Thursday, 30 July 2015


Remember when borderline suicidal stunt/prank shows such as Jackass and the UK's own Dirty Sanchez hit our screens a few years back? I vividly recall sniggering to myself as a group of professional idiots stuntmen risked maiming themselves for my entertainment.
Now, while these shows may not be as prevalent on the TV as they once were and Johnny Knoxville et al have moved onto other things, those looking for that sort of low-brow thrill can still find plenty of videos along those lines on the internet.
So, with Found Footage still riding a wave in the Horror genre, I suppose the only surprise about the release of AJ Wedding's The Jokesters is that it took so long for somebody to make this type of movie. 
So is this movie a killing joke for viewers? Or is the laugh on us?
Read on…


Dir: AJ Wedding

Starring: Dante Spencer, Nathan Reid, Gabriel Tigerman, Luis Jose Lopez, Jen Yeager, Jim Dowd, Jodie Bentley, Angie Simms, Caryn West, Alex Datcher, Sandra Luesse, Lyndsi LaRose, Ryan Ryans, Vanessa E Garcia

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Ethan (Spencer), Nick (Reid), Andrew (Tigerman) and Chris (Lopez) are the stars of Master Pranksters, an internet smash. The group regularly pull stunts and tricks on one another to earn the title Prankmaster.

After a montage of the show's greatest hits, we are shown that now Ethan is marrying the love of his life, Gabrielle (Yeager). The gang all agree to strike up a truce and make the wedding day prank-free to ensure that the lucky couple have a day to remember. As a gesture of goodwill Nick, Ethan's closest buddy, offers the pair exclusive use of his father's remote and peaceful cabin up in the woods.
However, on the big day Nick overhears that Ethan plans to quit the show and move away with his wife after the honeymoon. He is hit hard by this news, but he has a parting gift for his pal up his sleeve: one last prank to end them all, in which he recruits Andrew and Chris to scare the living shit out of the newlyweds on their honeymoon.
With the cabin already kitted out with hidden cameras, the three jokesters head there (via a detour in which the crew meet a group of attractive young ladies), then don cool as hell skull masks to commence terrifying their pals.
However, what starts as a series of jokes soon takes a darker turn... and then transforms into something far worse. As the twists and turns mount, the laughs dry up as terrifying events befall the gang. What is behind these horrors? Is anybody safe? And at which does a gag become something far more terrifying?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I don't want to give away the various twists and turns in the plot of this movie, but by far the strongest element of the story is the lack of predictability in the tale. When events take their inevitable turn towards the horrific the audience. Is kept off balance as to WHAT the threat actually is. There are clues sprinkled throughout the film as to what the most dangerous thing is that these guys may encounter but the various detours that the plot takes ensure that you're kept guessing until the pivotal moment.
The story (written by star Reid) is engaging in all the right ways and the characters are written well enough to distinguish themselves from one another and propel the plot forward in an organic manner.
What is more, as a movie about a gang of jokers you may well expect a hefty serving of humour here and that is exactly what you get. From some suitably vulgar slapstick during the guys' pranks to some riotous oneliners, this is a film that squeezes in fun with its frights.
The realistic characters are due not only to the writing but to the stellar work from the cast. The leads are all excellent, but I feel Reid and Spencer are arguably the standouts. Given the bulk of the work, these two are more than up to the task, while Tigerman, Lopez and the very pretty Yeager lend their considerable talents to the project too.
In a relatively low-budget flick such as this one character work is vital — thankfully the script and cast deliver.
On the other side of the camera Wedding clearly knows his stuff and guides the picture with an assured vision. In less capable hands this could well have turned into a ham-fisted melodrama but Wedding delivers the goods. 
He actually has more acting than directorial credits to his name but he already shows plenty of flair for keeping a picture looking sharp and professional and shows some impressive talent with framing shots to maximum effect. This must be particularly tough when shooting a Found Footage flick, but Wedding (with assistance from cinematographer Leonidas Jaramillo)  hits the mark. Kudos, gentlemen!
Of course, what most of you are going to want know is how The Jokesters delivers on the horror front.
For the most part it's pretty damn effective. When the crazy finally starts to occur, the frights are delivered well (helped in no small part by the mysterious nature of the characters' plight) and there's even a couple of surprisingly effective gore moments later on. With camera work in some scenes that leaves plenty of nasty events offscreen so the audience's imagination can fill in some decidedly unsettling gaps, there are still some moments when Wedding is not afraid to show the grue. Both work extremely well.
Finally the movie delivers a chilling and memorable climax that pushes all the right buttons. I shan't spoil it, but take my word for this, it's well worth the wait.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Perhaps the biggest problem with The Jokesters is pacing. For a horror movie it goes an extremely long time before we get any scares. I understand the need to establish the characters and usually appreciate it when a film takes the time to set a scene and reveal its secrets, but the problem here is that there's very little dread or creepiness in the atmosphere until late on. In fact, with the crew pranking each other throughout it actually feels more like a comedy than a horror film. 
As a fan of Takashi Miike's Audition, I can dig it when a plot suddenly shifts lanes and takes an audience down an unexpected route after lulling them into a false sense of security, but not everybody will have the patience to stick with this one until the splatter hits the screen.
Also, while I liked the leads a great deal and had quite a few laughs at their exploits, they won't be to everybody's taste. If you're the sort of person who dismisses the Jackass gang as unfunny idiots, it's odds on that Ethan, Nick, Andrew and Chris will grate rather than ingratiate. These are guys' guys and pretty immature ones at that — they certainly won't be for everybody. Be warned.
On a similar note, I know plenty of you have had enough of the Found Footage genre. While this is a good Found Footage flick, it still has all the hallmarks that those disillusioned with this type of film have come to loathe. If you are sick of woodland chases, shaky cam and direct to camera monologues, you may be best advised to skip this one.
Finally there are lots of characters who have very tiny roles that ultimately go nowhere. The wedding guests, Ethan's intimidating father (played by the superb Dowd) and the group of babes that the pranksters encounter on their way to the cabin, ultimately they all contribute very little to the story. Perhaps they were included as red herrings but they really don't serve that purpose. The inclusion of the girls is perhaps the most egregious, smacking more than a little of a gratuitous hot chick moment. Perhaps, with a little more screen time and a bit more to do, these characters could have been taken a lot further. Instead, they serve as engaging but ultimately unnecessary distractions.

THE VERDICT: Found Footage movies are ten a penny these days and new ones are going to struggle to stand out from the crowd. The Jokesters manages this task. With it's cool and unique premise, engaging, well-written characters and some technically superb filmmaking, this is a film that feels fresh in a genre in serious danger of stagnating. It's clever, unpredictable and well worth your time. Check it out.

U.S. readers are in luck and can already get hold of the film through, so delay no further!
As for my UK audience, after speaking with the guys at Reinventing Films it seems that a distribution deal to bring the flick to our side of the pond could well be in the offing, so fingers crossed that we'll get to see the film sooner rather than later.
To keep up to date as to when that might happen, check out The Jokesters' official Facebook page here. Give it a like while you're there too, show some support!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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