Fern, an athletic track-runner with her sights on MIT, meets Robert, a seemingly perfect boyfriend. As things start to get a bit claustrophobic for Fern, she realises there’s nothing scarier than your first love.
Clinger’s opening perfectly encapsulates the tone that will follow. Fern and Robert’s meet-cute at the beginning and subsequent relationship speaks volumes of the clingy nature of high school romance. That heightened experience of first love is captured to recreate the similar feelings experienced. In a way, Clinger is your first relationship: fun, bizarre and a little sickly. Not entirely though, as I doubt many of us have resurrected and become permanently paranormally attached to your girlfriend.
Director Michael Steves must have liked Gremlins and when you watch the film, you will see why. Co-written by the director, Bubba Fish and Gabi Chennisi Duncombe, the trio had a clear tonal grasp of what they wanted the film to be. They capitalise on its playful nature. The inherent silliness of horror is highlighted, accentuated even, to bring in the laughs. The film has some meta mentality attached to it, but it is hardly the main focus point such as it was in the likes of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Comedy is in fact its main wheelhouse more than horror. The film is funny and knows it, utilising moments for comedy way more than horror.
There are some interesting directorial decisions in the film. They highlight that Michael Steves may be a director to watch in the future when he gets a budget big enough to implement his entire personality. There is a clear grasp of pace and structure as well as the limitations of the budget on the material, condensing it to a brief runtime. Like WolfCop, that is a big bonus here. If it were to run on, it would wear the material thin. Clinger is well aware of this and keeps it brisk, funny and has the momentum of its quick running lead.
The biggest problem of Clinger is the lack of budget. It may be wrong to point out the restriction as a flaw, but it is entirely apparent throughout; lingering, bugging, itching at your skull. That is because the film has the potential to be a lot better than it is. By that, the film’s main pitfall is its own restriction through not being able to pay enough for actors. Effects wise, its hokeyness adds a sort of joyous B-movie feeling to it that is charming. Sadly, that is not the case for the acting. There is no need to name names, because audiences will see it themselves and notice that an improvement in these categories would make this a much more enjoyable romp worthy of Joe Dante in his heyday.
There is plenty of charm, wit and good heartedness to counter any ill-feeling towards Clinger. The limitations of budget really hamper this from capturing its full potential – jokes land flat due to actors not good enough to hit them out of the park. This is ultimately a show reel of potential for all involved, an advertisement of talent that has been held back by shy investors. Now that all involved have managed to create a fun, bizarre Dante-esque flick, there should be plenty of notice for their next project. Clinger is a nice idea from a director begging to let his personality loose. Hopefully, Michael Steves will be free to fill his next film with flourish to successfully hit all the notes of his potential.
Words: Ashley Norris (@ashleyrhys)