You’ve seen blood-sucking vampires, rampaging zombies, and sinister clowns. But have you ever seen these horror archetypes mashed up into one ludicrous yet menacing monster? Thanks to the twisted minds behind The Night Watchmen, now you can.
Making its Canadian premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival, this blood-splattered horror comedy follows a quartet of security guards through the weirdest and wildest night of their lives. Watching over a Baltimore office building, the most activity ex-military Ken (brawny co-writer Ken Arnold) and his jovial buddy Jiggetts (Kevin Jiggetts) expect is the local paper putting their latest edition to bed, and maybe some hazing of their new hire, a teen drummer with tattoos and thin skin (Max Gray Wilbur). But when some hapless deliverymen drop off the corpse of recently deceased local legend, Blimpo the Clown, things go bonkers quickly. You see, Blimpo died mysteriously overseas, and when he rises from the coffin, he’s a “zompire,” a zombie vampire. (“It’s a thing!) And the towering undead clown is quick to transform the once dull pencil pushers into fanged man-eaters. It’s up to Ken and his crew—which also includes a scrappy and pretty office worker/love interest (Kara Luiz)—to save the day, or at least survive the night.
The premise is willfully ludicrous, and the cast and crew knows it, throwing themselves full-bodied and bloody into every insane sequence. The carnage scenes are goofy and ghoulish. The heroes hilariously flail through fight scenes, quipping rejoinders and whipping out weed, tasers, and sharpened drum sticks as weapons. But blood spurts in generous blooms, undead office workers hiss and bite with raw abandon, and a barrage of creepy clowns acrobatically pile into a freaky and darkly funny finale like a nightmarish Cirque du Soleil.
Smartly confined mostly to the building, The Night Watchmen zings with energy and gleeful oddness. But wit is a bit lacking. This is demented and dumb fun. There’s gross-out gags of unsavory bodily fluids being sprayed into our heroes’ astonished and appalled faces. And much of the banter is at most sitcom-level edgy, like a running joke about how the Black guy (Jiggetts) keeps screwing up street slang (fo’ sizzle). Sure, it’s subverting Black stereotypes, but there’s little edge to it. Screenwriters Ken Arnold, Dan DeLuca (who also stars as one of the four watchmen) and Jamie Nash seem more interested in playing against movie conventions for laughs than they are in social satire. But for a movie as brazenly bonkers as this, that’s just fine. More pointed politics might feel jarring amid all the close noses and bile spurts.
The Night Watchmen is a perfect midnight movie; it’s weird, gory, and just goofy enough to keep you giggling between jump scares.