FANTASIA 2017 REVIEW: The Night Watchmen
– By MovieCritic NextDoor
It’s all over the news — the nation is mourning the death of the beloved clown Blimpo (Gary Peebles), struck down along with his entire clown troupe by a mysterious disease while on tour in Romania. I didn’t think there were any beloved clowns anymore, unless Pennywise counts, but for purposes of The Night Watchmen assume that Blimpo was indeed beloved. Due to the suddenness of these deaths, the troupe’s bodies have been shipped quickly back to the US for autopsy. Thanks to a strange set of circumstances, however, Blimpo’s coffin has ended up in the wrong building overnight, and yes, that is a very bad thing.
The wrong building in this case is a newspaper office, where there are four security guards. Ken (Ken Arnold) is a former Marine and by-the-book tough guy, while his best friend Jiggetts (Kevin Jiggetts) is a little too interested in a certain semi-legal drug he’s stockpiling in his locker. Luca (Dan DeLuca) is the mystery of the group, with various rumors flying about his shady past. And Rajeeve (Max Gray Wilbur) is the new guy, fresh from a failed rock band, except his name isn’t Rajeeve; that’s just the name on the old uniform shirt he ends up wearing because his is still on order.
Ken has a crush on Karen (Kara Luiz), who works in the office, even though the regulations strictly prohibit mixing business and personal relationships, as Ken sternly explains to Rajeeve. Meanwhile, creepy boss Randall (James Remar), hoping to cash in on the recent circus tragedy, accidentally unleashes Blimpo onto an unsuspecting world. Yes, it’s your worst nightmare: clown vampires.
Since the regulations don’t cover undead invasions, the team is naturally freaked out. But Karen is in danger and Ken is determined to save her, which means rallying the troops and fighting. While the rescue doesn’t go quite how Ken pictured it, Karen is safe — for the moment — and the five of them band together (in at least one case dubiously, since Karen doesn’t seem to think much of security guards) for survival. But with most of the office staff having joined the ranks of the vampires, surviving until dawn won’t be easy. How can our heroes possibly make it to sunrise?
Unlike their more traditional horror brethren, horror-comedies often seem to let their characters be far less disorganized and impractical, which is certainly the case here. Maybe I should do a study on that phenomenon. But whatever the reason, the group plans much more than they flail aimlessly, and that alone is tremendously refreshing. Even better, the characters aren’t caricatures, though one of them does have a hidden talent that’s kept hidden far too long, for no reason other than dramatic revelation as far as I could see.
But it’s a wild and entertaining romp, featuring all sorts of fascinating ways to kill (or at least slow down) a vampire, and even the parts that don’t make sense are still fun, in the campiest sense. There’s a great deal of gore, to say the least, but in most cases it’s so over the top it quickly stops seeming gory, and the effects are generally very good. I’ll give it four out of five. However reluctant their heroism, these regular people don’t give up and always stick together, and sometimes that’s all it takes.