@theevilbread faces the fear of many a child (and adult) in Clown…
It’s funny, recently, like zombies; clowns seem to have taken centre stage when it comes to horror. I reviewed one of the classic titles from the 80’s (Killer Klowns From Outer Space) featuring the red nosed terrors, so I’ll spare the background check on all things harlequin related. Needless to say, it’s something I welcome, especially with this example, it’s body horror with face paint, what’s not to love?
Our latest incarnation featuring a smiling ghoul comes from producer Eli Roth, who saw a fake trailer on YouTube (which you can still watch on the channel titled waverlyflams) for a film called Clown which featured his name attached as a joke. Funnily enough, Roth decided to make the film a reality with his name attached as a producer, funny how things can happen, right?
The story follows Ken, who works as a real estate agent and is overseeing a house for sale while his wife Meg takes care of their son Jack’s birthday party at their own home. Since Jack is obsessed with clowns, everything that could possibly have a big smile and a red nose is at his party, so naturally when Meg receives a phone call telling her that the clown she hired to entertain her son and his friends cannot make it, she’s pretty disappointed. Ken hears the news just as he’s finishing up but he comes across an old trunk in the house which just happens to feature a clown suit inside. He decides to don the wig and face paint and do the job himself, to great success, however when the time comes to remove the costume, that’s a different matter entirely. It seems to have attached itself to his skin. The leather-like material becoming skin-tight, the red nose being attached to his own nose, the wig becoming his own hair and the face paint returning each time he washes it off.
As the plot progresses, we learn that the suit he is wearing is in-fact, skin, the skin of a demon known as the ‘Clöyne’ which is of European decent (everything nasty seems to come from here). The Clöyne was the original clown, society took the familiar visual traits that the creature has and softened them up to dilute the legacy of terror it left. The demon lured children into its domain and ate five in total each year, one for each month of winter coldness. The skin holds a curse, whoever wears it is doomed to become the demon and set out to murder and devour five children, which is bad news for Ken’s son. As the body count piles up, Meg must figure out a way to save her husband or at the very least, her own child.
The tone of the film varies from both dark and comedic in parts, it doesn’t take itself too seriously which considering the plot for the film, is a smart choice to make. However, there are a couple of scenes that stick out from the rest and are very well executed. One of these particular scenes shows us our first glimpse of the Clöyne in found-footage style and it looks nothing short of brilliant. They managed to shroud the image of the demon while letting us see just enough to know that you never, ever want to run into this monstrosity. Just the visuals with the combination of how the thing moves is quite foreboding.
Another scene which sticks out takes place within a Chuck E. Cheese, I still can’t believe that they managed to gain the rights to use the brand considering what takes place in this scene. It involves a lot of tension building within one of those giant play room…things which involves a lot of tube crawling. The claustrophobia paired with the potential lingering doom for a child makes for a great sequence. There’s plenty of gore effects with the death scenes, so if you’re a gore hound, you’ll be happy, Roth’s signature is definitely penned with the blood count.
Director Jon Watts makes his directorial debut with Clown as well as being one of the two main screenplay writers for it. For a first motion picture release job, he does it impressively well, there’s a good attention to pacing and tension building in the sequences which need it most. There is no one in the cast who is a major player but everyone plays their parts well, especially Peter Stormare who plays the Van Helsing against the clown demon and delivers us some great folklore about the creature. Eli Roth has a fun cameo as ‘Frowny The Clown’ and the name could not be closer to the truth, that is one clown straight from the darkest pit of hell, the design is fantastic but it’s all kinds of NOPE and I love clowns!
In terms of subtext, there’s not much to go here, it’s setting out to be an entertaining horror film and it does just that, I guess you could read that the film explores a father battling the urge to harm his child but that would be reading a little too deep into it, no, Clown doesn’t need any hidden meanings of philosophies for what it’s aiming to do.
The special effects are pretty good when it comes to the subtle increasing transformations from man to clown as the narrative progresses, obviously it’s not subtle when it’s first introduced but from then on, each scene presents a slight difference, some pointed out to us and some not. A nice touch for those who have an eye for detail.
Overall Clown is a fun little flick. It’s not going to be etched into the horror hall of fame, but it is an entertaining film with some impressive ideas and visual effects. The folklore was great, something I could’ve easily learned more about without getting bored. It’s like ‘The Fly’ with a red nose and big feet and that my friends, is an idea guaranteed to be entertaining.
Clown is now available to own on DVD in the UK.