11th Nov2020

‘Clownface’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Hannah Douglas, Dani Tonks, Richard Buck, Philip John Bailey, Abigail Wisdom, Leah Solmaz, Thomas Loone, Chloe Rose Fisher, Richard Hobday, Matt Allen, Deborah McEwan, Jack Gunner, Dani Thompson, Nigel Buckley, Kiah Reeves, Alex Bourne, Finley Baker, Theo Cane Garvey, Laura Sian Dixon, Jack Strange, Luke Junior, Jon Vangdal Aamaas, Mark Adams | Written and Directed by Alex Bourne

Released in the US by Wild Eye Releasing, Clownface is – surprisingly – a British take on the slasher movie, mixing the tropes of that genre with countless others in a film that has some good ideas but not that much originality.

The film opens with the death of Zoe’s boyfriend Rick – post BDSM coitus – at the hands of the titular Clownface, a killer who strikes without mercy, wearing the face of his victims a la Leatherface. Skipping forward a year, the film follows Jenna (Hannah Douglas), Zoe’s friend and the person who discovered Rick’s mutilated corpse. Trying to get on with her life Jenna, thanks to her best friend Amy (Abigail Wisdom), has got her a job as barmaid at her parents pub and is unsuccessfully looking to move on. But she can’t, she’s constantly reminded by Zoe’s other friends who see her responsible for Zoe’s death; and then along comes Owen (Richard Buck), a Clownface survivor himself, who insists Zoe’s still alive and held captive somewhere…

Oh and I forgot to mention Clownface is back too. Terrorising the very town Jenna lives in!

Let’s get this out of the way first. As a killer, Clownface REALLY looks the part. The face made from victims skin, the evil smile carved in the dead flesh… Creepy. Very creepy. And the opening, with the short sharp hock of Rick’s death was a great way to open the film but then writer/director Alex Bourne takes his film in to the all-too familiar, following pretty much every trope and cliche of the slasher genre – right down to the violence.

For yes, there’s a couple of gory set-pieces (including a particularly brutal disembowelment) but, given how much the killers grotesque appearance at times reminded me of the killer from Headless, I couldn’t help but wonder if some truly vicious, over the top (some might say extreme) gore might have given Clownface an edge over its competition. Without it the film remains very much your typical slasher movie – only with a more interesting villain (who’s M.O. is still pilfered from Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

And that’s the thing, there’s nothing that original about Clownface. I will give it to writer/director Alex Bourne though, he does attempt to show more in terms of characterisation – we see Jenna struggling with what happened a year ago, the trauma still affecting her mental health. We see Zoe too struggling too; locked up in the titular killers lair, hallucinating that her boyfriend – the first victim of Clownface – is still alive and comforting her, and then later dancing with her captor in a weird kind of Silence of the Lambs-esque psychological torture.

Which means that there is something deeper at work in Clownface, a seed of a great movie, it’s just that those particular highlights of the film are lost in a more generic slasher-movie framework. There’s an interesting ending to Clownface too, which is probably one of the most original I’ve seen in a slasher movie, which puts the relationship between Zoe, Jenna and Clownface himself at the centre but then Bourne and co. throw THAT out of the window in place of a shocking scene that, again, feels oh, so, familiar.

Clownface is out now, in the US, from Wild Eye Releasing.

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