Studio: Anchor Bay Studios
Director: John Watts
Writer: Christopher Ford, Jon Watts
Producer: Mac Cappuccino, Cody Rider, Eli Roth, Brian Oliver
Stars: Laura Allen, Andy Powers, Christian Distefano, Elizabeth Whitmere, Chuck Shamata, Peter Stormare
A father dons a clown suit to entertain at his son’s birthday, but discovers the costume is actually a cursed demon’s skin.
Steve Martin had it easy. After filling in for a no-show entertainer at his son’s birthday party in “Parenthood,” Martin’s tin star was tossed in a drawer and his cowboy chaps went back to being a bathmat. For Kent McCoy (Andy Powers) of “Clown,” returning to reality as an unassuming suburban family man is not so simple.
When a clown cancels at the last minute, realtor Kent scrambles to save his son’s b-day celebration by rummaging through a vacant property and scrounging up a clown costume. Kent’s creation “Dummo” is a hit with the kids, except come morning, Kent finds that the suit, nose, and wig won’t come off his body. In fact, the rainbow curls have somehow transformed into Kent’s actual hair.
Kent does a little digging and eventually learns what he is wearing is actually the skin of an ancient Nordic demon. As Kent slowly transforms into this grotesque creature of legend, he also develops an insatiable hunger for child sacrifice. While Kent struggles to break the curse before his growing bloodlust consumes him, his wife Meg seeks insight from a secretive costume dealer to stop her husband before he can kill their son, or anyone else.
Appearances can be deceiving. Director Jon Watts’ “Clown,” the feature-length extension of Watts and Christopher Ford’s faux trailer from 2010, may not necessarily be a coulrophobic’s worst nightmare in film form. In other words, the movie isn’t quite so heavy on Pennywise-inspired imagery or circus-set mayhem as its title might suggest. “Clown” is more along the lines of a supernatural slasher mixed with transformation thriller where the person possessed just happens to be deforming into a demonic clown.
With Eli Roth onboard as a producer, it was Watts and Ford’s sly wink at Roth in their mock trailer that got them noticed in the first place, horror fans in the know have an inkling of the style in store. “Clown” doesn’t swing for the fences of gross-out gore or boffo black comedy with the same unrelenting gusto for which Roth is infamous. But its fine-lined streak of dark humor puts enough subversive personality into a simple setup to make “Clown” a movie worth squirming through the gruesome parts while chuckling at the subtle self-awareness.
“Clown” gets a great deal of its gags courtesy of some clever cutting. A shot of someone wiping projectile vomit from her face is followed by a shot of someone else licking fingers following a diner meal, for instance. The tactic is a bit of a cheap trick to get an audience to grimace, yet the smart methods by which editor Robert Ryang pulls extra mileage out of scene transitions goes a long way toward giving “Clown” its tone of unusual body horror with a touch of sinister snickering.
The film can be funny, though you wouldn’t describe it as outright comedic. The movie understands it has a somewhat silly concept, but Andy Powers as Kent, Laura Allen as his wife Meg, and the always odd Peter Stormare pretend not to know by wonderfully playing their roles straight. The actors’ earnestness balances with the filmmakers’ sarcasm to strike the right mood of weirdness that is sometimes amusing, sometimes revolting, but usually entertaining.
“Clown” drags one foot during a last act that is longer than it should be to stay peppy. There’s also an elephant in the room with regard to repeated violence against children, such as a bloody terror spree in a Chuck E. Cheese, that won’t sit well with some parents or those offended by such insinuations. Even though the movie doesn’t have much of a moral code regarding that aspect, it also doesn’t play insensitively loose with its kid-centric carnage. A child-eating demon clown is part of the story after all. Either embrace the idea with the same sense of frightening fun as the film, or be forewarned that a different flavor might taste better in your teacup.
Review Score: 75