After his Breakthrough Hit Clerks, Kevin Smith decided to use his newfound success as a filmmaker to give his friends opportunities to make their own movies through his production house, View Askew. 2000's Vulgar, written and directed by Smith's childhood friend Brian Johnston (aka, Steve-Dave Pulasti), was one of them.
Will Carlson (Brian O'Halloran) is an out-of-work birthday party clown just trying to make ends meet to live in his dilapidated house and pay for his abusive mother's nursing hime. While he loves his job, gigs are difficult to come by, and he's frequently terrorized by local hoodlums any time he drives to one. Desperate for money but not willing to give up his dream job, Will comes up with a Get Rich Quick Scheme to do bachelor parties under the name "Vulgar The Clown," showing up in clown makeup and fishnets as a gag before the real stripper comes. With his new plan in mind, Will puts out an ad and soon gets his first gig.
Said gig turns out to be a set up by a father/sons trio of rapists, who videotape Will as he's drugged, raped and humiliated. Will goes home and spends the next several days having a violent mental breakdown.
Luckily, things pick up for him immediately after when his first gig after his assault when he manages to take out an angry father holding the birthday girl hostage. Now local hero, Will uses the media attention to boost his business and is soon making a considerable living, eventually getting his own TV show. Unfortunately, Will's new celebrity status attracts the attention of his rapists, who have have edited the footage of their assault to look like a (consensual) sex tape and threaten to blackmail him with it, convincing Will to take matters into his own hands.
Vulgar contains examples of
- Abusive Parents
- Will's mother, who is constantly putting him down and resents him for putting her in a crappy nursing home. It's implied that she still isn't impressed with him after his newfound success gets her a more comfortable living situation.
- One of Will's regulars is a little girl who's parents are going through a messy divorce. Will becomes a local hero when he takes our her father, who takes her hostage during one of his gigs.
- The Alleged Car: Will's affectionately-nicknamed "shitbox."
- Attempted Rape: Syd is held up by another rapist outside of the motel where Will plans to kill the Fanellis. The rapist bursts in on them just in time for Frankie to accidentally shoot him in the throat and Will tells Syd to go home immediately after.
- Awful Wedded Life: Ed's wife all but states that she hates him, and Ed seems to return the sentiment.Jenny: "Who would possibly be interested in YOU? I can't believe I was for that one fleeting moment."
Ed: "Oh, yeah? You know, that front door hasn't moved."
- But Not Too Gay: Subverted. We know Martin is homosexual because we first see him watching TV in bed with another man, but it never comes up in conversation. Arguably, he's "just gay enough."
- Black Comedy
- Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: Entirely averted. Will's rape is played as brutally and traumatically as it would be in real life, and it clearly destroys him.
- Driven to Suicide: It's implied that Will taking out the abusive father of the birthday girl being held hostage was a suicide mission, simply because he had nothing to lose.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Will, a Friend to All Children, initially decides not to kill the Fanellis when he hears Ed's pre-adolescent daughter in the background of their phone conversation. He changes his mind when Ed doesn't hold up his end of the blackmail bargain.
- Get Rich Quick Scheme: An especially tragic failure.
- Friend to All Children: Will.
- Happy Place: Will imagines himself handing out balloons to children on the beach as he's being brutally raped. The children are soon covered in blood when he can't handle the trauma any longer.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Will's gun jams when he goes to shoot the Fanellis, and Frankie ends up shooting himself in the face when he checks to make sure there are no bullets inside.
- Kick the Dog: Will's rape is this. Being impoverished wasn't enough. Failing his dream job wasn't enough. Being a burden to his mother wasn't enough. He had to get raped too.
- Knight of Cerebus: The Fanellis. With the exception of the abusive father Will takes out, they're the only ones who's cruelty isn't Played for Laughs, which is most likely why the trailer barely mentions them.
- Landlord: Will's is constantly asking him about his rent money. He's shown to be rather nice about it, though, knowing that Will's work situation isn't the best and that the local hoodlums don't make it better.
- Monster Clown: Averted. Vulgar isn't a "scary" clown, but his intended appeal is definitely rooted in deliberate Fan Disservice.
- Never Live It Down: In-Universe. Martin Ingram convinces his boss to give Will's Flappy character his own TV series by reminding him that he turned down the opportunity to produce Barney & Friends.
- Non-Ironic Clown: Will's Flappy The Clown act is an (at first) failed attempt at this.
- Only Friend: Syd is the only person who isn't outwardly awful to Will, and even then, he's not very supportive. At least until he finds out that Will was raped.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Will fails to kill the Fanellis because in his efforts to do so, they all end up killing themselves: Frankie shoots himself in the face with Will's gun because he thinks it's empty, a bullet from Gino's gun ricochets off of a pipe and hits him in the throat and Ed dies of a heart attacknote while Will is holding him at gunpoint. Not only is Will freed from his rapists' blackmail, but he doesn't even have to get his hands dirty.
- Rags to Riches: Will starts off impoverished and unemployed when his career as Flappy The Clown doesn't take off. Once he becomes a local hero, he goes on to star in a hit TV series and a successful VHS franchise, which buy him a nicer house and a more comfortable lifestyle.
- Rape and Revenge: Subverted. Will tried to take revenge on his rapists, but they're all Too Dumb to Live.
- Rape as Drama: Is it ever!Ed: I'm going to make hate to you.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Will's sexual assault, and the implied dozens of other men the Fanellis have also raped, are played deadly straight.
- Rape Leads to Insanity: After his assault, Will goes home, demolishes his house and smashes his mirror with a wrench while screaming at his reflection, after which he uses a shard of glass to cut his hand.
- Shower of Angst: Will's bath that he takes after his mental breakdown following his rape. Also a subversion, as he appears to be taking it more to calm himself down after the worst of it passes.
- Trailers Always Lie: The trailers presented the film as a moderate Black Comedy about a down-on-his-luck clown becoming a local hero, only for something from his past to come back and haunt him. No mention whatsoever about that something being getting raped.