Review: GAGS (2018) – Cinepocalypse 2018
Beginning life as a short film with an advertising campaign that went viral and sparked a rash of reports of sinister clowns on various social media, the feature version of GAGS made its world premiere at Cinepocalypse 2018. Coming in the wake of TERRIFIER, it has some big shoes to fill, in more ways than one. Thankfully, director Adam Krause is up to expanding the short to feature length. He also takes it in a different direction than most killer clown films.
A series of sightings of a mysterious clown roaming around Green Bay, WI has the city in an uproar. Seemly a harmless, if creepy, prank, it has the city divided as to the clown, nicknamed Gags, intent. Against this backdrop the police try to keep order, a reporter follows a story, the host of a far-right podcast holds a live-streamed “Clown Hunt” and a group of bored teens see an excuse to stir things up. None of them realize that Gags has upped his game to deadly levels.
Shot in a mix of standard narrative style and footage from police body cameras, assorted security cameras, podcast and news footage GAGS is as much a satire of the media as it is a horror film. From the ratings-driven mainstream to the publicity hounds of the “new media” be it political podcasters or YouTube pranksters, no one is spared. The main focus is on TV reporter Heather Duprey (Lauren Ashley Carter, THE MIND’S EYE, BLACK SITE) and far-right podcaster Charles Wright (Aaron Christensen, DEAD WEIGHT). Duprey is vain and obsessed with getting big ratings, even if the story itself is trivial. She just wants to make a name for herself and move up to a bigger, better market.
Wright, on the other hand, is the kind of right-wing guns and authority type blowhard you see in political threads on Facebook. He doesn’t believe somebody should be allowed to walk around “his” city dressed like a clown, scaring people. So he’s going to do something about it, at gunpoint if need be. Assuming, of course, enough people like and share his live cast. You can guess this doesn’t end at all well, and his meltdown is enjoyably epic.
The horror elements lean more towards the creepy than outright frightening. Gags’ method of getting victims is clever, and what happens to them is unnerving. It all builds to an effective climax and final shot at TV news. Eric Heuvelman does a good job as the silent clown, though he doesn’t have a lot to do except look ominous.