Fantasia: THE NIGHT WATCHMEN (2017)

Night Watchmen.jpg

Studio:       Gravita Ventures
Director:    Mitchell Altieri
Writer:       Dan DeLuca, Jamie Nash, Ken Arnold
Producer:  Jeffrey Allard, Demetrea Triantafillides, Ken Arnold, Dan DeLuca
Stars:     Ken Arnold, Dan DeLuca, Kevin Jiggetts, Kara Luiz, Max Gray Wilbur, Tiffany Shepis, Matt Servitto, James Remar

Review Score:


Summary:

Four hapless security guards and a newspaper reporter battle their way through an office building overrun by vampire clowns.


Synopsis:     

Fantasia Film Festival Review:

Beloved Baltimore icon ‘Blimpo the Clown’ and his comedy troupe had their traveling circus tour cut short when everyone died mysteriously in Romania.  Their bodies are coming back stateside for autopsies to figure out exactly what happened.  The coroner doesn’t have a chance to pick up his scalpel though, since two slacker deliverymen dropped off Blimpo’s coffin at a newspaper office by mistake.

Night watchmen Ken and Jiggetts are busy hazing their new hire by making him wear a uniform that says ‘Rajeeve’ and filling his head with tall tales that fourth guard Luca is a wanted hitman.  They also have their faces full of long looks on the security cameras at the office’s resident eye-catcher Karen.

Unwanted advances and rookie initiations take a backseat to bigger problems when Blimpo gets bitey, rising from the dead and sinking fangs into anyone in sight.  Deadly dominos fall quickly as employees inside and dog walkers outside turn into vampires too, with the infection spreading like wildfire.  Karen and the four hapless guards suddenly find themselves the only humans left alive.  To stay that way, they need to work together to battle back the hordes and find a way out of the building, which is now overrun by the undead.

When it comes to critiquing comedy, there is a definite difference between “this isn’t funny” and “this isn’t funny to me.”  Understanding that difference has me tempering my criticism of horror/comedy “The Night Watchmen” somewhat.  This is because I realize the film’s brand of juvenile jokes might be funny to some, even though it isn’t particularly funny to me.

Funny or not, the movie at least keeps attempts at humor coming at a steady clip.  Dialogue can’t go two sentences without someone saying something sarcastic, and two setups can’t go by without something silly happening.

“The Night Watchmen” basically bats wildly at a piñata while blindfolded, hoping for a swing that’ll burst the belly wide open.  The reality is most of those whiffs end up thudding limply or missing the target completely.

To weigh whether or not its gags are tailored to your tastes, here is the lowdown on the lowbrow level being dealt with here:

One character comments on “dirty butt juices sloshing around” as the camera cuts to a close-up of chocolate sauce oozing out of a donut eater’s mouth.  (How clever!)  One barb takes a swipe at the handsome, sparkling vampires of “Twilight.”  (How timely!)  To test the newbie’s listening skills, his mentors casually mention an employee requirement that everyone “suck each other’s dicks on Tuesday.”  (How progressive!)

Gay jokes.  Ethnic jokes.  Did I mention these vampires emit noxious fumes from their asses when they die?  “The Night Watchmen” aims so far below the belt, it misses the crotch completely and punches out its edge at the ankles.

Not helping the movie’s case is the fact that “Bloodsucking Bastards” (review here) already did the “vampires overrunning an office” premise, and did it with more consistency in its comedy.  “The Night Watchmen” takes too many lessons from the first season of “South Park” and not enough from the twentieth, emphasizing straight toilet humor and slapstick above inventive hilarity or imaginative stabs at parody.

It’s not that “The Night Watchmen” is a poorly made movie.  On the contrary, the film is impressive for a low-budget indie.  Stunts are plentiful, including one person lit on fire.  Sound design pays attention to minor ambient audio effects.  Nimble editing makes action even more energetic.  Dozens of extras feature in crowd scenes.  Actors spend most of the movie covered in red and black goop.  A seriously professional effort is certainly on display.

It comes down to whether or not farting vampire clowns getting high on weed tickles your funny bone.  One scene has survivors forcing a suspected vampire to dance in order to prove he is human.  When they don’t like his dance, they make him do another.  Then a third.  If that’s the kind of gag you haven’t outgrown, “The Night Watchmen” might be up your alley.

“Popcorn movies” is a term used to describe guilty pleasure flicks where providing mindless entertainment is the number one agenda item.  Maybe “The Night Watchmen” can be branded as a “bongwater movie,” where the intention is to be supplemental background noise for easily pleased stoners in between bites of Hostess cakes.

Not that there’s any thing wrong with good times geared toward beer drinking crowds.  Personally, I’d prefer to see an intelligent script taking the vampire clown concept to more creative places than “that’s what she said” punchlines.

75 minutes without credits makes “The Night Watchmen” a low risk investment anyway.  Just be prepared for the movie to disintegrate from your memory once you return to reality, not unlike sunlight obliterating a vampire.

Review Score:  50