Clown, a gory horror film, sucks.
I can’t say that I was particularly surprised to discover that it sucked but still, I was hoping that it would be better than it turned out to be. That’s largely because the film itself has a fairly compelling backstory. In 2010, director Jon Watts and his co-writer, Christopher D. Ford, uploaded a fake trailer for Clown to YouTube, in which they stated that the film would be produced by Eli Roth. Roth saw the trailer and was so impressed that he actually did decide to produce the film.
Filming began in 2010 and the film spent a while playing the festival circuit, where it got the type of vaguely respectable reviews that are usually given to low-budget horror films made by amateur filmmakers that no one is ever expecting to hear from again. In 2012, Dimension Films and FilmNation Entertainment acquired the rights to distribute Clown. What followed was an agonizing wait as Clown was basically released in almost every other country in the world. except for the USA. In fact, it wouldn’t be until 2016 that Clown would get an American release. During that time, Jon Watts received deserved acclaim for directing Cop Car and he was hired by Marvel to direct Spider-Man: Homecoming.
As an admirer of Watts’s subsequent films, I was really interested in seeing Clown. So, yesterday afternoon, I sat down and I watched Clown on Netflix.
Clown is the story of a stupid guy named Kent McCoy (Andy Powers) who tries to save his son’s birthday party by dressing up like a clown. What Kent doesn’t know is that the clown makeup is cursed and that, by putting it on, he’s now allowed himself to be possessed by a demon that feeds on children! What a dumbass! Kent tries to wash the makeup off his face but it won’t come off. He tries to take off his rainbow wig, just to discover that it’s now permanently attached to scalp. His wife uses a screw driver to try to pop off the red nose but, instead, she just rips his real nose to pieces. (The family dog eats the red nose and promptly becomes possessed.) Kent keeps telling everyone that he’s been possessed by a demon but no one believes him. Everyone just thinks that he’s a weirdo in clown makeup.
It sounds more interesting than it is. For all the promise in the idea of a possessed clown, Clown doesn’t do much with it. Clown is 90 minutes long but it only has enough plot for 30 minutes. The remaining hour is basically made up of characters repeating what we already know. We watch as Kent learns that the clown makeup is cursed. Then, we have to follow his wife as she does her own research and discovers that the clown makeup is cursed. Then, Peter Stomare shows up and starts explaining to everyone that the clown makeup is cursed. By this point, I was yelling at the screen, “I KNOW THIS ALREADY!”
Throughout the film, there are hints of the Jon Watts’s talent but, for the most part, they remain merely that. There’s an effective scene that takes place in a jungle gym at Chuck-E-Cheese’s and occasionally, there will be a line of dialogue or a movement of the camera that actually lives up to the plot’s subversive potential. However, especially when compared to Cop Car and Spider-Man, Clown is an abysmally paced film. It’s also terribly acted with Andy Powers neither sympathetic nor compelling as the possessed man in clown makeup. Not even a reliable character actor like Peter Stomare can bring much to the material.
The general rule of most horror films is that, no matter what the threat, dogs and children usually survive. The film not only breaks that rule but it breaks it multiple times. In fact, there’s so much blood spilled in the film that I actually found myself getting depressed watching it. Lacking both a satiric edge and any real interest in subverting the horror genre, Clown instead comes across as being unnecessarily mean-spirited. It’s just not much fun to watch.
When it comes to killer clowns, stick with Pennywise.