When wholesome aspiring athlete Fern (Jennifer Laporte) meets the outwardly geeky Robert (Vincent Martella) she initially thinks she has struck lucky in love. Could this unlikely Romeo be the perfect boyfriend? Well, for a few weeks perhaps, but then the increasingly strange Robert becomes a little too clingy, showering Fern with all manner of sickly sweet presents and searching for new and extreme ways to demonstrate his love. During one of these displays, which involves a contraption resembling a guillotine, he is decapitated but so strong are his feelings that he cannot “cross over”. Now haunting the beleaguered Fern, Robert decides his (ex-)girlfriend must die so that they can spend eternity together in death.
Charm can only get you so far, and while Michael Steves’ debut feature is awash with more than its fair share, it isn’t enough in itself to retain your interest. The premise at the centre of Clinger is an interesting one with love continuing on after death, and is similar in theme to the recent Horns or Life After Beth, but it never decides which genre to settle on. Moments of gore feel awkwardly worked in, almost like afterthoughts, and the humour never quite rises above the smirk-inducing. There are references aplenty to John Hughes-style teen flicks of the ‘80s, with more knowing nods than is necessary, but the tone is inconsistent and not many of the homages work. This uncertainty leads to a confused and unsatisfying final act that never seems comfortable with its choices and stumbles towards an overwrought conclusion clearly influenced by Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, just without any of the horror or humour.
There’s a very real and nagging sense while watching Clinger that the filmmakers are trying too hard to make a cult film. It’s like they decided on a tonal slant towards quirky and whimsical horror-comedy to woo festival audiences and generate a word of mouth campaign that would develop and grow over time. While striving for that kind of recognition and following is credible, if misguided, it’s more important to get the film’s basics right and sadly Clinger misses the mark just too often.
There are funny moments and it would be churlish to suggest nothing works, but they are fleeting and laboured to a point of becoming tiresome and repetitive. Like the best friend who regularly and innocently utters the seediest of accidental innuendos, the joke wears pretty thin pretty quickly.
Clinger then feels like the debut film it is. There were clearly some good ideas, if ones borrowed from too many other films, but those ideas haven’t been implemented well enough and sadly what remains is a film that feels much longer than the 80 minutes it is, but one you’ll be relieved isn’t.
CLINGER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL STEVES / SCREENPLAY: GABI CHENNISI, BUBBA FISH, MICHAEL STEVES / STARRING: JENNIFER LAPORTE, VINCENT MARTELLA, JULIA AKS, SHONNA MAJOR / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 1ST