At what point did clowns cease to be a bit of harmless children’s entertainment and become our stuff of nightmares? I couldn’t say precisely but I haven’t heard of a single reference to clowns which hasn’t been about how god damned terrifying they are. Obviously Stephen King’s It was a factor in turning the tide against these circus jesters but all Pennywise really seemed to do was to remind everyone that we all hate clowns already because they creep the shit out of us.
Now we have Clown which basically confirms that we were right to distrust them in the first place as they are essentially evil and eat children. This must come as no surprise to anyone.
What does come as a surprise however is what a great film Clown is, and a rock-solid creature feature which there just aren’t enough of nowadays for some reason. Oh yeah, money is probably the reason. Clown doesn’t look like a low budget film though, in fact its excellently shot with some lovely camerawork and lighting. Sometimes I worried that the film looked almost TOO good considering its subject matter but what kind of crazy thinking is that? I guess we have gotten so used to horror movies being made on the super cheap that when one comes along looking like a medium sized budget we can’t work it out. You know thirty years ago a big studio would get behind a movie like David Cronenberg’s The Fly and give him the money he needed to tell its story properly. Nowadays the money just isn’t there which is a sad state of affairs. Fortunately lovely films can still come out on a shoestring and defy their financial limitations. Clown is definitley such a film.
Andy Powers plays a father of a seven year old boy who’s children’s party entertainer cancels on them at the last minute. Fortunately Powers is an estate agent who happens to be at an empty house which has some dusty old costumes. One of them is a clown costume so he pops it on, races home and is his boy’s hero. However, after the party he can’t get the costume, wig or fake nose off. Even the white makeup he put on won’t wash away… a fairly simple set up and certainly when I mentioned The Fly before its because this reminds me a lot of that, with a man’s body metamorphosing before his eyes into something horrible. Also like The Fly there is the deteriorating relationship he has with his wife, and whilst there is never anything as beautifully written and performed as the “insect politics” speech, the breakdown of their relationship is still quite affecting. The fact that Powers and Laura Allen as his wife are bloody good actors committed to the material helps no end. This commitment is is vital to Clown working as a piece of horror as the story is, and could be played as, essentially ridiculous, it’s even acknowledged in the movie when family and work colleagues first laugh at Powers, thinking the whole thing is some kind of stupid joke. Then they get annoyed by him and finally they fear him. As we’ll they should…
Unlike The Fly which was about the creation of something new and unique, the clown, or Cloyne, is ancient and of forgotten legend. What starts off as a bizarre but almost light-hearted chap in a silly costume rapidly changes into something else entirely until we are only left a hideous monster preying on small children. There are no more laughs, well maybe there is something blackly comedic about how he stalks his prey and gobbles them up but Killer Klowns From Outer Space this is not.
The fact that the clown’s main goal is to consume children could be seen as a metaphor for a sick man giving into his peadophilic tendencies, and there’s certainly a fair amount of him hanging around playgrounds and trying to lure boy scouts into the bushes so he can have a little nibble on their, er, finger. But hey, he actually does just want to eat their fingers so it’s fine. There’s a creepy and yet strangely entertaining set piece where kids in an adventure playground centre are being dragged under ball pits and eaten alive. All these children deaths happen off camera thankfully, you just see the clown chewing on a torso afterwards with blood hanging off his chin. Still if you have kids you might find this all a bit to much, unless you hate your children in which case it’s a dream come true.
Clown couldn’t be described as perfect as it does follow a formula with standard tropes like the crazy old harbinger of doom (but well played by Peter Stormare) and a few unsubtle chunks of exposition. However it also has a lot of very entertaining scenes with a wicked streak of humour, for example when the clown is hurt it bleeds out multicoloured blood, which sounds silly but is actually revolting. This is another example of how Clown plays out its initial idea really well, and beyond these odd little attentions to detail it also goes to some dark places you wouldn’t expect it to. Best of all though is that this is a really well made creature feature with an interesting monster who you can really love to hate. It’s the final nail in the clown coffin proving once and for all that if a man is going to slap a wig, big nose and giant comedy shoes on to make kids laugh then you need to keep your kids as far away from him as possible.