Directed by Jon Watts
Distributed by Studiocanal
Real estate agent Kent (Powers) is a doting father to his son, Jack (Distefano), and devoted husband to his wife, Meg (Allen). Determined to ensure that his son’s 10th birthday party goes off without a hitch when the clown booked for the event is unable to show, Kent decides to don a costume and makeup that he has fortuitously found hidden in an old trunk in the basement of his latest property assignment.
Once the party is over, Kent finds himself having a hell of a time trying to get both the costume and the accompanying makeup to come off. He can’t remove the bulbous red nose, the pasty white face paint, the multicoloured wig, nor the full body suit no matter how hard he tries – much to the initial amusement of his wife.
It quickly becomes apparent that there’s absolutely nothing funny about this particular clown costume, nor Kent’s situation. Seeking the help of the reclusive and eccentric Mr. Karlsson (Stormare), whose brother owned the trunk and costume, Kent learns that the suit is actually the skin of a mythical child-eating creature… and it will soon consume him, transforming him into a slavering beast hungry for the flesh of the young.
he core concept of Clown is such a great one that it’s a real surprise it hasn’t been attempted previously (yes, we’ve had demonic, child-eating clowns before, but never quite like this). Director Watts and co-writer Christopher Ford set the story off at a rocketing pace, wasting very little time in getting Kent into the costume and off for a hell-ride, before slowing down in the second act to focus a little more on the personal effects of his metamorphosis.
And while there’s a consistent undercurrent of dark comedy playing throughout the whole piece, Clown is without a doubt an out-and-out horror film, mixing the body-horror elements of David Cronenberg’s The Fly with nods to the demonic possession genre. Watts refuses to play it safe when it comes to the gore, and especially when it comes to the death and mutilation of young children – something which is likely to catapult Clown to almost instant cult status.
From innocent, friendly young kids to spoilt-rotten schoolyard bullies, children are bitten, punctured, ripped apart and consumed on a semi-frequent basis – though Watts knows exactly what he’s doing, so while it’s undoubtedly shocking, it’s never gratuitous or mean-spirited. There’s always a knowing wink in the camera’s eye when one of the young ‘uns is dispatched.
The film’s snappy pace and consistent shocks are well held together by an enthralling mythology, delivered through Stormare’s engaging performance as Karlsson. He’s the kind of actor who does wild eccentricity exceptionally well – and he’s just as good as you’d expect here. Unfortunately, he isn’t around for anywhere near as long as you would hope. Besides him, Laura Allen is the main star of the show as the suffering wife, trying to come to terms with her husband’s affliction and, later, protect both herself and her child from him.
On the negative side of things, despite being the central character, Andy Powers isn’t really given a ton to do as Kent. For the most part, he’s an everyman, and he reacts to his situation like an everyman. The frustration and fear that he delivers feel authentic, but Clown doesn’t put quite enough effort into developing the family dynamic that would make the core tragedy at play here have more of an impact. Before we get much of a feel for Kent all-round, he’s mainly replaced by the scowling monstrous form demanding satiety by way of children – peeking through occasionally to beg for help. That’s not a failing of the actor at all… just a few script tweaks could have helped build a stronger emotional web for the film to operate in.
Taking centre stage above everything else, however, are Clown‘s creature design work and special effects, which are excellent across the board. That dark humour creeps in through the design, too, which features hilarious pastel-coloured blood first revealed as the punch line to an otherwise grim suicide attempt. The monster is inspired, with Kent’s suit gradually taking on a more organic, reptilian form as it adheres to his body. By the end the full transformation is in swing, and it’s a classical creature-feature sight to behold, party hat-shaped horn and all. It would have been nice to see it in action a little bit more than we do at the film’s finale, though.
Despite failing to truly bring itself home in terms of emotional impact, Clown is still one heck of an entertaining flick. Watts has crafted an effective shocker, sporting some great set-pieces – effectively turning an adventure playground into a claustrophobic hunting ground in one instance – in which nobody truly feels safe (especially the kids!). He ably keeps the tension mounting as Kent’s condition worsens and ultimately delivers some nice old-school, gore-soaked monster madness that’s painted with the blackest of wit.
