12th Mar2015

‘Clown’ DVD Review

by Joel Harley

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-dvd-front

An Eli Roth produced horror film about a killer clown. As concepts go, Clown has itself a real doozy. When the clown he hired for his son’s birthday party flakes out on him, a desperate dad and real estate agent dresses up in the clown costume he finds in the basement of one of his properties. His clown act is a resounding success, but isn’t quite so funny the next day, when he can’t get the make-up, wig or nose off his face. Even worse, he appears to be transforming into a child-eating demonic clown. It’s up to his wife and a dodgy Peter Stormare to save the poor guy before its too late – both for dad and the unfortunate children he seems set on slaughtering.

While the humble clown remains one of horror cinema’s most enduring monstrosities, it’s notable that subgenre doesn’t really have its classic, yet. Sure, there’s the iconic IT, but I’d argue that without Tim Curry’s terrifying performance, we’d have long forgotten this particular Stephen King adaptation by now. Killer clowns are a dime a dozen in horror cinema, but we’re still waiting for a truly great killer clown movie (comedies like Killer Klowns From Outer Space not withstanding). It all rests on the IT remake, then, because Jon Watts’s Clown is not the saviour of the subgenre.

It has a jolly good shot at trying though, with some great scenes of body horror at the start (its transformation sequences are particularly strong) and creepy clowning towards the end. The ball pool, dog and brightly coloured gore (think Killer Klowns) are a nice touch in a film that could have been truly great. As it is, it settles for being mostly okay. As with much of Eli Roth’s work, there’s a vein of dumb humour that runs through, undermining its attempts at dumb horror.

Director Jon Watts plays it straighter than Roth would (nobody calls anyone else ‘gay’ at any point) but that familiar fratboy sense of humour is still there, in the background. That should be fine – it’s too goofy a concept to be taken seriously – but it attempts to be dark and terrifying at the same time, its tones never meshing and instead coming across as neither one thing or the other. Half of the film is played broad, while the other is moody and grim. Like Stormare’s terribly broad performance, neither convinces.

Clown has some good ideas, strong action and great visuals. Unfortunately, it wastes too much of its own time clowning around to be taken as seriously as it should. It’s good, but not quite good enough.

*** 3/5

Clown is out now on DVD (and ltd. edition Blu-ray) from Studiocanal.

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