A movie about clown-orchestrated tornadoes might not be your idea of good entertainment. Silly films like this tend to inspire brief Twitter snark and then they’re forgotten about forever. Granted, while some films of this ilk chase such reactions because there’s no such thing as bad publicity, some of them are made with the best intentions.
The latest movie to baffle the #FilmTwitter faithful is Clownado. Written and directed by Todd Sheets, the movie follows a group of demonic clowns who embark on a vengeful massacre using tornadoes to do their bidding. General filmgoers won’t find that premise appealing, but this movie was made for a niche audience that seeks a weirder kind of thrill.
Clownado is undoubtedly a very self-aware movie that could be interpreted as a cheap Sharknado knockoff. That said, Sheets has a strong track record when it comes to delivering fun, micro-budget splatter capers. Even more impressively, he’s been making these DIY indie horror flicks for almost 35 years. That’s no easy feat.
Making movies is an arduous task at the best of times, but this is especially true for filmmakers who make exploitation films on shoestring budgets. Understandably, these movies aren’t technically polished and some viewers find their obvious “flaws” off-putting. But what Sheets’ movies lack in the budget department they more than make up for in terms of heart, creativity, ambition, and spending the money where it counts.
In the realm of underground horror fare, Sheets is bona fide genre royalty. A pioneer of the video movement of the ’80s and ’90s, he’s often hailed as the “Master of Splatter” and “Prince of Gore,” which are titles horror fanatics don’t bestow upon just anyone. In fact, when it comes to filmmakers with similar badass monikers, legendary names like Herschell Gordon Lewis, Lucio Fulci, and George Romero spring to mind. Sheets isn’t on the same level as those guys in terms of impact, but he’s left his own indelible mark on cult movie history nonetheless.
Sheets’ career deserves more recognition than one movie trailer that made Twitter chuckle for a minute. I’m not saying that Clownado will be a great movie, but Sheets has made plenty of worthwhile contributions to horror and deserves some respect. With this in mind, here’s a selection of the director’s movies that I highly recommend if you want to explore his library.
Zombie Bloodbath (1993)
Despite making a string of homegrown movies in the ‘80s, Zombie Bloodbath was the movie that put Sheets on the map. The premise is familiar: a nuclear meltdown turns people into flesh-eating maniacs and chaos ensues. It’s not a game-changing zombie classic by any means, but it does live up to the promise of its title by delivering some impressively gruesome set-pieces. If you want to see a unique zombie movie, go elsewhere. If you want to see gallons of arterial spray and someone’s insides being ripped out through their butthole, this is the movie for you.
Violent New Breed (1997)
If I had to recommend one movie from Sheets’ filmography, it’d be Violent New Breed. It’s an ambitious little oddity about a cop who must put a stop to human/demon hybrids who’ve infiltrated humanity. In addition to all the strangeness and gory thrills one can always expect from a Sheets movie, this one does a terrific job of worldbuilding and raising some thought-provoking questions about religion and drugs. Rudy Ray Moore also shows up as a preacher to kick some ass in the name of the Almighty.
House of Forbidden Secrets (2013)
Watching Sheets’ evolution as a filmmaker has been fascinating. Zombie Bloodbath and Violent New Breed were both shot on-video and look very cheap and charming as a result. In recent years, though, his movies have vastly improved from a technical standpoint. House of Forbidden Secrets is the work of a veteran filmmaker putting everything he’s learned throughout the years to good use. The film itself is a supernatural chiller about a haunted manor, but it escapes the pitfalls of like-minded movies due to its Fulci-esque madness and Sheets’ trademark bloodshed. And if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, legendary Italian composer Fabio Frizzi also provides a fantastic score.
Dreaming Purple Neon (2016)
When it comes to having pure, unadulterated fun, Dreaming Purple Neon ticks all the right boxes. The basic story follows a man who returns to his home town only to discover that the place has been polluted by a drug that turns people into demons. There’s also gangsters, cults, and other surprises in store for viewers who dare to enter this neon nightmare. Of course, the main selling point of Dreaming Purple Neon is the shock and awe free-for-all factor, which gives us multi-colored liquids gushing from wounds, demons with swords, and more innards being torn through inappropriate places.
Bonehill Road (2017)
Good werewolf movies are few and far between these days, so Bonehill Road has a special place in my heart because it’s one of the better ones in recent memory. The tale revolves around a mother and daughter who are on the run from an abusive home life only to run into a horror of the hairier variety when their car breaks down. Elsewhere, Sheets adds more terror to proceedings by throwing in some cannibalism and abduction for good measure. Bonehill Road isn’t the all-out creature feature some viewers want from werewolf movies, but it’s a fascinating blend of various horror subgenres that works surprisingly well. The practical effects work is also outstanding.