anything until the day of the festival. Casey’s basement was unfinished at the time, so we decided that would look cool and rushed over there after school.

After banging out the rough plot and some heartfelt expository dialogue, we shot the thing in under 35 minutes. Then Brad and I rushed across town to his house, transferred everything to his computer, and he edited it in Adobe Premiere. At the time, DV cameras were still very new; all I was familiar with was copying analog Hi8 to VHS. Brad picked Toccata and Fugue for the audio track. It was perfect.

There was barely time to copy it out to tape. We arrived at the festival late enough that the faculty advisor in charge didn’t have time to review it, but he let us show it anyway. Success. So here it is, one of a handful of classics, for the first time on YouTube. Three adolescents’ harrowing vision of a subterranean dystopian future nightmare for the ages. Also stick around for the additional notes below.

Additional notes (SPOILERS):

At 0:58, it may appear that we unknowingly crossed the 180-degree axis, but that’s actually how my character interacts with others in moments of great reflection: conversing while gazing thoughtfully into the distance above the horizon, 45 degrees counter-clockwise from the other person.

The laugh at 4:48 is Brad’s, slowed down a few percentage points.

Egotistical scumbag moment: the shot at 4:10 is my baby. We almost didn’t shoot it because we didn’t think there was time to do multiple angles, but I really wanted it and likely didn’t stop whining until the others gave in.

I don’t know what Brad is saying at 5:01. Likely reciting a manifesto.

5:15: yes, the Klown has The Force. Plot twists had just become popular in the late 90’s so of course we went with it.

5:26: rocking chair impalement!

5:31/5:45/5:55: acting! 5:36: Brad did this cool little knife flip-out here, but I didn’t zoom out fast enough to catch it. By the time it’s zoomed out all the way, the knife is already pointing out. I guess we’ll have to try to cover that in our 30th anniversary shot-for-shot remake.

6:00: I take credit for this moment, if my memory serves me . . . Brad, Casey, do I have all this right? And I guess the professional thing to do would have been to email this to them first and THEN publish the post about it, but I didn’t, so, surpriiise, guys. Let me know if there’s anything I got wrong, anything I left out, whatever.

Could I have uploaded it to YouTube without the black border? Yes. But it’s late, it’s almost 1 GB, and it already finished uploading. Let’s just make up something and say it’s motivated because it makes it look like it’s being projected onto an old silent movie theater screen, and Toccata himself is below and to the right of that screen, just whaling on that organ.

This was a group effort–I’m merely the keeper of the footage; the three of us share the blame equally, so you’ll have to write to three different congressmen separately to complain about its existence because we all live in different states now.

You guys, I hadn’t watched this in years. Good times. My current occupation is Video Producer, and I want to take an awkward, quicker-than-it-should-be moment to thank my friends and family members–immediate and extended–who have always been so supportive of my video-related antics. My past and current self really appreciates your support.

Finally, keep your eyes peeled for a cameo appearance by Casey’s Dad, cast as perhaps the most frightening character of all: the apathetic observer who could have saved innocent lives but instead chose to keep his back turned in his computer chair and allow the unspeakable horrors to escalate and continue. And is there not, perhaps, a malleable fragment of this man’s darkness deep inside the rest of us–possibly not as deep as we hope–waiting to be uncovered and kindled? I pray none of us must ever find out the answer, and thanks Leon for letting us use your basement btw. More to come later . . .

UPDATED JULY 6, 2014:

I thought of a few more things:

The dialogue at the beginning just cracks me up every single time, as well as the fact that we both had weapons ready right away.

Did you like Brad’s wardrobe? The puffy clown suit is great, but how bout the hat & sunglasses?

The clown threatens to kill us all but then retreats to the basement. Why didn’t he just kill us right then? Maybe he is only able to exercise his dark, circus-themed arts below ground.

In that same vein, how about this sequence of events: the clown sneaks up on us, silently takes me away with ninja-like skill, quietly and quickly beats me with my own stick (for only a few seconds), runs back to tell Casey “He’s gone!!!”, then runs away, no doubt to beat me some more. Then he waits over by the window until Casey comes to my aid to threaten us yet again. How did he do it? It’s like Kevin Costner’s description of Lee Harvey Oswald’s actions in JFK–did he act alone or was there a second klown? (Or did Casey’s dad help him?) Why didn’t he just stab us both in the back while we were very, very slowly walking down that spooky hallway? Why didn’t he just kill me instead of first beating me senseless, then killing my friend, and THEN killing me? Why didn’t he just stay in the basement the entire time and simply use The Force to send his knife upstairs to kill us? As a wolf may toy with its helpless prey, I suppose such are the games a klown plays.

Yes, he did clearly threaten our lives there in the first act, but he technically had not done us any harm yet. Casey and I are only cast as the text’s protagonists and sympathetic characters because we’re the first introduced (and likely share the audience’s fear of basement clowns); how is the viewer to know that we aren’t just as morally reprehensible as the apokalypse klown? Was Casey perhaps just a little too eager to “go get that clown”? Does this story begin at the tail end of a longer, more complex story of clown-directed harassment that culminates in Casey and I pushing him to the breaking point with an invasion of his home, and I was going to go downstairs and steal his belongings to make them my things? All that may be possibly, but it’s more logical and realistic that this was the same clown that killed my dad and it’s a real bummer that he kills us, too.

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One thought on “Apokalypse Klown (1999)

  1. You have made me so happy.

    Also, I had no idea that this was shot and edited all in one afternoon. Truly a cinematic masterpiece, from a trio of cinematic geniuses.

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