Flappy the clown is having a hard time getting jobs when he and his friend come up with a masterplan: he should go to a parties where they are expecting a stripper, and become notorious. Vulgar the clown is born. But the first home visit turns bad when he finds himself in the midst of a messed up family that ends up brutally gang-raping him.
For years I have loved an overlooked View Askew movie called "Drawing Flies". Equally as long have I been curious about another View Askew outsider... Yes, you guessed it. "Vulgar". It took me a long time finally check it out, something that I finally did after becoming a fan of its director after countless of hours of the "Tell 'Em Steve-Dave" podcast as well as the nerdy TV show "Comic Book Men". Bryan Johnson is a no-fucks-given and spontaneously funny I've come to really enjoy, and I knew that I needed to own his directorial debut "Vulgar". The wait is finally over.
"Vulgar" stays true to its name, being that it's a rather fucked up black comedy focusing on clown rape. Brian O'Halloran stars as Will, who dresses up as Flappy the clown to entertain kids. When the cash flow from that job has stopped, he's convinced by his friend Syd (played by Bryan Johnson himself) that he should visit parties where they expect a stripper - and arrive in a slutty costume, as a clown. There couldn't be a more appropriate name than... Vulgar the clown. On the first house call, Vulgar quickly regrets his decision. He walks into the home of a family of maniacs, and ends up literally gang-raped and video taped. Yes, it went there. What follows is the story of a broken man trying to get his life back together.
It's obvious where Bryan Johnson's dark and twisted sense of humor comes into play. It's all over "Vulgar", but without resorting to it becoming a parody of its concept. Sure, this is very much a black comedy, but it's just as much a revenge thriller. The rape is certainly not playing for laughs, beside the fact that a male clown is being raped (I mean... that's funny in the most twisted of ways). Had the movie not cared about its subject at all, it would have failed miserably, but the balance is what keeps the movie interesting. It's equal amount "Clerks" as it is "Deliverance". Being shot on 16 mm definitely adds to that feeling. The movie would easily be dismissed at ridiculous, and I couldn't really argue at some points, but it's just the right amount of fucked up idea to work.
There are flaws in the movie, but to bring most of those up seems pointless. They're superficial at most. It could have been better with even better acting - or it could have been worse with worse acting. Same goes for lighting, cinematography, you name it. That's obvious. The voice of "Vulgar" is all in the script, and the script is all Bryan Johnson, and I wouldn't have wanted that any different. The core of the movie wouldn't have been any different unless anyone other than Bryan Johnson made it. But yes, expect a rather rough-around-the-edges directorial debut and you'll be fine.
As we see a number of View Askew regulars, from Walt Flanagan, to both Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, it's hard not to associate this with their previous films. Most notably "Clerks" and "Drawing Flies". I stongly believe that those who enjoy both of those (yes, both - only liking "Clerks" won't guarantee anything!) will really get a kick out of "Vulgar". It shows that Bryan Johnson is completely capable of making something unique that shows his personality, and only makes me sad that he hasn't made anything else since. However, there seems to be a "Vulgar 2" on the way, and I have no doubt that he is ready to deliver something even more messed up.