VOD film review: Clown
Control of tone9
Matthew Turner | On 10, Mar 2015
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Andy Powers, Peter Stormare, Laura Allen, Elizabeth Whitmere, Christian Distefano, John MacDonald, Eli Roth
Watch Clown online in the UK: Amazon Prime / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The filmmakers behind this enjoyable and surprisingly dark horror flick could hardly have hoped for a better outcome when they made their spoof trailer back in 2010 and jokingly attached Eli Roth’s name as director. Clearly tickled by their chutzpah, Roth loved the idea of a killer clown feature and ended up both producing the film and contributing a cameo as “Frowny the Clown”. The result is a sharply written and smartly directed horror that has serious cult movie potential.
Directed by Jon Watts, the film stars Andy Powers as put-upon realtor and loving father Kent, whose seven year-old son’s (Christian Distefano) birthday party is almost ruined when the clown they’ve booked cancels at the last minute. Rummaging in the basement of one of his properties, Kent finds a faded old clown suit and puts it on, saving his kid’s party by making a last-minute appearance as Dummo. The only problem is, when he goes to take the costume off, he finds it won’t budge, and neither will the false nose, curly-haired wig and pale make-up.
In desperation, Kent tracks down Herbert Karlson (Peter Stormare), the original owner of the suit, who tells him that it is, in fact, a demon that will gradually possess him and cause him to hunger for the blood of children. Oh, and that the only way to kill the demon is to behead himself. Needless to say, things quickly go from bad to worse, leaving Kent’s devoted wife, Meg (Laura Allen), to try and find a way to get him out of the suit before it’s too late.
Powers is superb, delivering an affecting and genuinely disturbing portrayal of a man slowly losing his humanity. Stormare is brilliantly cast as Karlson, lending weight to the film’s claim that the demon ‘Cloyne’ originated in Nordic legend. He pitchiesthe performance so perfectly that he can get away with lines like, “Jack, we’re going to have to kill your daddy”.
Watts’ control of the tone is extremely impressive, playing it commendably straight throughout, despite the inherent ridiculousness of the premise. He also refuses to go for easy laughs, although there are moments of deliciously dark humour, most notably in an attempted suicide scene that doesn’t quite play out in the way you expect.
The film also pulls off an extremely clever shift of focus, with Meg effectively taking over as the lead character once the demon seizes control, which, in turn, nudges the film into full-on creature feature territory. The gore is cleverly handled, so that you think you’ve seen much worse than you actually have, while the surprisingly dark script doesn’t back away from killing off children (albeit largely off-screen) and delivers a subtle metaphor about abuse and dark desires to boot.
Essentially, the film has the same basic plot of Cronenberg’s The Fly (i.e. your sympathies are with the man until he becomes a monster). There are also elements of Scandi-horror Rare Exports in the film’s use of myth. But it never seems at all derivative: Clown is an engaging, sharply written and superbly directed horror that’s both disturbing and creepy. Not one to see if you are in any way coulrophobic, mind.
Clown is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.