“Clown” (2014) REVIEW

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I don’t find clowns scary and I never have. I never understood people who were afraid of clowns. It always seemed like one of those universal fears — like a fear of the dark — that everyone seemed to share. Fear of the dark, I can understand that. But a fear of clowns? I always thought the fear of clowns was a silly and cliche thing. How is a guy in a rainbow wig and make-up scary? Sure, maybe Wizzo was pretty scary. And John Wayne Gacy. But in general, the idea of clowns never affected me. That being said, if you happen to be one of those people who are afraid of clowns, this movie will probably destroy your life.

Clown (2014) gets down to business pretty quick: it opens on a child’s birthday party; Meg (Laura Allen), mom of the birthday boy, gets a call that the clown she ordered has to cancel last minute. Meanwhile, the dad, Kent (Andy Powers), is a real estate agent who’s onsite cleaning up a house he plans to sell. He calls to let his wife know he’s coming home soon, she mentions the clown canceling, and Kent — playing the role of Superdad — says not to worry, that he’ll handle it. Luckily, he happens to spot an enchanting chest in a mysterious back room which just so happens to contain a bizarre jumpsuit and — believe it or not — a wig and a red nose. He slaps it on, makes it home to wow all the kids at the party, and as the evening comes to a close, falls asleep with the whole get-up still on.

In the morning, he awakes to find that he’s still dressed up and having trouble taking off the wig, nose, and outfit. Late to work (and in taking his kid to school), Kent leaves everything on and runs out the door. Once he drops his son, Jack (Christian Distefano), off at school and makes in to work, he then resumes attempting to remove everything. Unfortunately for Kent, it’s stuck, and it looks like a career change is on the horizon: entertaining at kids’ birthday parties in Hell.

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The first few minutes of the film require a lot of suspension of disbelief. The fact that he happens to find this costume right after his wife tells him they’re in need of a clown is almost laughably lucky. Add to that the fact that Kent, for whatever reason, wears the wig and clown nose for the first part of the next day — and doesn’t seem to even be remotely panicked or concerned with his appearance — also demands the watcher to look the other way. But once the ball finally gets rolling, it doesn’t slow down.

I was actually really impressed at how the film handles its pacing. Seeing as the shit hits the fan almost immediately — within the first 20 minutes of the 100 minute film — I was wondering how they were going to maintain the tension for the remainder of the movie, but they manage to pull it off. The film keeps gaining speed, upping the stakes as we watch the desperate and confused Kent transform from a loving father into a murderous, child-eating monster. Did I mention the Clown likes to eat kids? He does.

Also impressive is that this is the big screen debut from writer/director Jon Watts. He also wrote and directed 2015’s Cop Car, which is a complete 180 from Clown, both visually and in subject matter and tone.

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To me, the scariest part of Kent as the killer clown isn’t his final transformation (although it is awesome): I think the scariest part is when he’s in transition. Wearing a knit cap, a trenchcoat, and garbage bags duct taped over his feet — while still sporting the white face and red nose — he looks terrifyingly creepy. Add to that the fact that he’s often shot in shadows or under the cover of night makes him far, far scarier than any clown I’ve ever seen.

Clown is one part IT and one part The Fly, and that makes for a killer combination. Whether you find clowns scary or not, you should get a thrill out of this movie. Doc sez: two severed thumbs up!

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