Studio: Osiris Entertainment
Director: Michael Steves
Writer: Michael Steves, Gabi Chennisi Duncombe, Bubba Fish
Producer: Bubba Fish, Michael Steves
Stars: Vincent Martella, Jennifer Laporte, Julia Aks, Shonna Major, Alicia Monet Caldwell, Taylor Clift, Leah Henley, Paulie Deo Jr., Rebecca Gail, Jeffrey Bean, Debbie Rochon, Lisa Wilcox
A teenage girl discovers that even death can’t stop her overbearing boyfriend from smothering her with affection.
Soon after an unlikely meet cute involving a dislocated shoulder popped back into place, teenagers Robert and Fern become boyfriend and girlfriend, and Robert runs full speed ahead with a blindfold to be sure Fern knows how over the moon he is. Stuffed bears and serenades. Picnic baskets and balloons. Robert is the kind of clinger who can’t wait to celebrate a one month and three week anniversary, even though he honored the one month and two week milestone just seven days earlier.
Fern is flattered, yet frustrated. With a big track meet looming and college on her horizon, a smothering suitor only adds to Fern’s pressure. Telling Robert to cool it simply won’t do. Time has come cut the albatross loose. Unfortunately for both of them, a guillotine gag set to unfurl an “I love you” banner causes Robert to lose his head over Fern in the most literal way possible. If Fern thought Robert was obsessive in life, wait until she sees what he is willing to do in death.
Not to sound like a shameful indie movie elitist, but a certain amount of trepidation arises whenever opening credits indicate a homegrown effort where writers are the producers, as well as the director, editor, and cinematographer. That’s the case with “Clinger,” a micro-budget affair with friends and family behind its camera and unknown actors in front of it. By law of overwhelming averages, such a film should be no better than “acceptable” on a good day, or more likely, fated to fall into obscurity with other DIY projects operating under mistaken notions that ambition alone makes a movie worth watching.
Yet in this exception to that usual rule, cutting corners on cost does not equal cutting out quality. Rough-around-the-edges production values actually fit this weird world where grief therapy is done with sock puppets and high school athletic events end in paranormal pandemonium. “Clinger” may have a cast and a crew greener than golf grass, but its amateur aesthetic is overcome by sincere intentions to be engaging, emotional, and entirely entertaining.
Scrappy spirit is part of what makes “Clinger” endearingly funny. While the production works on a shoestring without looking (too) cheap, jokes find ways to be irreverent without being tasteless for humor that is silly without being juvenile. Stocked with fast wit and faster execution, the film fashions laughs from quick cuts, camera tilts, one-liners, double entendres, basically any element it puts its paws on. And it does so before becoming overstuffed, overindulgent, or overly desperate to draw attention to itself.
Very little of what could be potentially annoying about the film actually is. Fern’s friend has the character quirk of speaking in innuendo despite being ignorant of her sexual suggestions, yet the ongoing joke never comes across as forced, stale, or unwelcome. There is just the right amount of enthusiasm energizing the whole cast to pitch everyone as daffy without being absurdly over-the-top. Supporting performances from Julia Aks and Alicia Monet Caldwell in particular stand out as the types of unfamiliar faces pumping personality into side stories with subtlety when needed, and with comic craziness as desired.
Vincent Martella mixes a youthful Mark Duplass and a nerdy Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert. The film perfectly splits audience emotions into equal parts sympathy for him having the jilted heart of a good guy and for Fern having to beat it into Robert’s undead head that it is time to move on. Refreshingly touching in how it plays fair with both points of view on relationships gone wrong, “Clinger” comes close to ranking up there with “500 Days of Summer,” “Swingers,” even “Annie Hall” as a comfort film to turn to after an unfavorable breakup.
Favoring the latter to the former as a horror-comedy hybrid, “Clinger” isn’t without a nicely gushing gore gag or three accenting amusement. From the cartoonish killings of demonic teddy bears to a sex scene qualifying as one of moviedom’s most memorable, “Clinger” proves itself to be cleverly creative with its carnage as well as legitimately funny and earnestly charming.
Simply put, “Clinger” is humorous horror wearing its heart on its sleeve while impaled by a knife. And anyone not inspired to hum Robert’s ridiculously catchy “Fern, Fern, Fern” commitment ode at least once might want to check his/her pulse for a missing sense of fun once the film concludes.
Review Score: 85