Produced by Eli Roth, CLOWN is a movie I had been rather desperate to see. The premise of the movie had me enticed from the trailer: a man dons an old clown costume for his son’s birthday but afterward cannot remove it. In addition, clowns as protagonists have a fine history with a line of genre movies perhaps best represented by the under-appreciated CLOWNHOUSE (1989) and the more polished Stephen King’s IT (1990).
CLOWN is grimier than either of the above movies but laden with the darkest of comedy. The make-up department did a sterling job on this one and the transformation from ‘family man’ to ‘clown-demon’ is pulled off very well. There’s plenty of gore, and some of it coming from very young children – still a bit brazen even in the current environment of rather loose censorship. The mythology built around the ‘costume’ is also well-thought out and somewhat original, and for that I give the filmmakers a lot of credit. You really feel as if this is tale of legend, more fantasy than horror. In many ways, the cast do little wrong but neither do they shine. That said, Peter Stormare welcomly pops up as Karlsson, a man who has unenviable past experience of the demon. Stormare also has the best, and worst, lines in the film’s script (“Jack, you have to kill your daddy”).
But the simmering problem here is that the material isn’t really sufficient to fill a feature length film. It would be better-suited to a 60 minute episode of The Twilight Zone or something. If you lack in material, you have to ace the on-screen visuals and atmopshere – think of minimalist horror movies like HALLOWEEN (1978) or the more recent IN FEAR (2013) – but director Jon Watts just misfires a little. Unfortunately, aside from a fantastic final third (involving a glorious and clearly parodic scene inside a Chuck ‘E’ Cheese) the rest of the movie is rather workmanlike, and even forgettable, in its visual style.
For horror fans, CLOWN does enough to warrant significant attention, but it won’t interest anyone else. Of course, it never set out to.
hotdog rating: 6/10