The Horror Honeys: Clowns Aren't Scary

Clowns Aren't Scary

A Head Honey Review by Kat

Clown (2014)

Watching movie trailers is a funny thing, and I don't always mean funny in the "ha ha OMG" sense, but funny as in, interesting to see what kind of spin a studio, an editor, or producers choose to put on a particular product. Films are products, and their promotional material and approach can typically be counted upon to cast a decent amount of expectation on the actual merit of the film for those who are inundated with material of the same amount from other sources.

Let's first examine the UK trailer for Clown. The name everyone will be throwing around in relation to this film is that of its producer: Eli Roth. Dubbed "The Master of Terror" by the trailer (in really dramatic graphics and voiceover), Roth even appears in the film as a clown... I'll just leave that statement there for a bit. It might be my imagination, but it takes a long time to become a "Master" of something, and I'm not sure that term is deserved in this case, even though it's apparently been a thing to call him that since 2007, which is also ridiculous. It's also difficult to say that the trailer is full of Roth's aesthetic, because I'm honestly not really sure what that is. I can tell you what kind of mood other directors bring to the table, but because Roth's feature catalog is a so minimal, I can't actually say that I can do that here.

The trailer, like many recent trailers, lays out the entire arc of the film, complete with a few jump scares, a bloodbath at a Chuck E Cheese styled terror town (I fucking hate those places, seriously), and pretty much every major plot development in the film. Except the ending of course. Gotta leave people *guessing* right? Sigh.

These things are terrifying... the plastic tubes, not the clown.

**Warning - if you've seen the trailer, nothing that follows will be a spoiler**

Clown is a body horror film. And to be honest, it's actually everything I wanted TUSK to be. I didn't want to compare the two films, but it's difficult not to. Both films take a completely laughable subject matter and attempt to make it terrifying. Where TUSK tried too hard to be funny and fell on its face (which was also not funny), Clown is unintentionally funny as our lead, Kent, goes through his transformation into the demon clown. As everything in Kent's life fades away, which isn't difficult as his two dimensional family disappears into the background easily, the audience is instead forced to focus on what is actually amazing... and for this I'm actually grateful, because no one EVER pays attention to this aspect of films like this: Makeup FX.

LITERAL neck frill... Beautiful.
I'm annoyingly passionate about the fact that good makeup FX *make* a movie like this one work, they are the one element that takes a film from an extremely stupid idea (which it kind of is - see also, TUSK) and turns it into an actual horror film. The body horror elements come into play VERY early in Clown, and when I say early, I mean about 13 minutes into the film. We don't even know who Kent actually is before he discovers that his red nose won't come off, and that tearing it off was a super bad idea. Rushing into "the good stuff" can help or hurt a film, and in this case, at least for me, it hurt the film. I didn't give a shit about Kent or his family. His wife, Meg, was a mashed potato princess with a jerky Dad who never liked Kent and disapproved of his work ethic, and his son is just... a kid obsessed with clowns. Stapling a personality onto a character without doing any of the actual work required to build a character makes for a crappy film experience.

The costume is demon skin... really UGLY demon skin.
So yes... it's leather.
Leather Daddy the Clown.
Oh, Peter Stormare, I adore you. Stormare is a terrifyingly amazing actor with an enormous range, and an ability to bring an unexpected depth to the most nondescript of characters (Hello, Fargo). However... I have to wonder just how shallow a character like Karlsson has to be on paper to come off as lacklustre as it did in Clown. If Peter Stormare can't even be bothered to fart some of his talent on your film, I don't even know what to say. Primarily utilized as a vehicle for expository dialogue/narration, the audience discovers the ancient Nordic history of the clown (or Kloon as it's pronounced, which also gave me the giggles). Like much of the film that isn't centred around the makeup, every element is a cardboard cutout version of something better. The legend of the clown just really wants to be the Necronomicon so bad. Now, all of that being said, I do like parts of the legend they made up to go with the demon clown. The explanation for the white skin and the red nose are on point... but that doesn't fucking explain away the neck frill, the horn thing coming out of the top of the head, and the penchant for stripes and spots.  

Do the Necronomicon!
In the last 20 minutes of Clown, the rest of the characters in the film finally find their personalities, well, two of them do anyway. Kent's son, Jack, reveals himself to be a bit of a badass as he fights off some bullies, and Kent's wife Meg emerges as one of the most unlikely and least relatable Final Girls I've ever seen on screen. It has to be said that this final hurrah isn't the fault of the cast. The script is awkward at best, the dialogue is stilted, and the characters are paper thin, but hey, it's based on a "fake trailer" so they're working with what they've got.

However, all of this being said, I didn't hate Clown, and while I wasn't surprised, shocked or grossed out by anything that happened, I know that a lot of people will like it.

Did it scare me? Pffttt. Clowns are stupid.
Will I watch it again? Probably.
Will I buy it? Nope.

The verdict: 3 rainbow blood splatters out of 5  

Sidebar: For those who didn't know, Roth directed a short film/fake trailer in 2007 that played during Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse. It's the same fucking film. Just way shorter.

Clown is finally available in North America - In select theatres and On Demand on June 17th