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Blow Up Real Good

Kevin Kangas' Horror Sequel Debuts At The Senator Before Heading Direct To DVD

Sam Holden

By Bret McCabe | Posted 8/15/2007

Fear of Clowns 2

Premiere at the Senator Theatre Aug. 16 at 8 p.m.; reception at 7:30

For more information visit www.fearofclowns2.com

For a good time, keyword search "fear of clowns" and "pyrotechnics" on YouTube. What you'll find are two brief clips of a stunt man going to light a controlled-burn fire in the back of a red car in a wooded area at night. He carries a lengthy torch so that he won't have to reach inside the car to light the gasoline fire bars on the seats. But when the flame enters the cracked window, the whole interior erupts into a fireball, sending flames shooting out the window and the stunt man, OK but surprised, fleeing off-screen to the left.

"In the script, it was supposed to be a 'small fire' in the back seat of the car--did that look like a small fire to you?" laughs director Kevin Kangas over the phone from Hunt Valley as he waits for Horrorfind to start on Aug. 10. The 36-year-old Glen Burnie native and founder of Kangas Kahn Films has a stand at the regional horror convention to promote his direct-to-DVD movies, such as 2004's Fear of Clowns and his 2002 debut, Hunting Humans. But what he's most excited about is the premiere of his new Fear of Clowns 2 this week at the Senator Theatre, the sequel to his Lions Gate-distributed feature--the shooting of which includes the aforementioned, accidental explosion.

"It's pretty spectacular," Kangas says. "I even put in the trailer, even though the explosion isn't in the movie."

Kangas' other filmmaking anecdotes should sound familiar to other independent filmmakers: Taking film classes at UMBC before deciding he could put that tuition money toward his first feature, shooting 29 rolls of film without seeing a frame of it because he didn't have the money to develop it, shooting in 1997 and not completing the movie until 2001. And like many filmmakers, his first outing, Hunting Humans--"It's about a serial killer who ends up finding out that he's being stalked by another serial killer," Kangas says. "I think [Showtime's] Dexter stole the idea."--didn't get a theatrical run. It was picked up by MTI Home Entertainment and distributed on DVD.

When Lions Gate cold-called Kangas about Fear of Clowns in 2003 after reading about him on Fangoria's web site, he says, "I was like, wait, is this one of my buddies punking me or something?" Once he established that it was an actual studio on the line, he knew it was a chance both to get his movie seen and finance his next project.

A far cry from the days of Z-grade "straight to video" schlock, direct to DVD is "a much more profitable thing for" studios, Kangas says, adding that distributors "have to think that they're going to make between $50 and $100 million at the box office to even bother with [theatrical release] now. I just saw a Ben Affleck movie that never hit the theaters on DVD, and I was like, 'Oh my god. They're not releasing a movie with Ben Affleck in it?' That's where the money is now, the direct-to-DVD market."

Kangas says that he hasn't seen the most recent sales numbers for Fear of Clowns but does share that during its first 14 weeks in release it made a $1.5 million in rentals. "Unfortunately, the filmmaker doesn't see any of that," he laughs.

The original FoC deal asked for a sequel--hence Fear of Clowns 2, which Kangas slowly warmed to. "I didn't want to crap out a movie just because they're paying for it," he says. "But I actually feel that it was, for me, more exciting than the first one, and it turned out really well. It was a matter of having a little more money to play with, and we had more of a name, so I had some decent actors and some really talented local guys."

In case you can't tell by the title, Fear of Clowns is a horror picture about the titular phobia. For 2, "all the characters return from the first movie," Kangas says, "even though they're not making it out of this one alive. I have about four times the body count in this movie."

Which is exactly what any smart horror fan knows to expect from a sequel--and Kangas knows how the genre works. "Ever since I was a little kid, horror has been my big love," he says. "My favorite is John Carpenter's The Thing," he says. "I can vividly remember watching that movie for the first time and, like, when the shit hits the fan and he's trying to resuscitate Niles on the table and his arms go in and the teeth bite off his arms and all of a sudden the guy's head comes off and becomes a spider--I remember thinking, Oh my god, this is the craziest shit I've ever seen. And I thought, I would love to do something like this."

And with each and every movie he's getting closer. "I know this makes me look bad, but I'm a very realistic kind of person," he confesses. "I'll admit that when that [car] exploded like that, my first thought was not, Is he OK? My first thought was, Holy shit, how do I make this work [on screen]?"

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