Doing a disservice to the film, Studiocanal’s UK DVD release of Clown is a completely bare bones party. Not including some behind-the-scenes looks at the effects work (at the very least) feels like a grossly missed opportunity.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 164 – THE CLEANSE
Wait no longer, boils and ghouls! Today is the day you’ve been waiting for; today is the day we sink our teeth into 2018’s The Cleanse! What’s that? You’ve never heard of The Cleanse?! Well, neither had we, but horror releases are slim pickings right now, so we take what we can get. At least we can all agree that we’ve been dying to see Johnny Galecki in something other than Big Bang Theory, right? No? Well, fuck. Here’s an episode about his new movie anyway. What are we even doing?
It was crazy of me to think I could help the police, but I’m going to keep researching, keep writing, there are stories that need to be told, so… here’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 164!
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GIRLS NIGHT 2 Review – A Terrifying Halloween Treat
If you love Halloween as much as I do, you probably also love horror films that take place on Halloween. French Writer/Director David Teixeira uses Halloween as the backdrop for his eerie short horror film Girls Night, which we reviewed here. The film tells the story of three friends who decide to play Bloody Mary and end up butchered by a creepy masked killer. Filmmaker Teixeira skillfully uses atmosphere and impressive cinematography to heighten the scares.
Teixeira is back with Girls Night 2 which will be released in October just in time for Halloween. The only survivor of the massacre, Jess (Marina De Sousa), is suffering from nightmares and insomnia because she was blamed for the murder of her friends. It’s a year later and Halloween and she is staying with Pierre (Vincent Conty). To calm Jess’s nerves they decide to watch a short film their friend David (David Teixeira) made, but Jess can’t stay awake. In her dreams the masked killer is back and wielding a pair of scissors. The film ends in utter confusion and a bloody mess. Is it real or is it a dream and who is the killer? You’ll have to watch the short to find out.
The performances are strong and believable and actress Marina De Sousa is remarkable as Jess. Like the original, Girls Night 2 delivers an exciting amount of intensity and panic in only around thirteen minutes. I highly suggest experiencing both of these short films while wearing headphones to really amp up the terror. Girls Night 2 is currently a semi-finalist at Los Angeles Cinefest and winner for Best Foreign Film at the $2 Dollar Film Festival. The award winning short film Girls Night is available on YouTube and you can watch the Girls Night 2 teaser trailer below.
Girls Night 2 delivers an impressive amount of intense scares worthy of a feature length film in just under thirteen minutes.
PANTHER RIDGE Review – When Your New Job Takes You To Interesting Locations
Written by Ryan Swantek
Directed by Ryan Swantek
Director Ryan Swantek’s graphic-take on a young woman unhappy with her looks in White Willow was in my useless opinion, one of the strongest short films to hit the horror genre in quite some time. It was brutal, unflinchingly ruthless to eyeball, and best of all for a first-time directorial effort, there was no apology for what was put before us – let’s venture over to Panther Ridge.
So what comes around in the second-time in the big guy’s chair? Well, when I’d heard that it was a sadistic look into the BDSM scene, I’ll admit I was a bit intrigued (no, I’m not into that stuff, ya kooks) – I’d just honestly hoped for a bit more than what was tossed to me. This particular short film is titled Panther Ridge, and it tells the story of a young lady who is getting a fresh start in a new career – that of a dominatrix, of sorts. As this presentation begins, she’s smack dab in the middle of a dungeon with a very unlucky prisoner and the woman who will be guiding her in her “training.” I’ll tell ya, first days on the job can be stressful, but with the correct forms of relief, you can make it through the day all the while exorcising some pent up demons as well.
Commence brutality upon this poor tied-up fool and the lass roped up across from him, for they know not what lies in store for them next, but rest assured they’ll be making a blood donation whether they want to or not. Unfortunately my self-imposed hype proved to be insurmountable as Swantek’s second time up to the plate resulted (for me, anyway) in a big swing and a miss. What worked in his maiden voyage with Willow was the notion that you were going to witness the repercussions of a tortured soul as she looked in the mirror, whereas this time we’re watching some poor sap get the snot beaten out of him, and I could honestly see the same thing in a number of other productions for a longer stretch of time (if you dig that sort of thing). I’ll await Mr. Swantek’s third production when it’s time, and hopefully it’ll pack more of a sustained punch than this quickie.
Swantek’s sophomore directorial endeavor unfortunately isn’t much more than shock and torture-porn crammed into an abbreviated timeframe – been down this road more than a few times.
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