(dir. Jon Watts)
*First time viewing
A father finds a clown suit to wear to his son’s birthday party and slowly finds himself turning into a clown-demon that eats children.
There’s no denying that America has a serious clown problem. As if there was some foresight involved, Clown was finished two years ago and pushed to release this year of all years, when we’re facing what may very well be a clown apocalypse that fell far beyond the realms of even Orwell’s ability to predict. Given the real clown attacks that have been happening, Clown takes on an added relevance that’s sure to make those suffering from coulrophobia even more distrusting of men and women with painted white faces and bright red noses. But even without the benefit of being a topical horror movie, Clown is a really solid piece of work from a director who is certain to see his career sky-rocket next year with his feature, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Watts joins a long line of blockbuster directors who gained their footing in horror movies.
Seeing Eli Roth’s name attached to a film is always a bit of a roll of the dice in terms of quality, but what apparent in Clown from the beginning is that this is a mature film—not in terms of the R rating, but in terms of emotional component. Despite its subject matter, Clown doesn’t go in for the immature antics Roth’s involvement usually denotes, and while the film is gory it never becomes anything close to the torture porn subgenre that Roth helped shape. All of this is to say that this is Watts’ film, and if Roth’s name has you on the edge of the fence, it’s time to hop over and join the party.
The family at the center of Clown feels like a real family, and this remains a grounding aspect even as the body horror aspect of Kent’s transformation takes hold. We feel for their struggle while leaning in to see where this tragedy will take them. Like The Fly, Clown’s body horror is one of deep sadness, punctuated by bursts of gross-out and dark humor. Andy Powers gives a memorable performance as Kent, the father turned clown, but it’s Peter Stormare who steals the show as the man who previously inhabited the clown outfit. Due to its casting and direction, the whole film is driven by an energy usually reserved for big-budget films, and Clown feels like it gets the most out of premise, instead of leaving the viewer wanting or anticipating a superior sequel. Clown manages to capture the emotional gamut of the Halloween spirit, similar to Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat. With any luck, this won’t be Watts’ last journey into the genre.
Scare Factor: 2/5 Clown’s fright effectiveness will depend on how afraid you are of clowns, but regardless of whether you are or aren’t, Clown is a must-watch movie for this year’s Halloween season.
**Available to rent at Redbox