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The Tampa Premiere of "100 Tears" áby Nolan Canova
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Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our eighth calendar year!
Number 379  (Vol. 8, No. 26). This edition is for the week of June 25--July 1, 2007.


The Tampa, Florida Premiere of
"100 Tears"
Channelside Theaters, Friday, June 22, 2007

by Nolan B. Canova


Genesis
The first time I remember hearing about 100 Tears was at the last meeting of the Tampa Film Network, November 2006. Panelist Melissa Webb casually made the announcement from her seat that auditions were to begin soon, early December, and she was quite enthused about it. It was expected the crew of The Quiet Place, a TFN film then in post-production, would help out once again. I sort of half-remembered 100 Tears being some sort of horror movie, but that's about it.

Well, production began in January (with only a fraction of the expected crew and no one from the TFN), and wrapped, I believe, sometime in February. Along the way, 100 Tears had managed to do something pretty rare around here: created a huge buzz, built up a fan following, and with the help of some advance artwork and a terrific trailer, accumulated a line of interested distributors before the movie even opened!

Director Marcus Koch (ROT) and writer/star Joe Davison (Unearthed) have crafted one of the creepiest screenplays ever, that of a homicidal circus clown, into an impressive piece of work that is likely to be a hit with horror audiences. There was a little help along the way, of course, from German producer Ted Geoghegan, Leslie Crytzer, Elmar Berger, and Alanna Baker who bankrolled the team and made sure their only concern was to work full-time to make the best movie they could.
Click on images to emlarge. A new browser window will open
Clayton "The Ogre" Smith on left ("How's the weather up there?"), converses with our own Chris Woods on right, while Glen Lace (center) looks on. Clayton plays young Gurdy the Clown in the film.
Madman Joel Wynkoop, left, catches the camera while Chris Woods, center, converses with Terence Nuzum.
Clayton Smith, left, helps demonstrate Joel Wynkoop's chokehold!
L-R, Chris Woods, Terence Nuzum, Chris Passinault, and Clayton Smith
L-R, Rod L. Griffin, Jack Amos, Mrs. Amos(?), Jerry Alan.
We switch out so I can get into this. Yours truly on left.

Click on images to emlarge. A new browser window will open
Yours truly on left with writer/actor Joe Davison
L-R, Robert Sterritt, Glen Lace, Shelby McIntyre.
L-R, Jerry Alan, Raine Brown, and director Marcus Koch.
Raine Brown and Marcus Koch.
L-R, Joe Davison, Nolan Canova, Marcus Koch.
L-R, Nolan Canova, Raine Brown, and Terence Nuzum.

With anticipation at an all-time high (nearly unrivaled in this area) the cast-and-crew (and critics) screening was Friday, June 22nd, at 9:00pm. Waiting for some late arrivals, the actual start time was more like 9:12pm when Joe Davison called the "meeting" to order and made some comments and thank yous. Then it was on with the show.

DISCLAIMER #1: This review was difficult to write because I am going on Friday night's exhibition alone. It is my understanding that there have been several major edits to the movie since then.

Everyone Loathes a Clown
Two aggressive tabloid reporters, Mark Webb (Joe Davison) and Jennifer Stevenson (Georgia Chris) are looking for a career-making headline piece for their paper, The Midnight Star. Jennifer researches area serial-killers and comes upon a 20-year-old unsolved case called the Teardrop Killer. Starting with his first victim, Jessica Canova (wink wink, thanks guys) until present day, there has been a grisly trail of bloodshed and no serious investigation.

Meanwhile, at a local run-down halfway house, said serial killer is merrily hacking up the place, dismembering one victim after another. After the bloody melee is over, he leaves, but a witness is left behind -- a small girl who remembers a circus clown with an axe.

Traveling into the heart of carnival culture, Mark and Jennifer visit Gibtown (Gibsonton, FL) where the local barkeep (Jerry Alan) points them to a circus dwarf named Drago (Norberto Santiago) who may have some information. Somewhat reluctantly, Drago weaves a tale of trust, betrayal, and emotions gone wild. Eventually, suspicion falls on Luther Edward Baxter, aka, Gurdy The Clown, who's been missing for 20 years.

Enter Christine Greaston (Raine Brown) a street-wise tough girl who seems to like to lure unsuspecting males to their deaths. At first seemingly unconnected to the Teardrop Killer, evidence starts building to a possibility that, as Christine puts it, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Splatterfest Memories
You get the feeling director Marcus Koch has been waiting to do this a long time. This is the quissentential special make-up effects/gorehound fanboy's wet dream. There is an average murder rate of one killing every two minutes or so. The special effects are amazing. The action scenes are amazing. Marcus Koch has plenty of screen credits to illustrate his marksmanship as a make-up effects whiz, I expected to be amazed and I wasn't disappointed. With only one other director credit on his resumé, 1999's underground splatterpunk sensation ROT, the pressure now was to deliver a story and a movie worthy of the growth of his effects prowess, basically.

Surprisingly, only one camera was used for this entire picture, a Hi-Def JVC digital video rig. The digital image held up extremely well on the big screen, totally crisp and sharp (something only the Guzzo Bros The End is Blossoming had achieved previously under similar circumstances), but the color in many scenes was disappointingly desaturated, some night scenes looking nearly black-and-white.

