Closed For The Season Reviews
28 DAYS LATER ANALYSIS:
Set in the actual Chippewa Lake Park, Closed for the Season is more thriller than horror. This is a film that, while small, offers an interesting message of nostalgia and the supernatural.
Kristy (Aimee Brooks) and James (Damian Maffei) meet up in the heart of the park, after Kristy witnesses a man impaled on a tree (he is still kicking), a Lake Monster, a crazed Reb' and an out of control tractor. She sees much more than this and Closed for the Season sets itself squarely in the realm of the surreal. The film rarely leaves this realm, as dream sequences and mild concussions give answers for some of the hallucinations. However, these visions are created by the park itself and by its representative, the Carney (Joe Unger).
The majority of the film is set in the remnants of Chippewa; so here, there are broken down Ferris wheels, a shaky roller coaster and, of course, the funhouse. Each of these shabby-looking settings are teased with Joe Woelfel's imagination and knack for writing dialogue. Thus, the sets come alive. Instead of mere drab, there is a place that families once came to. In place of rot, there is conflict and a message which asks Kristy and James for their stories. The teasing Carney also has some stories to tell of his own to tell.
This is a small film made for under a million, so the focus is on the characters, the acting, and the film's underlining message. Woelfel makes some tough decisions by only giving attention to what the film can offer: solid interactions, some jump scares, and a hard look at victimization, through the eyes of Kristy and James. The film is not as depressing as described here. Instead, this is a mostly light-hearted adventure through the past. This is a past that was filled with laughter, enjoyable rides, the smell of cotton candy and of roasting popcorn. This is a time of the carnival, which may have declined in Chippewa, but which still survives in the stories and in the realities of today.
Setting/surrealistic/impressionistic: 8 (a barren setting gets turned into something more brilliant, excellent).
Social influence/message/parallels: 7.75 (the film makes a strong statement, which few films do).
Acting/characters/believability: 7.5 (the acting is solid, a few peripheral characters could have increased the complexity and excitement).
Overall: 7.75 (this is a really good film overall, enjoyed it).
Closed for the Season is recommended.
CLOSED FOR THE SEASON feels very much like walking through a spooky amusement park funhouse on a bad acid trip. Kristy finds herself trapped in the abandoned fair grounds she frequented as a child and weird and nasty things keep happening to her. She seeks help from James and the two are assaulted by a nonstop barrage of otherworldly terror and violence. During their attempts to escape secrets are revealed and lessons are learned, making for an interesting film that refuses to be formulaic. CLOSED FOR THE SEASON traps the viewer in the park with the young pair and it’s unpredictability, embrace of the nonsensical (not to mention the fun gore FX here and there) draw the viewer in. CLOSED FOR THE SEASON is a surreal experience and worth a watch, but be warned you may experience flashbacks.
Three stars. (out of four)
AIN’T IT COOL NEWS: Advance Review: Reviewed by Ambush Bug
CLOSED FOR THE SEASON has a great deal of things going for it: creepy locale, creepy carnie caretaker, creepy monsters creeping around the surrounding woods. There’s a lot to like in this film and if anyone has ever been to one of the carnivals featured in this film, you know there’s an air of danger that lingers about it that is palpable to all who enter. Though the smiles on the clowns are big and red, there’s something disturbing going on behind it. And though the rides are sure to be secure, all it would take would be one loose bolt and catastrophe occurs! CLOSED FOR THE SEASON understands this air of terror and takes advantage of it in its occasionally confusing story.
While watching this film, all I could think about was CARNIVAL OF SOULS. Though not a remake, the dream within a dream-like atmosphere permeates the entire story. Most of the time writer/director Jay Woelfel does a good job of keeping the viewer along for the ride, but occasionally this rollercoaster of a film skids off the tracks and becomes somewhat repetitive when it comes to the onion layers of reality it peels away.
Character actor Jon Unger does a great job hamming it up at the evil yet whimsical carnie who appears in different clown get-ups throughout the film. I remember the actor from LEATHERFACE: TCM3 (one of my favorites), but he’s instantly recognizable and offers up a lot of good to this film. In the end, it has a lot of good ideas with decent execution. Nice use of atmosphere and some fun performances make up for some lulls and repetitious moments in story.
