In 2010, Jon Watts and Chris Ford released a fan film trailer on the web about a creepy clown suit that turned its wearer into a homicidal clown, with the statement that the film was “from the Master of Horror, Eli Roth.” Horror fans began salivating. The problem was, no such film actually existed and Eli Roth was in no way affiliated. However, fresh off The Last Exorcism, Eli Roth found himself impressed by both the trailer and bravado it took to use his name. He contacted Jon Watts and Chris Ford, then took the pitch to Vertebra and made a deal to make Clown a fleshed out full feature.
While the UK saw a DVD release in March this year, there’s still no word on a release in Canada or the U.S. Considering coulrophobia’s spotlight in media lately, with Twisty the Clown on American Horror Story or news of the Stephen King’s It remake, that this Eli Roth produced flick has faded into the murk of distribution purgatory despite its colorful production history is disconcerting. Being stuck in limbo for years after completion is often indicative of a lack of confidence in a project.
Jon Watts and Chris Ford wrote a simple premise with a unique twist on the killer clown trope. When a clown performer cancels on Jack’s seven year old birthday party, father Kent steps into the role when he finds an old clown suit in a dusty trunk of a house he’s prepping for sale. He’s horrified to discover he’s unable to remove the wig and suit long after the party guests have left for the evening. The longer Kent remains in the suit, the more it attaches itself to him and an insatiable hunger takes over. The only one who can help him is Karlsson, the brother of the former home owner, played by quirky character actor Peter Stormare.
It grows apparent quickly that character logic is thrown out in favor of cheap suspense. The temptation to scream at the screen overwhelms when Kent opts to sleep in the suit rather than take it off the moment all of Jack’s friends leave his birthday party. That temptation only roots itself further when Kent finds the most asinine ways of venturing to remove the clown suit. When Kent takes a box cutter to his wrist in effort to cut off the suit, it’s obvious that this is only going to end in pain and bloodshed. This moment is so poorly directed that it appears that Kent is attempting suicide as opposed to trying to cut through the material of the clown suit.
The poor directing grows more evident throughout when cursed Kent begins killing. While a ballsy concept to slaughter children, no kills are ever handled on screen. Copious amounts of blood are splattered across surfaces to suggest each child victim met a brutal demise, but it only diminishes the kills. Killing children in a film is both shocking and gutsy; it’s disappointing that Clown chose a tamer route to only hint at violent deaths. This felt more like a sloppy choice to lend a comical tone to these scenes, when going full throttle would have been much more effective.
Casting Peter Stormare as the experienced Karlsson may be one of the biggest highlights of the film. He drops the humor he typically brings to roles in favor of intensity and exposition. Through his character the viewer learns the history of the suit, which is by far the most interesting aspect of the film.
Conceptually, Clown is great. The demonic clown suit with an interesting backstory sets the film up for one fun carnival ride of terror. Once fully transformed, Kent terrifies. Unfortunately poor direction hinders the execution as do characters with no depth. Kent, his wife Meg, and their son Jack are paper thin stereotypes at best. No one will be invested in Meg’s race to save her husband from the entity taking over his body, and that would be fine if the film really allowed the clown entity to take center stage. Instead it chose to commit too much to saving Kent’s humanity, a plot line that never felt truly earned.
Rating: 3 out 10
About the Author
Meagan Navarro is a blogger from Houston, TX. She fell in love with monsters at age four after being exposed to them via Ghostbusters, and her passion grew into an obsession for all things horror and Halloween (which is the entire month of October, as far as she’s concerned). Meagan also loves traveling and chocolate.