DISCLAIMER #2. There were problems with the video projector Friday night, and as I understand it, picture and sound were fixed over the weekend including color levels.


I expected Jack Amos as the Gurdy the Clown would be terrific especially given the challenge of acting with no lines and under heavy makeup. I was not disappointed.

The biggest revelations are the dwarf, Jerry Alan, and Raine Brown.

The dwarf, Norberto Santiago, is absolutely pro-level and completely believeable in every scene he's in. He's totally into it. Arguably, the best actor in the movie.

Jerry Alan (he's in the trailer, the "Carny Law" speech), who has never made much impression before outside of his stunt work, is GREAT here! Believeable, funny, in command, and totally into it. Congrats to Marcus for bringing that out of him.

In retrospect, Raine Brown (she's in the trailer, the "axe to the head" speech) becomes the lynchpin performance around which most of the movie revolves, more than Joe or Georgia, weirdly enough. She is sexy as hell, a great actress, and her screen presence is positively electric. I'd watch anything she's in!

I think the world of Joe Davison as an actor, and, although I don't remember seeing Georgia Chris before, she is a very attractive woman with quite an acting pedigree herself. Several of us in the audience were confused as to their relationship because their onscreen chemistry is virtually non-existent. The best I can make out is they are professional writing partners who are also roommates. Implied sexual tension without the...er...sexual tension. Despite her living room workouts in very little clothing, and Joe's anal jokes (while he plays video games...sheesh), they don't appear to be a couple. OK, fine.

ADJUSTMENT: After the first posting of this review earlier in the week, I was reminded via a message board post that there is a early scene where Mark and Jennifer awaken in bed together. While this is pretty good evidence they're at least f*ck buddies (their clothes were still on), I never got the idea they were the proverbial **makes airquotes** boyfriend and girlfriend **close airquotes**. So, while I may have overstated a complete lack of sexual contact, my assessment of their relationship is likely more from Joe's super-aloof approach and Georgia's relative detachment.

Their scenes together also appear to be shot with more-or-less existing lighting, which flattens their characters even more. One scene from the preview trailer, them standing on the rooftop of a parking garage while Joe recaps the situation, arguably Joe's coolest moment in the movie, has been re-edited to include a reaction shot from Georgia. I felt this diluted what was previously Joe's defining close-up. Finally, the momentum of the movie frequently seems to slow to a crawl while they converse, and one extended scene toward the end (I'll call it the wallet scene for those who saw it) crashed the movie to a complete stop.

The scenes between Joe and Detective Duncan (Rod L. Griffin) fare a little better, even though Duncan and Detective Spalding (Kibwe Dorsey) seem to be the only representatives of law enforcement visible throughout.

DISCLAIMER #3: Huge sections of these scenes have been cut down or out entirely since this showing.

On the plus side, Georgia's phone conversations in Greek with a relative are a nice touch. Joe and Georgia's chase with the dwarf through an abandoned park in Gibtown was positively amazing and one of the best scenes in the movie, including inspiring camera dolly moves that were flat-out pro-level. Excellently done. The questioning in Drago's trailer was most touching and contain some of the best dramatic scenes.

The showdown in the warehouse (Gurdy's "house of horrors") is an odd mix of great and weird. Breakneck pacing, creepy lighting and more relentless killings as Webb and Duncan try and corner the killer. Detective Spalding has only one pivotal scene with Jennifer the rest of his walkaround while the killings are happening is a bit of a waste.

Although some of the ending may seem hurried, tacked on, or confusing, the characters' revelations and their ultimate fates should provide plenty of satisfaction for most any horror fan.

Considering the cut of the movie that will be finalized, I think it's safe to give this one a rating of VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


SHORT EXCERPTS FROM THE MESSAGE BOARD...AND MY COMMENTS
I had invited message board reviews for 100 Tears that appeared before I wrote this official one. While most posts praise the movie unconditionally, here is a tiny sample that represents other viewpoints I'd heard:

droogiedurango79 says: Overall, I guess I'm saying that the script and Marcus's vision don't jibe. I have never seen a horror movie with no suspense.

I'm excerpting this to make a point (droogie did go on and praise much of the movie). One radical difference between 100 Tears and most other similar fare is that we go in knowing who the serial killer is. But the same can be said of Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street movies. The point of 100 Tears is not what we know, the point is what the characers know. However, even keeping this in mind, there may be more to this. Read on...

El_Trutho says: I remembered thinking while watching the first half or so, that it almost felt like someone directed the killing sequences and someone different directed the other sequences.

Again, it bears repeating this is an excerpt only, El_Trutho did go on and praise the movie overall. The two posts above, to me, are almost saying the same thing. That it looks like Marcus basically constructed and took care of the FX/action/killer scenes and Joe's script took care of the rest. Please understand this does not affect the power of this movie, it only may help to explain the jarring shifts in pacing.



"The Tampa, Florida Premiere of "100 Tears" is ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.

All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ę2007 by Nolan B. Canova.

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