B MOVIE FILM VAULT:
Closed for the Season is a totally surreal viewing experience and doesn't follow a traditional movie narrative. It isn't a conventional supernatural thriller. Closed for the Season is an entirely different creature altogether and is almost guaranteed to keep all those who watch it off balance. It's an assault on the senses, and you almost feel like you are watching someone's nightmare play out.
In a Nutshell: A very cool indie supernatural horror thriller that will have Stephen King fans grinning from ear to ear.
-The set design is fan-fucking-tastic. I’m not sure if it was a real abandoned carnival, but they seem to use every square inch of the park. The coasters, ferris wheel, funhouse, games center was all used to great extent. While it may have been low budget it felt much bigger because of this. -The different scenarios the characters have to deal with are pretty cool. Besides the giant, funhouse, and bikers they also play some wicked games with the Carny, that ended up being suspenseful and effective. - The movie itself had a dreamlike feel to it that fit the subject matter perfectly. The cinematography and music overall fit the tone perfectly.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the movie. The ending was typical for this type of scenario but I don’t think ending it any other way would have enhanced it. If this is your type of movie then it’s a definite recommend. Final Rating 7/ 10.
ALIEN BEE REVIEW
We haven’t had a good amusement park movie in a while and now we have CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. This movie is actually a fun watch, with horror elements mixed with humor. Writer and Director Jay Woelfel has delivered a fun “rollercoaster” ride that keeps us curious on what is going on until the very end. Actor Joe Unger, who plays a ghost we call The Carny is by far the standout and he is very entertaining and amusing to watch in this fun story.
We follow a girl who ends up in this park that is haunted but she has to take the long way around “the park” to finally realize what is going on and the ghosts she is dealing with. She gets chased all over the park and mentally picked on by a mischievous ghost “host”. We see all the usual tricks that you see at a carnival or theme park played on her and it’s almost like a test each time she goes through these. The effects are fun in the movie, the few actors that we follow along for “the ride” do a great job all the way to the end where we find out what’s actually going on in the movie. Another cool note is that this movie was filmed at Chippewa Lake park that has been abandoned for a long time. Bottom line is if you like those crazy amusemnt park or carnival movies and you’re looking for something fun to watch, be sure to check out CLOSED FOR THE SEASON.
EXTRA IDDINGS: Bill Idding’s review
‘Death of a Clown,’ Undeath of a Carny
Giddy frights palpitating at the heart of writer/director Jay Woelfel’s supernatural horror film “Closed for the Season” beat from “Death of a Clown,” a 1967 Kinks song not heard on soundtrack.
Spray painted as graffiti on a wall inside an abandoned Ohio amusement park is, “The old fortune teller lies dead on the floor/Nobody needs fortunes told anymore.”
The lyric comes from Kinks front man Ray Davies. The low-budget movie they speak for is a little surprise. “Closed for the Season” is an uneven though often intriguing direct-to-home-video flick with more tricks up its sleeve that anyone could expect.
For all its gore, shadowy menaces and -- seriously? -- rubber monsters, “Closed for the Season” speaks, sometimes eloquently, to loss and loneliness. Its most of its anxieties are bothering a place, not a person. The park that once teemed with people and joy is now is empty and ignored, except by vandals. And the park has had it. It wants its glory days back with a vengeance, no matter who has to die.
Much of the fun of watching “Closed for the Season” is imagining how what Woelfel saw in the ruins of the real Chippewa Lake Park that got his creative juices flowing.
“Closed for the Season” was shot on location last year, at the park that opened in 1878 and was shut down a century later. The slice of Davies’ song really is written on a Chippewa Lake facade.
The park is, from Woelfel’s mind, alive, a weathered, dilapidated collection of horror stories. Legends of a supposed bloody past return to haunt and prey on a young couple (Aimee Brooks and Damian Maffei) who might not escape alive.
Putting them to bloody tests is The Carny, a malevolent wit who might be a ghost and who’s definitely the best thing “Closed for the Season” has going for it. Assuming various guises and as the beneficiary of Woelfel’s best lines, he’s played by Joe Unger. A mustachioed older actor, Unger’s appearance and gravel voice recall James Gammon, the late character actor best known for playing the Cleveland Indians manager in the “Major League” baseball comedies.
