Available on Amazon
With its opening text about ‘first love’ and a sinister musical cue, Clinger sets the tone right away for a typical boy meets girl high school drama where something might be amiss. Initially the opening 10 minutes or so keep up with the first part of that premise as Fern (Jennifer Laporte) a promising science and athletics enthusiast hooks up with with Robert, (Vincent Martella) an awkward guitarist. The cutesy drama is coupled with a standard first date montage and some cheesy music, and things take their expected course… for just a while. However as the title suggests this is all about to get very weird very fast, and out of nowhere Robert’s interest in writing bad song lyrics and buying gifts starts to become more than an annoyance, changing into something a little obsessive. But this isn’t the only change in gears that the story will take before things get going. When Fern finally gets the courage to drop him there’s a rather nasty accident leaving her single once again. But unfortunately for her this is just the beginning of the problem.
Clinger is a ghost story rather than simply a romantic melodrama, and this bait and switch comes early on to set the scene. Both the silly characters and the splatter effects which end Fern’s relationship are a sign of things to come in this horror comedy. From here the humour levels are ramped up for better or worse, the cast grows and the story pushes on towards the supernatural while simultaneously piling up the jokes. Fern’s friends and family are a goofy bunch, from her sister trying to become an entrepreneur by making sock puppets to her religious friend who keeps making clueless innuendos during normal conversation for some reason. During the funeral scenes after Robert’s premature demise and the subsequent family dinner table scenes, there are all kinds of strange and awkward moments and comic dialogue which lends it a particularly silly tone. It’s the kind of thing that could be very dry and tedious if there was any sense of seriousness involved. Realism and any sort of pretence are not on the cards here.
The cast are pretty good for what is required of a young ensemble, with the teen romance and high school clique scenes feeling natural, if a little one dimensional. But this isn’t the place for character development unless you count sock puppet grief counselling. There are plenty of other typical clichés in the supporting cast with Fern trying to get help from airhead lab partners and meat head jocks along the way. It does look and feel like a TV show a lot of the time which is unfortunate since a certain amount of creativity has gone into this, but the bland daytime lighting and use of scribbled flash animation makes it seem like a kids drama; albeit one with splatter effects and cursing. Other visual elements like jump cuts showing ghostly apparitions are more annoying, but thankfully brief. The mixture of violence and oddball characters never quite meshes together, but it’s not dull at least. By the second act Robert and Fern are starting to get back together whether she likes it or not, which is where things get more interesting.
But this isn’t a dark story at all. It’s one which has a ‘So, You’re Dead’ pamphlet being handed out to the new arrivals at the cemetery. Even when the idea of ghostly revenge comes around it’s not exactly serious. It remains consistently silly during all of this, with flying scissors and evil stuffed toys featuring when things start to get out of control. A whole set piece is dedicated to a puppet attack, which is the mixture of stupid and gory I can get behind. For a story featuring ethereal entities there are a lot of strangely physical attacks involved from both sides, which adds to the fun. There are no surprises in store when it comes to the plot, although the tangent involving a local ghost hunter and the rules of dispelling unwanted spirits are unexpected enough to keep it going. Soon enough Robert figures out that hanging around the living won’t be a lasting option and he starts to consider the kind of drastic alternatives you’d expect.
The stranger elements here stop the repetitive class room tropes becoming too irritating, especially the tooling up scenes involving anti-ghost weapons and pills that make the dead visible to Fern’s friends. The big finale in which Fern’s race track qualifier is interrupted by Robert’s new graveyard pals is particularly silly, but it sums the whole thing up as the dialogue gets dumber and the effects get bigger. The levels of absurdity reach their peak once everyone bands together to come to her aide, and it makes for a likeable if nonsensical climax. This isn’t anything you haven’t seen before in terms of both romantic tales which combine either death or horror, as well as anything utilising the standard type of low budget blood and guts, but it’s got enough charm and amusement value to keep things together more or less.