Whether he's directing a movie or providing the money for one, Eli Roth has carved a nice career for himself in the horror genre. You may like him, you may not, but nothing can deny what he's been able to accomplish over the course of his career so far. "Clown" is a horror movie that has to do with a clown. Yes, a killer clown, but it doesn't work in a fashion that we recognize. Not necessarily. The film was released in Italy (of all places) in 2014, and finally made it to United States distribution this year thanks to Dimension Studios.
Andy Powers plays Kent, a loving father who is late to his son's birthday party after a long day at work. Not only that, but the clown him and his wife hired for their son's party is double-booked (who double books a clown?). Not wanting to ruin his son's birthday party, he finds an old clown outfit, puts it on, and saves his son's birthday party! His son clearly knows its his dad, but he gets to be a good father and save his party at the same time. He's had such a long day that Kent doesn't take off the clown suit before he falls asleep. When he wakes up the next day, he realizes he is still in his clown garb.
When Kent tries to wash off his make-up, it doesn't wash off. When he tries to take off his clown wig, it doesn't come off. He breaks knives and electrical cutters trying to get the suit off. He cuts open his nose trying to get the clown nose off. By Kent's astonishment, the suit nor the make-up is coming off. When he researches the house in which he found the suit (he's a Realtor), he meets Karlsson (the always perfect Peter Stormare) who breaks some bad news on Kent. The suit is possessed by a demon and the only way to get it off is for the demon controlling the suit to consume five kids or Kent must commit suicide by decapitation. Such wonderful choices, no?
"Clown" turns out to be two styles of horror movie wrapped in one. Much of the movie, to my amazement, is a body horror movie. It is very similar to Jeff Goldblum's "The Fly" movie that David Cronenberg in 1986. Every time we see Kent again, he's more disgusting looking, more gruesome, furthering himself from the loving father he once was. It's great acting on Any Powers part and the make-up design, handled by a 15-person department is beyond impressive. Had the movie kind of stayed in body horror mode, I probably would have liked the movie more. Because the conundrum we find Kent in is powerful and dark. At the last moment, the movie turns into just another slasher movie, as Kent starts hunting down children to eat. The hunting and eating of children could have been dreadful in its own right, but director Jon Watts decides to make it cartoonish and overly-gory that it feels thrilling and not scary. Nothing about the killing of children should ever feel thrilling.
My biggest problem with "Clown" is that its not very scary, and its actually kind of boring. We learn pretty early in the movie how Kent can make his problems go away. But there are so many scenes of his wife (Laura Allen) grappling with this problem, so many scenes of Kent trying to figure out his problem, so many scenes of family friends stating the obvious to Kent's wife that it all ends up being repetitive. Its not until the final five or so minutes of film that Kent's wife finally grows a brain and does what she should have done a half-hour ago. Like I said above, the movie is never really that scary. But boy, does it try. There is an unforgivable scene when Kent's wife is driving a family friend's child home and in a desperate effort to try and save Kent from the demon, offers the child to the demon-clown Kent has become. Its as jetblack bleak a scene as I have ever seen in a horror movie, but its so overly-acted and so quickly done that it doesn't matter. The film basically boils down to a bloody mess, which to me just isn't scary.
I have always been kind of blown away that for being a household name in the world of horror, I am ultimately underwhelmed by most things on Eli Roth's resume. "Clown" sadly ended up being no different, but "Clown" isn't really a bad movie, just a frustrating one. There are good scenes and some interesting concepts, but they lead us through a boring, bitter end.
FINAL GRADE: C