Captain Spaulding, Sweet Tooth, The Violator, Joker, those jerks from outer space, that one from Poltergeist, Ronald McDonald – I could go on for days listing scary clowns. They are a fact of life and they are no fun, unless you get your jollies from being petrified (and I do). Writer/director Victor Mathieu knows this all too well and he is sharing this knowledge with the world in the form of his upcoming three-ring fling, CarnieVille. He has some mighty big shoes to fill (get it? Clowns have big shoes), but as the founder of Tombstone Films and with the award-winning short Tombstone Brides already under his belt, he’s sure to give Pennywise a run for his money.
Clowns: they freak people out, young and old. Are you afraid of clowns, and is there some childhood trauma you’d like to share?
No, no childhood trauma there [laughing]. You know, I was never really that afraid of clowns, but I grew up knowing that most people around me were. I think what makes a person afraid of clowns is the idea that behind the painted face, there’s no way of telling who that person really is. It wasn’t until I started doing research and discovered the clown serial killer John Wayne Gacy that I began feeling for my fellow coulrophobics [those with the fear of clowns]. If you haven’t heard of him and you’re afraid of clowns, well then that’s probably a good thing.
Clowns have been used to scare the crap out of people many times before. How is CarnieVille different from the killer clown films before it?
CarnieVille’s Bonzo is not just an evil clown, there’s more to him. He has a history; things have happened that made him turn out the way he did. I’m not saying he’s always had the best intentions, but he’s more complex than your regular clown character. He’s also quite frightening to watch.
What I personally love about CarnieVille is the carnival itself. Every single ride is custom made by Bonzo, and they are made to eliminate any “customers” that decide to ride them. And it’s all pretty gory… I’ll give you a hint: Keeping your arms inside the roller coaster at all times will not help you survive the ride!
The two movies I tried to inspire myself from were Freaks (1932) and Piranha 3D. I really wanted to make this journey frightening while dealing at the same time with a complex and interesting group of kids. I personally think that it’s always important to have some form of comedy in horror. It reinforces the idea that the movie isn’t just crafted to scare you. It gives it more of a human personality.
Who do you think are some of the scariest clowns in and out of horror movies?
Again, like I said, John Wayne Gacy is someone I try to avoid thinking about! If not, in all honesty, I was never afraid of It or any other clown movie, so I’m trying to make one that will scare people today. It’s been too long since anyone’s seen a strong, scary clown horror film!
The teaser for CarnieVille (see below) shows a mad clown scare-voguing for the camera. Who is that actor?
That’s Brett Rickaby! He was in The Crazies and Bereavement. I tracked him down after I’d seen him in The Crazies. During casting, I couldn’t think of any actors for the role of the Clown. Eventually, The Crazies popped into my head and it just made perfect sense. We called his agent and made it work because I knew he was made for the role. I’ll always remember the first time he got into make-up and got on set: it wasn’t Brett anymore, it was Bonzo. And that felt really good.
Your first film, Tombstone Brides, is about the ghostly return of a late wife. Do you have reservations or fears related to marriage?
Well, I think that marriage is a big commitment, and some people jump into it without truly knowing how big of a commitment it really is. The idea for the story came during a complicated time in my life: I was transitioning from one relationship into another, and I remember thinking one day, wouldn’t it be so much easier if the three of us got along?
Both Tombstone Brides and CarnieVille are produced by your own company, Tombstone Films. In your opinion, is this DIY approach the way to go?
The do-it-yourself way is the way to go nowadays if you really want your movie to get made. Kind of like what the makers of Saw did – they created a trailer in order to then pitch their idea to the studios. This way, we can then come in for a partnership and make the full feature. It’s the new way of independent filmmaking, and not just for horror but for filmmaking in general. Since [CarnieVille] is a moderate-budget project filled with VFX, we cannot do it alone!
Finally, in addition to being a filmmaker you are also a singer/songwriter. One of my favorites of yours is “Werewolf Dinner Party.” Are novelty Monster Party songs something you are interested in pursuing, and if a group of werewolves were to get together for a meal, do you think it would be a civilized, sit-down dinner?
You know what, I don’t even remember how this song came up, I just sat down for half an hour one day and wrote the lyrics down, and that’s what I came up with! I do really like writing songs about monsters; in fact, I’m fascinated by them. It’s definitely something that I will pursue in the future, although my focus right now is CarnieVille. My favorite, ironically, is [Warren Zevon's] “Werewolves of London.” And no, I don’t think a Werewolf Dinner Party would be civilized at all. I think it would be gross to watch, and most likely intimidating, too. A werewolf is more animal than human – it’s the beast within. And I don’t think the beast within would bother with manners.
You can find all the info you need on Victor at his website, www.tombstonefilms.com.