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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Clay
Clay
Other // Unrated // January 27, 2009
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted September 27, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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Clay:

In messed up ways, the sick, ultra-low-budget shocker Clay really works. Heavy Catholic creationism allegory and an emphasis on small town murder and severe sexual dysfunction mark Clay as something like Douglas Buck's version of Begotten. Of course such blurb-friendly verbiage doesn't do justice to the nuance and subtlety of the movie, in which roundly solid performances, beautiful music and hypnotic pacing add inevitable credibility to horrific corpse abuse and pedophilia.


With a whisper of a plot, Clay raises a bunch of painful questions and concepts before finally leaving you much as you were before viewing, a little fearful of crazies, death, and the evil underneath normal skin. Clay is the rebellious, jerky teenaged son of an imperious David Carradine-looking father who seems to spend all his time staring out the living room window. Clay wanderers around in a Columbine trench coat and silly wig, holding his hands wide as if in strange benediction. If his hand touches someone, Clay follows that person home for a little righteous slaughtering, as in the surveillance-crazy experimental opener - a sequence that subverts nearly all stalk-and-slash conventions. But Clay needs love, impersonating a lonely couple's slain son, while Clay's dad looks for a little love of his own. The problem is Clay's dad finds his romantic attachment with a 12-year-old neighbor girl, whom he lures onto his porch with a glass of super-sweet lemonade. Before it's all over you'll wonder about the nature of true love, parental love, creation and abandonment, and a whole other slew of things you usually don't think about when watching a horror movie.


That very dynamic makes Clay a love it or hate it proposition, which, coupled with the fact that the movie is leisurely, super-low-budget, quiet and relatively shock/ tension free, means this movie is an acquired taste. If you've got that taste, you'll be well rewarded by a movie that demands intelligence and thoughtfulness. The whole intent seems to be to hypnotize, mood and music are lulling, and performances are all low-key. Clay maintains a little world of tiny clay figures that he occasionally bashes into oblivion, one of the few moments of histrionics in the movie, otherwise, he's quiet and measured with most people (except his dad). Meanwhile, Clay's dad is so attentive and gentle with his Lolita love that you almost believe his intentions are innocent, despite the fact that he's about 60-years-old. Yet then they get into a tickling match and your heart sinks.


A truly shocking climax brings things back around to horror again, snapping you out of your stupor, reminding you how easy it is to adapt to a life of complacency, dully wondering just why you're here, until something completely awful happens and you wonder just how many healthy relationships you have, and how much love you need.






The DVD


Video:

1.66:1 non-anamorphic widescreen is definitely of the low-budget variety. The image is of average sharpness, with low-levels of detail, some macro blocking in shadowy areas and other examples of digital noise. Colors are warm and naturalistic, but dark levels aren't terribly deep.



Sound:

Digital Stereo Audio isn't terribly active, but involves nice balance between dialog and music, while providing a nice platform for the evocative score. Dialog recording often seems to suffer from poor room sound, becoming a bit echoey, but it's all clear and fairly easy to understand.



Extras:

Clay comes packed with extras of varying quality. Of two tracks, the first Commentary Track features writer/ director Ron Bonk, and actors Wes Reid and Jason West. Silences are plentiful, and the film's audio doesn't rise to fill them. Otherwise, the track might be funny in a you-had-to-be-there way, as the trio devotes nearly all of their time to unrelated anecdotes about some dude named Kirk. As commentaries go, it's one of the worst I've heard. Happily, the second Commentary Track with Bonk, actor Tom Minion and composer Emmett Van Slyke is actually composed of behind the scenes stories and motivations. Plus, you get nine minutes of Bloopers, nine minutes of a Q&A Panel at Tompkins Community College, a Music Video, a Gag Reel and Trailers.



Final Thoughts:

Clay isn't for everyone. It's a meditative, slow-moving horror movie without a ton of gore, tension or shocks. As a super low-budget effort, it bypasses the usual exploitative tropes for uneasy subjects, open-ended questions and thoughtfulness. Universally good performances from a small cast, excellent music and no easy answers make this challenging movie Recommended for serious horror fans looking for something unusual.

- Kurt Dahlke

~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com

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