The Carny runs his two preys through a gamut of terrors and paranoia: skeletons hanging in trees; to a leg torn off by the cheesy fake alligator that would make the late Ed Wood, arguably the worst movie director in history, roll over in his grave; a hand severed by a little white Teddy bear; impalements, pursuit by a “Christine” car and more.
Whether any of the threats are real is a matter for conjecture. Separating nightmare from reality is one of the challenges, part of the game.
“Closed for the Season” is hardly flawless, but Woelfel taps into some primal fears. Not the least of them is an ominous, silent clown-band trio that West Michiganians will never confuse with that world-renowned group of goofy circus cross dressers from Scottville.
“Closed for the Season” features two appealing leads who likely will see better days, and films. They’re trying to deal with not only an antagonist who’s gleeful in his deceptions, but also with demonic doppelgangers -- bikers, clowns from hell -- who give the actors a chance to test their ranges by going face-to-face with their darker selves.
One character muses that whatever’s attacking her, for real or not, is “like the park is protecting itself.” Something to keep in mind the next time you pass an amusement park that has enjoyed better days.
Closed For The Season isn’t going to be for everyone, but for anyone looking for something a bit different they are in for a treat. The story reminded me or a mix of “House of a 1000 Corpses” and “Alice in Wonderland” with its strange characters an dream-like sequences. They story is very original and creative. The movie is a mix of horror and the supernatural and when you toss in all these weird characters and the nightmarish dreams you get something pretty trippy and unique. One of the best parts about the film is the park itself. Like I said before “Closed For The Season” isn’t going to be for everyone but for those who love Independent Cinema this is a gem waiting to be experienced. Writer/Director Jay Woelfel did a wonderful job using what he had to work with an dhe shows great story telling ability here by creating something so different. The cast for the most part did a terrific job as well playing their roles.
SHE SCRIBES REVIEW: Kimberly
Closed for the Season is one of those B-movies that won’t win any awards but it sure will keep you entertained. I did find myself jumping out of a seat a few times, other times I giggled at the silliness. It was a good mix of humor, creepiness, craziness and things that made you jump out of your seat. Closed for the Season is set in an abandoned amusement park. That alone opens up endless possibilities. Imagine being trapped inside an abandoned amusement park? CREEPY! The rides and buildings in the movie were extra creepy too.
When you think about amusement parks what comes to mind? Aside from rides I think about things like haunted houses, circus freaks and clowns. I think most people will agree with me that clowns are scary. I have never met or seen a non-scary clown. I’m not terrified of clowns but I would prefer not to have one chasing me around. Brrr… That thought just gave me chills up my spine.
Within the first few minutes of Closed for the Season I knew this movie was going to be crazy. Right away a young boy is thrown from a roller coaster by a weird guy and impalled on a small tree. He was still alive with a tree shooting up from his chest. Ewww!!!
After this Kristy experiences some other totally insane things she stumbles across the amusement park’s caretaker’s house. There she meets a young man name James (Damian Maffei) who is the son of the caretakers. James thinks Kristy is off her rocker talking about all the monsters and unreal things she’s experienced. James just thinks that she has a wild imagination and offers to take her around the park to show her that things are OK and there is nothing to be afraid of. Soon James realizes that Kristy is not insane and that the crazy things she is seeing and experiencing are real (or are they?).
The couple soon meet up with the park’s Carny (Joe Unger) who used to run the amusement park back in the day. This man is totally, helter skelter, off his rocker! One minute you think he’s befriended the couple and is legitimately trying to help them and then the next minute he’s being cruel and vicious towards them. The freaks, monsters and clowns that pop up throughout the film are laughable compared to the insane Carny.
There are a lot of twists and turns throughout the movie. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out – think again! I won’t give you anymore of the plot or the ending. You just have to see the movie for yourself to appreciate it.
If you are someone who enjoys a good, entertaining movie with a lot of twists and turns, with a few jump-out-of-your-seat moments and interesting characters, then you will enjoy Closed for the Season. I can easily see this movie becoming a hit with teens and at college campuses across the country. It’s simply a fun movie to watch.
