Director: Michael Steves
Stars: Jennifer Laporte, Vincent Martella, Alicia Monet Caldwell, Julie Aks, Shonna Major, Taylor Clift, Debbie Rochon
UK RELEASE TBC
Fern (Jennifer Laporte) is a promising track athlete in the senior year of High School under the often-abrasive tutelage of Coach Valeria (Alicia Monet Caldwell). Then she meets delightfully dorky Robert (Vincent Martella) and young love blossoms.
However, his intense clinginess and constantly showering her with gifts, love-letters and even a song (the quirkily catchy Fern’s Song), soon stifles her. So, with a heavy heart, she decides to end the relationship. However, that night he has planned a big surprise with an elaborate contraption that will spell out a message of undying love. In an unlikely (but hilarious) series of events the shock of getting dumped causes Robert to stumble into the machine… which promptly decapitates him.
However, such was Robert’s love for Fern that he cannot move on, his ghostly form visible only to her. Consumed by guilt, Fern decides to make another go of things. Can the living and the dead exist together? And if not, how will Robert, the titular Clinger, handle another rejection?
Clinger is a surprisingly bittersweet teen comedy with a healthy dose of supernatural horror. It is not a straight-up horror flick, so if you’re looking for gore and scares, this definitely falls short. However, with plenty of humour and a refreshingly honest look at relationships when they don’t change at the same rate as the individual, Clinger has plenty of heart. This is undoubtedly helped by its A+ cast. Laporte is a fantastic actress. There’s a lot asked of her in this film and from romantic lead to kickass heroine, she impresses throughout.
Martella also has quite the arc and, from sympathetic to creepy, he shows a superb range. I could see him becoming a mainstay in comedy (his timing is excellent). Equally hilarious are Julie Aks (who is gaining plenty of plaudits for her work as Fern’s ditzy sister Kelsey) and the very cute Shonna Major as Fern’s friend Moe. Yet the biggest scene-stealer here is Caldwell’s Coach Valeria. She’s incredible, a strutting, cursing ball of bristling energy. She has all the best lines and Caldwell spits them out with relish.
A wonderful example of the superb writing by Gabi Chennisi, Bubba Fish and Michael Steves is that they recognise the potency of the superb Valeria and give her a significant role in the movie when she also handles the exposition. With a great back-story (told via a kickass animated sequence!), Valeria gives us all the information we need regarding the spirits our characters come across. This made it feel like Clinger was a part of a far larger universe — a universe I’d love to see more of. I’d definitely be down for a Valeria: Ghostcatcher prequel!
However, the strongest element of the writing is the way in which it captures that bittersweet period between childhood and finally growing up, when relationships become adult, when the whole world lays before you. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also when you say farewell to places and people that have had a huge role in your life. Even the bright, sunny Texas setting can’t keep that hint of sadness out of the film. One of the only disappointments with Clinger is that genre legend Debbie Rochon is under-utilised in her role as Fern’s mother. Still, a little Rochon is better than none at all!
Also, I felt the final resolution was a little underwhelming. This may seem an odd thing to say about a scene involving a gang of ghost hunters armed with cool spectre-slaying tech battling a gang of undead nemeses on a High School athletics track, but what should probably have been a scene of high melodrama between our leads instead comes across as quietly melancholy.
That aside, I REALLY enjoyed Clinger. It has more heart than I imagined and some hilarious laughs. With a strong cast, an even stronger script and a lovely, honest look at young love and changing relationships, if Clinger can find a big enough audience, this is a film destined to become a cult classic.