You know, I’m not necessarily convinced that Eli Roth has earned his “Master of Horror” title. I keep seeing people use it on posters, articles and marketing material, but I’m not sure he has put in the level of work that we as a society typically expect from our horror masters. I mean yeah Cabin Fever has its moments, as do the first two Hostel movies, but I would never say they are good movies, with Hostel II coming the closest. Then he didn’t really do anything. There was a lot of talk around what he might do, but really what he did was not direct movies for like 6 years after Hostel II came out and then he released two bad ones back to back – The Green Inferno and Knock, Knock. Honestly my favourite thing he’s directed might be the fake Thanksgiving trailer from Grindhouse. So all that to say, the constant references to him being the best of the best may not be fully justified.
He is responsible for producing some solid stuff though! Or at least that was the impression I had when I wrote that sentence, but now that I’m actually looking at his IMDB page I may have jumped the gun on this statement. Well he produced this movie Clown that I’m reviewing for today and that’s decent so maybe it’s time to move on before I continue down this rabbit hole and lose the little faith I had in Roth to begin with.
Nobody likes a clown. I don’t hate them I guess. I’m not scared of them. I just strongly dislike them. I don’t want to have to deal with them. Ever. I feel like I always have to put on an act that why they are doing is charming and fun when really it makes me want to kill myself and everything and make it all stop. I don’t ever want to be in a situation where a dude in make-up is all up in my business trying to give me balloons or any such nonsense. I ain’t got time for that nonsense. The idea of an evil clown is certainly not a new concept in the world of horror, but it’s usually at least a reliable one which proves to be the case here.
So this dude Kent, he’s a good dude. He hires a clown for his son’s birthday party but when the clown doesn’t make it, he does what any loving father would do – he puts on a clown costume that he happens to find hidden away in the basement of a house he is currently preparing to sell (he’s a realtor, this is not his own house). Everyone is delighted with his clown performance at the party and Kent is feeling really good about this tremendous bit of parenting he has done. He’s not as psyched though when the next day rolls around and he’s not able to get any of the clown stuff off. The nose appears to have become part of his face, as has the make-up, wig and overall costume. That’s no good so he sets off on a quest to figure out why he is slowly mutating into a crazy clown monster who wants to murder children. I think he is also into eating. Things are bad for poor Kent.
In the early stages, Clown gets a lot of mileage out of its core idea. It would already be terrifying to not be able to get any clothing off your body, let alone a head to toe clown outfit. Some of this stuff is played for laughs as other people react to Kent’s seemingly unwillingness to take off his ridiculous clown stuff, but it’s largely presented very straight forward as the nightmare that it is. Andy Powers is great as Kent, creating a likable guy who absolutely does not deserve this fate.
The middle stretch does lull after a very entertaining first act. This part of the movie does feature a good dose of Peter Stormare as a doctor who knows what this asshole clown suit’s deal is. Stormare elevates everything so he injects some over the top energy into this part of the movie which keeps it from dragging on. The final chunk though goes off the rail bananas though so that more than makes up for things. I’m not going to say what happens but it’s very dark (I mean fair warning, the whole concept of the movie revolves around child murder and it doesn’t exactly shy away from that in the later stages) and appropriately creepy.
I didn’t realize until after watching it that it was directed by Jon Watts, whose name now might be familiar to you as the director of the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming movie. He did also do Cop Car between this and that, and I’m sure that had more to do with him landing the Marvel gig, but this is a very well-directed movie. He knows how to effectively stage the horror sequences and the movie has a great look to it. I do love the idea of a Marvel executive walking into a Spider-Man meeting, throwing a copy of Clown down on the table and being like “Boom! This fuckin’ guy! Meeting adjourned!”
Clown is good stuff. It does have a number of jump scares but I found the subtle stuff to be the creepiest. Watching a guy fruitlessly tug away at a clown wig that refuses to budge is far more off-putting than I ever could have imagined. It’s certainly not going to be for everyone as it journeys into some very dark territory, but I highly enjoyed myself throughout a movie that I had nearly zero expectations for.