Halloween Horror 2013 (pt. 2): Laughter (2012)

Description (from the IMDb):
When a troubled teen is pushed to far, he takes action into his own hands. The prank he plans ends with a death of a young one! Months pass and everyone acts like nothing happened. Soon their actions will end deadly and end with his laugh.

Major Cast:
Rocky Petroziello as Joey, Shauna Fahad as Fay, Kris Marconi as Chris, Rebecca Henning as Terri, Sam Rovin as Brian, Erin Rovin as Kate, Tim Merli as Mike, and Scott Geiter as Gruesome Hertzogg

Special Features:
None (Screener)

Written and Directed by Adam Dunning

Since BETTER OFF UNDEAD turned out to be a bit more comedy than horror, I decided this year’s Halloween Horror review will be a two-part experience. I chose Adam Dunning’s LAUGHTER as part two, as I was pretty damned sure this one (despite the title) was not going to be a comedy. I was right. I had been anticipating watching this film because it was filmed in the general area in Pennsylvania that my family is originally from (the Lackawanna area: Carbondale, Scranton, Dickson City, etc.), and because it had done well at the San Antonio Horrific Film Festival. So it’s got a PA and a TX connection for me (I’m in San Antonio).

Like BOU before it, this is a very low-budget production, but a much more recent one so I expected a bit more out of the image quality, and I got it. The camera looked to be HD, and there is some decent color correction in some of the shots, especially the opening, which is shot in a nicely muted steel-blue palate, and sets the tone for the film. From the beginning conversation you can tell that these are again your friends and neighbors level of actors. I expect some of these people will go on to do other things (Rebecca Henning actually has TWO acting credits on IMDb, Sam Rovin has a couple as well but I suspect with the time of the other productions that is an erroneous connection and he should be “Sam Rovin (II)”) in the low-budget film world, but on LAUGHTER their inexperience is obvious. That doesn’t automatically make them bad, and a few people put in a decent performance, in-between all of the other not-so-great ones.

The nice muted blues from the opening...
The nice muted blues from the opening…

I like slasher films, and have for years. I’ve seen a ton of them. For me to really get into a slasher film, there’s a few things it needs to have: an interesting (hopefully somewhat unique) premise, some uncommon kills, good tension, and a really scary killer. I really wanted to like LAUGHTER with the whole aforementioned PA to TX connection it had for me, but on 3 out of the 4 requirements I just listed, it completely failed. The premise – a prank goes bad, we kill our friend on accident and then cover it up and go on with our lives – is basically I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, except it’s not a random person; I hated IKWYDLS, I thought it was one of the worst big-budget slasher films to come out in that time period. The kills in LAUGHTER are all pretty much been-seen-before, and there really wasn’t anything that made me sit up and take notice. The tension the film builds is pretty much – pardon the pun – laughable. When the clown pops out you knew it was going to happen every time, and even when you know it was going to happen there is a lack of build-up to make you surprised by the exact moment. It’s pretty much “I think the clown’s comi… oh! There he is!” when it would be so much better if it were “I think the clown’s coming, I think the clown’s coming, is the clown coming? I don’t know, maybe he’s not… oh, there he is!” As far as the really scary killer goes, the clown is scary. For sure. Clowns are scary on their own, and then the makeup for the clown in this makes it more so; I was really impressed with the makeup design on the clown and thought it was one of the best things in LAUGHTER. Until I watched the final credits and read “Clown Mask Created by Woochie” and realized the clown is a Halloween prosthetic, a $40 gimmick you can buy on one of a million websites.

Scary clown!  Scary clown costume!!
Scary clown! Scary clown costume!!

To go with the lackluster script and performances, the production of LAUGHTER was also sub-par, even for a low-budget film. The lighting is horrible, and a lot of the outdoor at night scenes are completely lost in the dark (which could have been used to build tension but unfortunately there was no tension there, many of these lost scenes are during attacks by the clown). While the camera is a not-too-shabby apparently HD camera, it is set on auto-focus so there is no depth to any of the shots and often there are little bits where it is trying to find to focus with a lack of light that really took me out of the moment. The composition of the shots was also just plain bad for a lot of the film. There is the occasional somewhat interesting image to be built on screen, but a lot of the movie consists of shaky handheld shots with heads cut off out of frame and then brought back in, bad angles, and a continued issue with breaking the plane. If you are unaware of what I’m talking about, breaking the plane means switching the side of the shot, so all of a sudden the person that was on the left side of the screen is on the right, and the person on the right side of the screen is now on the left. This can be used on occasion to throw the viewer off and make them uncomfortable, but in LAUGHTER it happens all the damn time; instead of discomfort it instead just creates confused shots.

What's going on?  Who knows.  One of the many way-too-dark-to-understand shots.
What’s going on? Who knows. One of the many way-too-dark-to-understand shots.

Overall, did I completely hate LAUGHTER? Is it the worst slasher film I’ve ever seen? No, I didn’t, and no it isn’t, and let me tell you why. In watching the movie you can see that there is a real want to make a good scary movie that unfortunately was sidelined by a bad script to start with (with some completely unintentionally laughable dialogue at points) and then bad production to follow. It has the drive, it has the reverence for the genre, and it has the ideas there, it’s just the execution that followed that did not work. LAUGHTER is not a remake, it’s not a sequel or prequel to something we’ve seen a million times before, so right off the bat it is already better than a lot of the big budget detritus that Hollywood shovels out en masse and calls horror, so I have to give it credit for that. I look forward to seeing what else Dunning makes, and with some more time, more planning, more focus on originality, and some better cast and crew with him, I expect bigger and better things. There is talent in Dunning, and I expect that there is going to be a good scary movie to come out of the Lackawanna area with his name on it, this just isn’t it.

Overall 3 / 10

LAUGHTER on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2269544/

LAUGHTER is not for sale yet.

LAUGHTER site: http://www.amdproductions.com

Laughter (2012)
Laughter (2012)

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