08th Mar2015

Frightfest Glasgow 2015: ‘Clown’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Andy Powers, Laura Allen, Peter Stormare, Elizabeth Whitmere, Christian Distefano, Chuck Shamata, Matthew Stefiuk, Sarah Scheffer, Allen Altman | Written by Christopher D. Ford, Jon Watts | Directed by Jon Watts

Clown-4

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Clown, no doubt because purveyor of gore and grue, Eli Roth (Hostel), has his name attached to the film. So forgive me if I came away from the movie feeling a little under-whelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed what I saw but I couldn’t help but feel it needed something more… After all, when you break the story down, it’s not much more than a Tales From the Crypt/Tales From the Darkside-style morality play; and those two TV shows told their stories in less than thirty minutes.

Clown tells the story of doting father Kent who dons a clown outfit he finds in an abandoned property he is renovating, when the entertainer hired for his son’s sixth birthday party is a no-show. But after the festivities, he finds he can’t take the costume off: the bulbous nose is stuck to his face, the frizzy wig glued to his hair and the make-up permanently etched on his features. He soon learns that the “costume” is not quiet what he expected – it is the skin of an ancient demon who possess all those who don the suit; and his family must race to break the curse before the transformation into a homicidal killer clown is complete…

Directed by Jon Watts, who teams up with his writing partner on puppet cop flick The Fuzz, Christopher D. Ford, Clown started out life as a faux-grindhouse trailer for a non-existant film, which Watts and co. (whose previous experience has been solely in the comedy genre) brought to the attention of writer/director/producer Eli Roth. And the rest, they say, is history.

It’s interesting to note that Clown, like supernatural horrors such as Rare Exports, Saint, and to an extent Troll Hunter, uses the idea of ancient mythology influencing modern stories. In this case clowns are a watered-down, child-friendly take on an ancient demon, the Cloyne, who liked to chow down on kids before hibernating for the winter. Not a pretty tale right? And it gets worse when the audience, like Kent, realises that he too will have to take the life of five children before his ordeal is over.

Yet that’s not how Clown‘s tale pans out at first. No, this story starts very much on a comedic note. After all, what’s not funny about a guy in a clown suit? Especially with Andy Powers’ fantastic performance as the perturbed Kent – whose frustration with his outfit becoming more and more pathological as the film goes on. Starting out as something of a Three Stooges style slapstick, his efforts to remove the suit become more and more terrifying and disturbing – his frustration mirroring the change in his personality and his eventual “change.”

People say clowns are scary. Me? Not so much. Which is maybe why – even given the disturbing subject matter of child-killing (which Watts does NOT shy away from come the film final third) – I wasn’t that scared of Clown. Then again, maybe its because real-life child killers, like the clown-suited John Wayne Gacy, are much more frightening than any mythical monster.

*** 3/5

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