‘Clinger’: Slamdance Review
Ambition exceeds expertise in Michael Steves’ low-concept debut feature
A hapless, lovelorn ghost haunts his former high school sweetheart to distraction in this lame DIY horror comedy. Lacking the type of casting or directorial experience that could actually make the film’s goofy premise pay off, Clinger appears destined to wander the digital afterlife in search of late-night Internet surfers.
Facing her final year of high school, Fern (Jennifer Laporte) is focused on gaining admission to MIT to study neuroscience. As a track team star, she’s hoping the athletic route may be her best chance for admission, so she begins preparing for a major upcoming meet, only to be distracted by nerdy Robert Klingher (Vincent Martella) a classmate who’s majorly crushed out on her. When she decides to give him play, Robert comes on way too strong, rushing into the commitment thing, celebrating their “anniversary” on a weekly basis and constantly composing cringe-inducing love songs.
Fern begins to think she should pull back and concentrate on her chemistry class and track training, perhaps even break up with Robert, when he suffers a horrific accident, resulting in his beheading and quick demise. Her unemployed sister Kelsey (Julia Aks) and best friend Moe (Shonna Major) try to comfort her, making Fern think that maybe she really had something going with Robert, just as he returns uninvited from the dead, with his head sutured back onto his body. At first it’s nice having him around again, but he becomes much too needy once again and Fern realizes she needs professional help.
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Looking up a local ghost hunter, she discovers the supernatural expert is actually her track coach Valeria (Alicia Monet Caldwell). Since she’s desperately trying to get out of the business, Valeria provides Fern with some pro bono assistance, identifying Robert as a “love ghost,” a type that’s particularly persistent and visible only to Fern. Armed with her expert advice and some self-help resources, Fern’s determined to rid herself of Robert, but she can tell that splitting with this loser isn’t going to be simple or easy.
Screenwriters and multi-hyphenates Steves, Gabi Chennisi Duncombe and Bubba Fish appear to have overindulged in teen comedies and horror movies, resulting in this over-the-top genre hybrid that barely rises above the level of mild amusement. More campy than canny, the film substitutes lame humor and a generous amount of gore in place of productive plot development.
Considering their modest prior experience, perhaps the lead actors were directed to dumb down their performances to align them with the film’s lowbrow comedic aspirations. Laporte sometimes appears to be wincing her way through the role of the haunted girlfriend, never less convincing than when she’s meant to be showing affection for her awkward lover, whether he’s alive or otherwise. Martella’s air of smarmy bemusement rarely manages to connect, although his ghostly makeup does represent an improvement over his nerdy high school persona.
Low-budget production values and DIY visual effects only serve to emphasize that the film’s Kickstarter-funded budget might have been better spent boosting the filmmakers’ skills above the level of basic training.
Cast: Vincent Martella, Jennifer Laporte, Julia Aks, Shonna Major, Alicia Monet Caldwell, Taylor Clift, Leah Henley, Rebecca Gail, Paulie Deo, Jr.
Director: Michael Steves
Screenwriters: Michael Steves, Gabi Chennisi Duncombe, Bubba Fish
Producer: Bubba Fish
Executive producers: Harvey Cody, Todd Smith, Ada Young
Director of photography: Gabi Chennisi Duncombe
Production designer: Beck Kitsis
Costume designer: Cassandra Garvin
Editor: Bubba Fish
Music: Misha Segal
No rating, 81 minutes