Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Horror Violence and Gore, and for Language
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Christopher D. Ford & Jon Watts
Starring: Andy Powers, Laura Allen, Peter Stormare, Eli Roth & Elizabeth Whitmere
Clowns are scary. That’s a natural fact of life that’s easily exploited in horror films. CLOWN is a gory feature-length version of a fake trailer that Eli Roth filmed a few years ago. The idea is that if you have the name Eli Roth attached to your horror project, an effective fake trailer and a scary ass clown, then you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a built-in audience. CLOWN has been making waves as an anticipated horror flick for the past year and has finally received a home video release in the UK. If you have the means to import a copy and are a less discerning slasher fan, then you’re probably going to really enjoy CLOWN. Otherwise, this coulrophobic (fear of clowns) horror film is not likely worth your time.
Kent McCoy’s son is having a birthday party and the clown has backed out at the last-minute. In a desperate effort to save his son from the disappointment of not having a scary-ass clown at his birthday party, Ken goes through the contents of a shady looking trunk and finds a clown costume. Donning the goofy wig, outfit, and red nose, Ken saves his son’s birthday…but has awoken something evil by wearing the costume. It turns out that the clown outfit isn’t actually an outfit but rather the skin of an ancient child-eating demon and Ken has begun to transform into that horrifying monster. It’s up to Ken’s wife and a crazed axe-wielding Peter Stormare to put a stop to Ken before too many innocent children are devoured.
To its credit, CLOWN has a pretty cool first hour. There seems to be a new wave of body horror afoot involving characters going through grisly transformations (e.g. CONTRACTED, STARRY EYES) and CLOWN seems to be the latest in the line of these. Pretty gnarly things occur when Kent tries to remove his costume (including half of his nose being ripped off) as well as nasty scenes during his actual transformation. I was surprised by how well made the first hour of this film actually was. There seem to be real attempts to make this story into something shocking and creepy, both of which work to a certain extent. I felt bad for Kent as he suffers the ultimate “no good deed goes unpunished” scenario. He tried to save his son’s birthday and winds up turning into a monstrous clown as a result.
The last 40 minutes almost manage to entirely undo everything that worked so well in the first hour by turning CLOWN into a standard slasher flick lacking any memorable qualities. A showdown that stretches through three different locations (including a Chuck E. Cheese ripe for plenty of pizza-eating kids to wind up as meals) is lackluster and overly predictable. At one point, it seemed like the film was going to go in a totally unexpected (and darker) direction that I would have loved. Instead, things play out in fairly by-the-numbers fashion. When two side characters (Kent’s wife and a woefully wasted Peter Stormare) become the main focus of the action, it felt like CLOWN had turned into just another slasher flick with nothing fresh or fun about it (despite the idea of a guy turning into a cannibalistic clown). Special effects range from neat practical work on the killer clown to cheesy rubber body parts during kills and occasional weak CGI. For a slasher flick, the kills are also overly familiar and uninspired.
To be totally honest, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from CLOWN. Despite many high-profile horror websites hyping this film up, I was pretty much just expecting a so-so slasher with a killer clown. Instead, I received a pretty cool body-horror story in the first hour that quickly devolved into a cheesy body-count flick in the last 40 minutes. I’m terrified of clowns in real life, but CLOWN is pretty underwhelming and by-the-numbers movie. Horror fans who love every slasher flick ever made will probably dig this. However, CLOWN wound up as a purely middle-of-the-road experience for me.