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Clown (2016): Review

When a young father wears a clown outfit for his son’s sixth birthday party, he is horrified to discover that it won’t come off. But that’s not even the worst of it.

Ken (Andy Powers), a realtor, gets a call from his wife while he’s at work that the clown she booked for their son’s birthday party can’t show. Being a good father, he finds in the house he’s selling, a box of old clothes, and in one storage box, a clown outfit, including a wig and rubber nose. He puts it on, goes to the party, makes his son happy, and all is well. Or so he thinks.

Andy Powers (Clown, 2016)

Exhausted, he falls asleep on the sofa. The next morning, still in the get-up, he discovers something wrong. He can’t take it off. The wig, the nose, the make-up, the one-piece garment. It’s fused to his body. Not believing it a curse, he tries to cut and slice his way out, but nothing works. The wig becomes part of his skull, the white makeup part of his skin, and the clothes his body. Desperate, he finds the brother of the suit’s original owner, Herbert Karlsson (Peter Stormare). He tells him that the suit is not a costume. It’s the skin and hair of an ancient demon from Northern Europe called the “Cloyne”. It has now possessed him and will consume him entirely unless he kills himself now. He can’t, and instead goes on murderous child-killing rampage.

Last year, director Jon Watts earned a lot of praise for his indie gem Cop Car, which was a sleek, gripping thriller about a less than moral local police man. Before that though, he had this one sitting in a can, the studio holding it in storage. Produced by horror master Eli Roth, it has finally been given a limited release and as a horror movie, it has all the right moving parts, but balances unnervingly precarious on an uncomfortable and often taboo subject: the horrific maiming, slaughter, and eating of children. While fable and fairy tales have long used children as victims (often in terrifying deaths) in written morality stories, the visual depiction of it under the film’s conceit is often hard to stomach. But that’s the point.

That said, there is a lot to like about this disturbing story that, unlike 2010’s very entertaining Troll Hunter, doesn’t play into the tropes of the clown itself but rather sticks to the tried and true horror clichés of the genre, albeit very well. Yes, it has some fun with the premise. When Ken shoots himself in the head, the expected spray of crimson we’ve come to expect is instead a splash of rainbow colored splatter. Clever. There other clever bits as well, and Watts does a good job in the first half, building up the plot. But it’s not sustainable.

A lot of success though comes down to Powers, who is very good while he’s the struggling father coming to terms with the curse. As it transforms him slowly, Powers is wholly committed to the role and is convincing from the start, even if he’s forced to adhere to some horror monster metamorphosis standards. Playing his wife is Laura Allen, who is left to be the fearful woman and is not given much to do and lacks the impact we need to stay invested in her character. Stormare is good though, in a small role, and adds the appropriate weight to his part that is a long standing character in these kinds of films.

Clown, for as good as it starts, looses steam in the second act. While it keeps a fresh tone in the beginning, more of a character study that a horror story, it shifts markedly so by the time Ken takes a little retribution to his son’s bully. We then lose all sense of Ken as the Clown becomes nothing more than a boogie monster in the dark, leaving Allen to carry the ending. While that boogie monster is an effective-looking creature, the fun of the first half fades and is replaced by the predictable. The themes present in the start, are abandoned mostly and it feels like a missed opportunity with the son (played by Christian Distefano) to build a deeper father/son motif. It instead devolves to a bloody battle with a final girl mentality. 

For fans of horror, there is some here that will earn praise. It doesn’t really have any significant long-term scares, but is a solid bit of entertainment that might not bring anything new to the table, but doesn’t shy away from its premise. Whether you are up for that will be the key to your enjoyment.

Clown (2016): Review


Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Christopher Ford (screenplay) (as Christopher D. Ford), Jon Watts (screenplay)
Stars: Andy Powers, Laura Allen, Peter Stormare

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