When her possessive high school boyfriend dies in a gruesome accident, Fern Petersen’s life is thrown into turmoil. Things go from bad to worse when he returns as a love-sick ghost to kill her so they can be together for eternity.
Clinger stars Fern Peterson (Jennifer Laporte) who, in her senior year of high school, is hoping to use her athletic prowess to gain entrance to MIT, where she wants to study neuroscience. Things don’t go to plan, however, when she meets Robert Klingher (Vincent Martella), your typical nerd – a little creepy (he’s been infatuated with Fern since fifth grade) but, overall, harmless. The two fall head over heels almost immediately, and, initially, Clinger plays out like a standard teen romance.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Fern to realise that Robert has much stronger feelings than her; there’s a great little montage which shows that, during the first few months of their relationship, as Fern’s enthusiasm diminishes, Robert seems more taken with each passing day. It all comes to a head when, ahead of another of their anniversary celebrations, Fern decides that it’s time to break things off with Robert – after all, they’ll probably end up at different colleges, with different interests, and it will be easier to nip it in the bud rather than let their relationship escalate further.
Robert doesn’t see it that way, however; he’s outdone himself for this special occasion, having built a huge (and quite macabre) contraption in his back garden to tell Fern how he really feels: a device which, in a freak accident on the night of their anniversary, brings Robert to a pretty gruesome end. Fern is simultaneously relieved and ridden with guilt about Robert’s death, something which isn’t helped by the fact that everyone around her is in mourning, continually reminding her of how much Robert loved her.
Fern eventually realises that things aren’t quite right, and strange goings on prompt her to contact a local ghost hunter, who turns out to be none other than Valeria Kingsley (Alicia Monet Caldwell), her athletics coach. She explains that Robert must have come back as a ghost (a ‘love ghost’, specifically – that, or a butt-burrowing lava demon), and urges Fern not to get involved. She goes against best advice, however, and decides that she’s going to try and make things work with Robert’s ghost. She can’t, of course, and encourages him to move on. Meanwhile, she starts spending time with Harlan (Taylor Clift), who has also just gotten out of a relationship with his girlfriend. The two hit it off, and Robert, faced with the possibility of spending the rest of his afterlife (their interpretation of which was a nice little nod to Beetlejuice) without Fern, isn’t very happy – so much so, in fact, that he takes it upon himself to make sure that he and Fern can be together, forever.
In general, I’d say that Clinger is quite a good horror comedy that explores the idea of first love from a different (and interesting) perspective. The story itself is relatively simplistic, but the writers (Gabi Chennisi, Bubba Fish and Michael Steves) have managed to flesh it out without too much unnecessary detail.
I really liked the acting in this film – in some instances, it felt over exaggerated (cheesy, almost), but didn’t seem out of place given the style of comedy the writers seemed to be going for. I recognised Martella from his roles in Everybody Hates Chris and, more recently, The Walking Dead; he was great in the role of the obsessive boyfriend, going from soppy to psychopathic, all while maintaining his obvious adoration for the character of Fern. Laporte was also fantastic in the lead role – it was nice to see a female lead in a film like this who wasn’t totally head-over-heels for her male co-star. She felt quite grounded, and was pretty funny, making a lot of scenes much easier to watch.
Valeria was sufficiently over-the-top, but not completely obnoxious, so kudos to Caldwell for that. Fern’s best friend, Moe Watkins (Shonna Major) was pretty good in her role, too, though I saw some of her terrible lines coming from a mile off. Which leads onto what, for me, was the only real downside to Clinger – it just didn’t know when to stop.
One of the biggest issues with horror comedies is that there has to be a good balance between frightening and funny – if there are too many silly scenes, it takes away from the ‘scare’ moments, and vice versa. Clinger did include some brilliantly bloody moments, with enough practical special effects to satisfy any classic gore fan; however, it was also really heavy-handed when it came to the laughs.
I love physical comedy, and it was used to great effect in this film. I think that, for me, the biggest let down was in the dialogue. The characters didn’t seem especially vapid, which is a huge bonus in something that reeks of teen comedy, but some of their lines fell completely flat. The character of Moe, as I mentioned previously, had some real stinkers – mostly innuendo, which, owing to her being a devout Christian, were laid on thick. It’s obvious that this was their intention, but I feel like they needed to go the whole hog with every character (in the same way as Dude Bro Party Massacre III) to make it work.
So, in summary, I’d say Clinger was a pretty enjoyable film. It’s not exactly standout in its field, and – depending on your standards (mine are pretty low, I’ll admit) – it doesn’t necessarily stand up to criticism, but it’s good enough if you’re looking for a something that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Worth checking out, in my opinion.