Clowns! They creep me out, man. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re the “in thing” right now, so it seems. And the latest in this sub-genre, Clowntown, keeps that ball rolling.
Director Tom Nagel and writer Jeff Miller quickly set up a scenario where an entire remote town is over run by killer, maniacal clowns trapping unsuspecting lost travelers in their web of horror and…murder. Yeah, that’s right…clown town. The premise is simple, the villains are creepy and the mayhem is everything a slasher fan can ask for. Yet the film still falls short of its goals. The film benefits from a genuine creepy memorable realization of the main clown killer, The Baseball Clown, portrayed by David Greathouse. While everyone else does exactly what is needed for their roles and the film, there are no other stand out performances to balance that one character. The film has it moments but is uneven in tone and pacing with many scenes too dark to clearly see what is happening or which character is doing what. Yet, while the film does have its flaws, Clowntown has its moments, strong enough to pair with other similar genre films. Clowns, man. Creepy.
The story of Clowntown begins exhibiting a strong influence of John Carpenter films, most notably Halloween. Jamie (Kaitlyn Sapp), the babysitter, is watching a pair of tykes for the first time as she pieces together clues of surrounding the events leading up to Clowntown. The boy is unusually quiet but quick to silence his sister when she gets too close to spilling the beans on what happened to their previous babysitter. The kids’ parents call in explaining they’ll be late due to a horrific accident leading to a chemical spill near town. Then the boy, dressed in a clown outfit, goes “Michael Myers” on Jamie (or so we are lead to believe) and the thrills begin.
Cut to present day where Brad (Brian Nagel) and Mike (Andrew Staton) are taking their girlfriends, Sarah (Lauren Compton) and Jill (Katie Keene) across state to a killer rock concert when their van breaks down. They find themselves stranded in an small Ohio town seemingly abandoned. They are unable to locate anyone…alive. As night falls, they are joined by two rednecks Billy (Tom Nagel) and Dylan (Jeff Denton). The stage is now set for the clowns to appear, finally. And that they do. The Baseball Clown (David Greathouse), the Crowbar Clown (Ryan Pilz), the Axe Clown (Alan Tuskes), Machete Clown (Chris Hahn) and Girl Clown (Beki Ingram) descend upon their prey. And all hell breaks loose.
Much like Richard Brake as Doom Head in Rob Zombie’s 31, David Greathouse as the Baseball Clown is greatly responsible for making Clowntown work as well as it does. While clowns are somehow inherently creepy and the others are unsettling in their roles, Greathouse brings a memorable menace to his role as the leader of the villainous clown posse. His sleek frame and demonic smile give Baseball Clown an otherworldly presence. Whenever he is on screen, his evil grin filling up the frame, the Baseball Clown elevates the thrills and chills. It helps he also gets the best lighting and the music fits his build the best. Just imagine if Otis and Captain Spaulding had a satanic offspring, that would be one description of the Baseball Clown.
Much of the film is a large, stretched out game of cat and mouse as the clowns chase and terrorize the six travelers throughout the night. The sequences are built on characters entering a new location, finding a place to hide and the clowns slowly walking looking for them, frightening them and killing them as they get the chance. As with all good slasher films, the victims also get their opportunities to strike back, usually at great cost to themselves or the group. The unfortunately sets up a familiar repetition and a “been-there-done-that” sluggish pace. When the plot kicks into gear the film benefits greatly until the next lull sucks out much of the fun just as quickly as the gore and effects injected it in the first place.
Clowntown is too uneven and too derivative to become a classic or garner a strong following. However, it does have a enough clowns, imagination and demented fun to keep if from being a total loss. When the film works, it is thrilling, exciting and scary. The problem is the time between those highs are far too long and drawn out. And the lulls are droll and unexciting. The film belongs to David Greathouse as the Baseball Clown and the Halloween charged soundtrack. The more you are scared of clowns, the better Clowntown will work on your psyche. Those who needs more than white grease paint and a menacing grimace may be disappointed by the predictable tropes and too familiar “twists”. Still, Clowntown makes for a great double bill with similar recent clown-centric horror films, Clown, Circus of the Dead or Rob Zombie’s 31.
Clowntown (3 / 5)