Saturday, June 25, 2016

FILM REVIEW: Clown (2014)


Clown  was....pretty good.

So...back in 2010ish, a couple of dudes created a chilling short film trailer with an inspired premise and attached Eli Roth's name to the credits. Brilliant marketing...because Mr. Roth came calling and decided to produce a whole feature out of this particular premise. Finally...the film has made it out to limited theater release, as well as a VOD run...so, I had the pleasure of checking it out.

As mentioned above, Clown  is one of the latest films produced by Eli Roth. Unfortunately, as has been the case lately with Mr. Roth...the film was stuck in the phantom zone of distribution because of...well...who the hell knows. I'm sure there are hundreds of shelved projects that we never even hear of for whatever reason. All that I know is that it took me quite a bit to finally get my hands on it...and after all of that trouble...I ended up liking the film. Like...really liking the film. I'm pretty sure that years from now....after all is said and done...Jon Watts will be regarded as a genre great for the film Clown. He does so many great things with his direction here...and, seriously...there's quite a bit to like about this film. 


Clown  begins in the lovely home of a suburban family ready to begin the celebration of their son's birthday...complete with an amazing cake, awesome decorations...and a clown. Well, it just so happens that the clown cancels and poor little Jack is left without the centerpiece of his birthday party. But...WAIT! Hold up a second! Kent (Andy Powers), the loving father....comes to his son's rescue as he finds an old clown suit in one of the houses he's working on selling. See, he's a real estate guy...who finds stuff in people's old houses all the time. In this case...he found himself the wrong fucking clown suit. Things kind of get going pretty quickly in this little film, because before you know it...Kent can't get the goddamn clown suit off the next day as he's trying to get ready for work. Kinda sucks showing up at the job site rocking an old tacky clown suit, right? From here...shit pretty much spirals downhill...and poor Kent is reduced to a blood-crazed demon clown.

Good thing his loving wife, Meg (Laura Allen), has the foresight to see that things aren't quite right so, she attempts to correct things by helping Kent find a way to reverse the curse. Things get a touch goofy here and there...but, I do appreciate the backstory created from a faux trailer that a couple of dudes whipped up just to get the attention of a horror icon. Things are pretty fleshed out...especially when the always awesome Peter Stormare is shows up as the previous owner of the clown suit and he explains the demonic clown lore. I ate that stuff right up. I guess I'm a sucker for demonic lore of any variety. Thankfully, things don't get so goofy that it derails the entire experience...because, for what it is...Clown  is a very serviceable film. A serviceable film that becomes much better because of Peter Stormare's presence. And let's chat a little bit about the clown stuff...shall we?


It's fucking great. I almost want a whole other film about all that backstory stuff from the book. But, I do realize that it's just there as a detail for the story...and I'm sure an actual whole film about all of that stuff would probably ruin the mystique of it all. But, damn...I loved that stuff so much. Especially later on when Stormare's Karlsson gets into the stuff about the experience he went through with his brother...I sopped all that shit up with a blood-soaked biscuit. It was so creepy and cool...and, most of all...so different.

The performances are pretty great...and it is shot gorgeously. Things get pretty dark in some areas, in terms of tone and the stuff that they do...and the practical FX is pretty top notch for a film involving a child-devouring evil demon clown. The creature design of the clown, alone...is worth the price of admission. Just the deterioration that Kent undergoes as he turns into the demon-clown Cloyne is pretty awesome and well thought out, from a practical sense. I'm actually a bit puzzled as to why this thing took so long to get distribution. It's actually a pretty engaging experience. Maybe it was the Chuck E. Cheese thing (which, happens to be some of the most intensely depraved stuff ever conceived)? Rights and laws...and such. I dunno. What I do know is that this was pretty much one of the best horror clown movies out there. Especially in this day and age. This film could've been a lot more goofy and tongue in cheek than it was. It really had no business being this good. But, instead...Clown  is played so straight...that it comes across as downright chilling, at times. Trust me when I say that there's stuff in this film that would not sound like it would work on paper, much less in front of a camera. And, yet...it all works so goddamn well.


In fact...the one thing that attempts to knock the film down from actually approaching greatness...is its score. Such an insipid and generic soundtrack for the entire film. It feels more like an A-Team movie at some points than a demonic clown film. And with films like It Follows  and The Guest  seemingly being carried over the top by their amazing soundtracks, there really isn't any excuse to phone in the score here. Seriously, guys...you could pretty much insert the climactic music from the third act into a Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson film...and it might actually work better. The whole thing sounds like such an after-thought and therefore gives the entire experience such a mediocre feel. I realize that I may be nitpicking here...but, come one...an iconic score can certainly transcend a film experience...and this film was begging for one of those transcendent relationships between film and music. Absolute missed opportunity.

Still...Clown  is pretty original in a genre landscape of uninspired remakes and sequels. You can do worse than firing up this one on VOD or searching it out at one of the three theaters it's playing at around the country. Just don't pay those ridiculous eBay prices to own the import of this thing. Because, in the end...the experience is just not that great. It's good...don't get me wrong. But, Clown  could have been a fucking masterpiece. It really could have. I think Jon Watts is going places.

And, yes...that is, indeed, the Spanish one-sheet all the way up there. I'm diggin that title.




Thanks for reading,

bryan.




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