Starring Jacky Reres, Mark Lassise, Rick Ganz, Frank Lama, and Lauren Pellegrino
Directed by Kevin Kangas
Distrbuted by Lionsgate
Coulrophobia: The fear of clowns. The fear with a friendly name. Sounds like something ya just wanna cuddle, no? For some folks clowns are anything but friendly. Personally, I’ve never understood why people can be so frightened by painted up comedians with floppy shoes, but Lionsgate’s latest release Fear of Clowns does shed a bit of light on the matter. We’re introduced to its lead character, Shivers the clown, early on in the film, and from his first frame he oozes creepiness and evil. Seriously, this character is slasher film gold in terms of look and is bound to develop a bit of a cult following. For those of you that suffer from Coulrophobia, you’ll want to steer waaayyyyyy clear of this baby, or else you are apt to set yourself up for many a sleepless night. Shivers does delivers the psychotic chills in a big way, but he’s also assigned the monstrous task of carrying the weight of this ill written film squarely on his shoulders. Can our new clown prince of horror handle it? Yes and no.
For some people the best way to cope with their fears is to find an outlet for them. For Lynn (Reres) that outlet is her artwork. Her paintings of clowns both good and evil are taking the art scene by storm much to the chagrin of her newly ex-husband, but just when things appear to be getting better for our protagonist, they get much worse. Because her divorce is becoming extremely bitter, she may lose custody of her son, and oh, a psycho dressed as a clown is offing all of her friends. All in a day’s work in low budget horror-land! As the film proceeds, there are quite a few ambitious twists and turns; the trouble is the writing is extremely uneven, and Kangas’ direction doesn’t do much to help things along. For instance, the film is riddled with inconsistencies and poorly developed characters. In one scene Lynn will tell someone that she doesn’t want to speak to anyone, and then about a second later in the same scene she answers her cell phone. In another she kills a man and finds out that her ex-husband may have hired the guy to kill her. The very next scene she’s all happy and smiles. Hello! Some trauma maybe? You were almost murdered? Killed a guy? Man you loved wants to see you dead? Can someone say reality check?
Then there’s her son. The ensuing custody battle is used at times as a primary plot device within the flick. Talk about a missed boat! Where the hell is the kid during all of this? Later in the film we find out he is being watched by Julie. Who the fuck is Julie? I’ll tell you who, an actress that had a less than two-minute scene at the beginning of the film that is totally forgettable by an hour and a half into the movie’s run time. Even when I saw Julie’s mangled corpse, I still had no idea who she was. Literally, I started the film over again with the commentary just to find out. And don’t even get me started on the broad daylight front lawn decapitation of a cop. Apparently either no one else in the neighborhood is home, or no one cares. It may sound like I’m nitpicking, and I can assure you that I realize we don’t necessarily watch these films for a strong story, but believe me, these instances do a lot to distract from the otherwise good stuff that’s going on. Speaking of good stuff . . .
Shivers. It’s impossible to not give this character its due. In a time when slasher films are fitted with the most cookie-cutter molds for their killers, it’s great to see one actually be a cut above the rest. Truth be told, Shivers is the most memorable murderer I’ve seen in years. He embodies everything evil that we could want from a modern day fiend, and he does so effortlessly. Actor Mark Lassise has painted a disturbing enough portrayal of the killer clown that would even have Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT quaking in his over-sized shoes. Director Kangas is an obvious horror fan, and he wears his love for the genre proudly on his sleeve. The man knows his stuff as his inspirations for the Shivers character are clearly drawn from other works like the aforementioned IT and, of course, everyone’s favorite slasher, Halloween. I just wish Shivers had been given a more realistic world to populate because this character is so well drawn the problems I mentioned earlier are just all the more apparent.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “So, Creepy, we got ourselves an OK film with a great villain. This is a slasher. How are the kills?” Well, I wish I had better news to report. For the first half of the movie, the kills take place off-screen. Disappointing I know, but you must remember, this is probably due to Fear of Clowns’ budget. The last half does pick up, and once the blood starts to fly, it does so effectively. Except for that lawn decapitation I mentioned a little bit ago. That was the worst I have seen in some time. The heads barely match, and wow, does that body the head just flew off of look painfully fake. Note to film-makers: If you do not have the budget to make your F/X look top notch, do not shoot them in broad daylight. Nighttime can do wonders, and some darkness and shadows could really work to your advantage in terms of making things look a little better. Moral of the story? When in doubt, do whatever you can to cheat. Yikes.
The DVD itself is a pretty decent package. There’s a nearly 40-minute behind-the-scenes feature that is riddled with cast interviews and looks at the F/X. We also get a pretty good commentary with the film-makers. In it they make mention of some deleted scenes and an alternate ending. Sadly, neither of these made it to this DVD release. I’m kind of disappointed in that, especially because it was discussed. Also, there’s a hilarious outtakes reel. Generally these end up sucking, but everyone seemed to have been having such a good time, the laughter is contagious. It’s a fun seven minutes!
For horror fans Fear of Clowns is definitely worth a look. The film hits its mark much more than it misses and all in all is a fun ride. It does have those nagging shortcomings I mentioned earlier, but the evil of Shivers just might be enough to help you look past them. If we ever do get a sequel, I’m hoping the resources are there to up the ante a bit. Given the right surroundings Shivers is without question money in the old Murder-Bank!
No Clowning Around: The Making of Fear of Clowns featurette