Review + Interview Questions by Laura Schaubschlager
I chose to cover Gags out of a feeling of obligation as FlixChatter’s resident horror writer, but I didn’t have high hopes. Yes, I liked It, but overall, I’ve never understood why people are scared of clowns, and a movie about a creepy clown terrorizing Wisconsin sounded uninspired. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.
Gags is the name of a mysterious clown that has been spotted around Green Bay, WI for the past week. While the whole community is shaken, the movie focuses on four groups’ reactions to the eerie figure: news broadcaster Heather Duprey (Lauren Ashley Carter) and her camera man, Dale (Wyatt Kuether); two cops on duty, Chrissy Renard (Tracy Perez) and Jake Gruber (Evan Gamble); a trio of teen pranksters (Michael Gideon Sherry as Tyler, Squall Charlson as Chris, and Halley Sharp as Sara); and a conservative, militant podcaster, Charles Wright (Aaron Christensen) and his producer, Wayne (Jake Martin). As we follow the characters in their pursuit of Gags, it becomes less clear whether the clown is just a normal individual trying to cause a scene or something more nefarious.
This movie is so much fun. It’s shot in found footage style, but rather than just sticking with telling the story through home videos, it’s also a mix of news clips, police dash and body cam footage, and live webcam recordings, which is such a creative way of keeping this particular film style interesting, as well as making a lot of the exposition feel more natural. It also helps build the suspension and horror, since many shots have limited camera angles and movement, and of course there’s no background music, adding to the tension.
The costume design for Gags is simple and creepy, and he shows up sparingly, building the suspense. And while it is creepy, the movie has several moments of levity that made me laugh out loud, thanks in large part to some solid line delivery from the talented cast.
Q&A with writer/director Adam Krause
Thanks Laura Schaubschlager for the interview questions!
1. Were you worried about audiences comparing this movie to It, with Gags being released less than a year after the massive Stephen King adaptation, and what would you say to audiences worried that they’re going into “another creepy clown movie?”
Honestly, we weren’t worried. From the start we thought it could only help us. The second IT got big, it showed that people were still interested in the sub-genre of creepy clown films. And hopefully word gets out that Gags takes a different approach to clown horror. This is not a film about a psychotic clown running around chopping people up. While we do have a creepy clown who is up to no good, Gags is also a character driven, social commentary on not only the clown craze of 2016 but also our media-obsessed society.
2. I saw on IMDb that there’s a short film that Adam did called Gags also. Is this feature born out of that short? If so, how’s the process of turning a short into a feature film?
Yes, the feature is born out of the short. Gags‘ intentions are the same in the feature as they are in the short. We were just able to expand on the idea more in the feature film while also using real-life events from when our pictures when viral to create new characters with new motivations.
Is the character of Charles Wright, the conservative podcaster who decides to hunt for Gags, based off any any specific real-life figure?
He was not based on one specific real-life figure but rather a collection of responses I received after my Gags marketing stunt took off. Those viral photos sparked many responses from the world but what I wasn’t expecting was how many messages I would receive that threatened violence against the clown. We actually couldn’t have our actor go out in public for months after the pictures went viral because we were receiving so many threats. People were sending me pictures of themselves in the same locations we took the viral photos holding guns. A line from one particular message was repurposed into the film: “If I saw your stupid clown, I wouldn’t grab my phone, I’d grab this (a picture of his gun).”
So the character of Charles Wright was a collection of those responses that just naturally went down the path of an extremist conservative because those strong values were the ones required to be so passionate about physically wanting to hurt a person dressed up as a clown.
4. How did you decide on the name “Gags” for the infamous clown in this movie?
That’s not as interesting of an answer as you’re probably hoping for. During preproduction on the short, I commissioned an artist to create a clown mask for me to use for the character. I ultimately passed on using her mask but she called the clown “Gags” and I loved it. We became friends during the process and I asked her if I could use it and she was all for it. The name just worked so well for the character I had envisioned in my mind. I even tried thinking of an original name in the same vein but nothing to me had the bright lights of the name “Gags.”
5. Why do you think people, many of them mostly rational adults, were so scared during the whole “people dressing up like clowns in public” craze last year when none of the sightings amounted to anything? Do you think people thought they were genuine threats, or do you think it was just news coverage and social media stirring up people’s imaginations?
Someone dressing up like a creepy clown and walking around a city at night isn’t normal. So while there wasn’t a direct threat presented, people will always be scared of situations that don’t fit the mold of societal norms. Which is why, when I first heard of these stories 4-5 years ago, I thought the idea was so ripe for a horror film. You take a clown, which a large population of the world is already scared of, and you have them show up in their neighborhood at night with nothing more than a clutch full of black balloons? People will lose their minds. And they did.
*Gags stills courtesy of Dave Burke Photography
Thank you Adam Krause for chatting w/ FlixChatter!
(special thanks to John Pata for facilitating the interview)
So great seeing the Gags cast/crew at TCFF just before the screening!
[from left] Actor Squall Charlson, writer/producer John Pata, Ruth Maramis, director Adam Krause and actor Wyatt Kuether.