Below are the U.K reviews where the film is titled: CARNIVAL OF FEAR
The B Movie Avenger:
Nothing is as it seems....
This film was a strange one… Just picture if you were to mix up Alice In Wonderland and A Nightmare on Elm Street. There is a strange hallucinatory quality to the whole thing.
The acting was actually quite good and the sincere response from the actors to the absurd effects also served to make me feel as if perhaps I had fallen asleep and was dreaming rather than watching a film. The park itself is genuinely creepy and desolate looking, leading me to believe that the film makers must have filmed the movie at an actual abandoned amusement park and not built a set, a wise move that most defiantly paid off. The choice to have the park itself be angry and lonely rather than have it be haunted by ghosts was a likewise wise move, as it gave the film a unique twist and made it all its own and comes across something like Rose Red meets Something Wicked This Way Comes.
I must say that the ending also threw me for a loop but left me satisfied and by the end of this flick I realized I'd loved it.
Nefarious Films review of the U.K release
Though the UK marketing of Jay Woelfel’s (LIVE EVIL) latest film make it look like a rather formulaic killer clown movie, CARNIVAL OF FEAR (or CLOSED FOR THE SEASON to give it its US title) is actually a peculiar genre hybrid of supernatural thriller and psychological drama.
There are plenty of surprising plot turns and surprisingly gory scenes. The first couple of these work well and one scene in particular involving a very surprising alligator attack came as a real shock. This shock dissipated very quickly however as moments later it is revealed to have been some form of vision or hallucination. The nature of what is actually happening is rather unclear. There is actually a great idea buried in here about the power of old stories and that places, especially places which witnessed a lot of people's emotions and stories, hold onto these memories. Though these ideas are explored quite thoroughly, the film's constant return to scare tactics and shock moments mean that working out what is actually happening is rendered frustratingly difficult.
It's not all bad however and the film works much better when practical special effects are employed. There are some lovely gore effects used including a severed hand, a chewed-off leg and the rather visual illustration of what happens when a man gets in the way of a bulldozer. There is also a beautiful lake monster suit which, despite being a little rubbery at times, works brilliantly. It is also, crucially not over-used - this is not a film about lake monsters (despite part of me secretly wishing it was) nor is it a film about scary killer clowns. These are mere parts of a much bigger story. There is something infinitely sad and strange about ruined places which were once busy hives of human activity and the location Woelfel has used for this story is wonderful for evoking that sense. Its rotting structures and faded signs look great on screen and are just begging for a great story to be woven around them.
It is wonderful to see something which defies genre expectations and cliche to attempt something different. It is a shame that this is being touted as the usual sort of hack n' slash killer circus type of movie as those audiences will obviously be disappointed. Those who go in without such expectations may find something more interesting here to mull over. Plus, it's got a lovely lake monster in it.
FLEAPIT CINEMA review:
The Carny is a right seedy old dude and is played with a gleeful menace by Joe Unger. You never quite know what he will do next and with his various tricks and disguises you tend to tell a genuine unease when he is one screen.
Director Jay Woelfel (who also wrote the film and directed the under-rater final chapter in the “Trancers” film series) has crafted a film which confuses the hell out of you and when you think you got it worked out, it confuses you further. Whether this was done either in the script or the editing suite, it makes a nice refreshing change from the usual by-the-number horror movies.
The film has good old fashioned make up effects and a bit of dodgy CGI at the beginning, but don’t let that put you off. I also liked Woelfel’s use of digital work on some scenes with some well wild colours being used and some clever filtering of the camera’s image. Using an old deserted funfair for the location shooting has helped immensely and give the film a real creepy atmosphere.
It’s certainly quite a strange experience at times and one which I did rather enjoy. It is a real head trip at times but at least it’s different, which I’m all for in this age of lame slasher and zombie pictures.
LOVE FILM.COM LUGODOC review:
Odd Quirky Indie Horror…shot at night on a real abandoned old fairground somewhere but genuinely creepy and there is a plot. The disconcerting reality-quakes that periodically separate the characters and plunge them into weird little nightmare episodes reminded me of playing Silent Hill video games and as they work their way through the park ride by ride the odd bits do add up and fit in with the revealed back story. Some thought was put into this. I quite enjoyed it.