Jon Watts’ Clown is an exceptional example of how much fun can still be had in the darkest corners of the horror genre without sacrificing a good story. Playing it straight in the realm of clown horror proves a bit of a tone twister, but actually works pretty perfectly in this Eli Roth (Knock Knock, The Green Inferno) produced monster movie.
When the clown for his son’s birthday party doesn’t show up, loving father and real estate agent Kent (Andy Powers) is forced to don a mysterious clown suit he finds at one of his houses. But the suit doesn’t come off, instead altering Kent’s body and behaviour, giving him a taste for child-flesh.
Like Sinister, Clown plays on the old “found object” terror, but by its half-way mark, it’s taken on more of a Rare Exports vibe, unearthing the horrific truth behind an everyday icon and letting chaos spark at every turn. Watts is astute not to lose his head amidst the terror and confusion. Keeping the ideals of yester-year’s monsters and camp Creature-Features alive, through kitschy gore details and fabulous practical effects, is a wise move. It lends further startling substance to a film that already has so many great ideas, the least of which is to structure itself like a slasher for children -rather than teens – complete with its own set of rules. Alongside Watts superb Sundance feature Cop Car, Clown shows a disregard for the anticipated survival of children, in both worlds everyone is in graphic danger. That’s refreshingly disturbing.
Scribe Christopher D. Ford obviously had a total hoot crafting this sadistic little screenplay, and you can’t blame him. This is the perfect update of the clown horror film, a well-considered venture into social anxiety via a garish and gory display of child mutilation, body horror, bright colours, and total madness. Screw IT, Clown wipes the floor with contemporaries and its entire repertoire of inspirations alike, but still has a great time doing it. Its not just on Watts and Ford though, Powers is integral to the meat of the story, because, after all, there’s still a man inside that foul suit. Peter Stormare shows up as the expert/previous owner of the suit and seems to be having a ball spouting bonkers sentiments whilst terrifying all the films’ sane characters.
There’s a strong element of cheesy fun at work here, but not quite to the point of outright comedy. Kent’s struggle to remove the haunting outfit is funny, but the resultant body horror genuinely gets under your skin. Once the suit takes hold, the film sets on a path of ridiculously confrontational horror and insanity: child abduction, murder, graphic suicide, Stormare’s daft turn, great use of found footage, finger nibbling, kiddy-crunching, jumps, and japes, its all here. A genius sequence of mass-terror at a soft play is arguably the crowning achievement of Clown, delivering every single nightmare you could want from a film about a killer-clown. Watts has constructed a perfect mash-up of genre ideals without losing his humour, and he’s done it beautifully.
A funny, but mostly horrifying, monster-flick flaunting terrific scares and a great story, Clown is a hoot. Show your kids, show your wee brothers and sisters. This is the film that fucks children up for life.
Dir: Jon Watts
Stars: Andy Powers, Peter Stormare, Laura Allen, Christian Distefano