The TSL’s Grindhouse: Clown (dir by Jon Watts)


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.

Music Video of the Day: Save The World by Swedish House Mafia (2011, dir by Jon Watts)


Long before Jon Watts directed Spider-Man: Homecoming, he directed another film about some unlikely super heroes.  The video for Swedish House Mafia’s Save The World shows us that the world is a dangerous place but it also encourages us to fear not.  The dogs are here!

Normally, I’m not really a dog person but I make an exception for the dogs in this video.  To be honest, cats probably wouldn’t make very good superheroes.  For one thing, all the villains would have to do would be schedule their nefarious schemes for whenever Supercat is taking a nap.  Add to that, cats are pretty self-centered.  That’s one reason why I love them but, at the same time, it’s doubtful they’d go out of their way to save a bunch of strangers.

Enjoy!

Spider-Man: Homecoming Slings In With Two Official Trailers


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It’s been rumored that the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer will appear in front of Rogue One: Star Wars Story. It’s logical considering Sony has let Spider-Man to play in the Marvel Cinematic Universe sandbox which also happens to share spot in the Walt Disney Empire with Lucasfilm. Yet, we don’t have to wait for next week’s Rogue One to see this trailer. Like all superhero blockbuster films the trailers themselves get their premiere on-line (after a live premiere on Jimmy Kimmel Live) and this is no different with the first official trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming.

So, without further ado, here’s not one, but two trailers for Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Domestic: this one definitely focuses more on the high school aspect of Spider-Man’s life.

International: this one a bit more action-packed with a focus on Spider-Man’s heroics and more time showcasing the villains.

Jon Watts Is Famous Now So, Of Course, Here’s The Trailer For Clown!


Director Jon Watts is having quite a career right now!  Last year, Cop Car was released to considerable acclaim and, as a result, he was hired to direct the upcoming MCU blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming!

Here in America, Cop Car was pretty much sold as being Watts’s first film.  However, that wasn’t really the case.  Before Watts directed Cop Car, he made a movie called Clown.  Clown was executive produced by Eli Roth and, though it did play in Europe in 2014, it was never released in the U.S.

Until now!

Now that Watts is about the become the next big thing, Dimension Films is going to give Clown a limited release in June.

Apparently, Clown is about a man who dresses up like a clown for his son’s birthday party and then discovers that he can’t take off the big red nose.  The clown makeup is apparently demonic and it ends up possessing him.

And apparently, it’s not a comedy.

Anyway, here’s the trailer!  Again, while watching this preview, consider that Clown is apparently not supposed to be a comedy…

Film Review: Cop Car (dir by Jon Watts)


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Cop Car opens with two young boys, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford) walking through a field.  Over the course of the film, we really don’t learn that much about either Travis or Harrison.  They speak in the tones and accent of childhood and the trailer park.  They’re just two ordinary kids, who appear to be bored out of their mind and who can blame them because it appears that they live out in the middle of nowhere.

And then, suddenly, their boredom ends.

They comes across a deserted cop car sitting in the middle of the wilderness.  After a successive number of dares, they end up inside of the car.  And then, they discover that the keys are still in the car as well.  Soon, Harrison and Travis are taking turns driving the car, roaring down the highway, nearly running an irate motorist (Camryn Manheim) off the road and basically having a great time.

What the kids don’t know is that the cop car belonged to Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), a grim-faced lawman who isn’t going to allow two little kids to make a fool out of him.  Even while Harrison and Travis are playing around in the car, Kretzer is pursuing them.  Along the way, Kretzer is reduced to stealing a truck, gets stopped for speeding, and basically sacrifices any ounce of personal dignity that he may have.  Along the way, cars crash and cows are nearly run over.

And it all sounds like the making of a comedy, doesn’t it?  Just from reading the plot description, you might be justified in thinking that Cop Car is a white trash version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Well, make no mistake.  Cop Car has its funny moments but it is definitely not a comedy.  Sheriff Kretzer may occasionally be a bit of a bumbling adversary but he is no Principal Rooney.  Instead, Kretzer is a vicious and effective killer.

The reason Kretzer was away from his car is that he was busy burying a body in the woods.  And what the kids don’t realize, at first, is that there’s another body in the trunk of the car.  Kretzer is determined to get back his cop car and he’s willing to kill the boys to do it.  Even worse, Kretzer’s badge and uniform give him both the ability and the authority to do so.

There’s one particularly effective scene where Harrison and Travis playing with the weapons that Kretzer left in the car is juxtaposed with Kretzer pouring a baggie of cocaine into a toilet.  But, at the same time, I almost wish that the whole drug dealing subplot had been left out of the film.  When we first meet Kretzer, he’s scary precisely because his motives are unknowable.  He’s an authoritarian with a badge, and a bad mustache.  The more specific the film gets about Kretzer’s motivations, the less interesting he becomes.  Imagine if Kretzer has simply been an unstoppable force of wounded machismo, motivated by nothing more than his belief that his law is the only law that matters.  By making Kretzer a criminal as well as a cop, Cop Car dilutes its otherwise strong critique of the pro-authoritarian strain that currently runs through American culture.

As a thriller and chase film, Cop Car works pretty well, though the first half is significantly better than the second.  (The second half gets a little bogged down with the man in the trunk.)  Director Jon Watts keeps the film moving at a good pace and he shows that he knows how to generate suspense.  There’s a lengthy and narratively risky scene where Kretzer repeatedly tries and fails to pick a lock but the scene pays off in the end and Watts deserves some credit for having faith in the patience of his audience.

But really, Cop Car works largely because Kevin Bacon has become a national treasure.  It’s always fun to watch him throw himself into playing off-center roles like Sheriff Kretzer.  Bacon is smart enough to play up Kretzer’s stupidity without ever downplaying his dangerous and cunning nature.  It’s a great performance in a pretty good film.