Sunday, July 12, 2015

Clown (2014)

Why are people afraid of clowns? There are so many movies about scary ones, and that's because so many people are scared shitless of them. I guess a lot of it just comes from how strange and outlandish they look. People are scared of them because they look weird and goofy and alien to what we're used to, and maybe because they have those creepy-ass smiles on their face all the time. Eugh! The modern man has no need for smiles!

I guess it also comes from a certain book written by a somewhat well known author.

Though, really, I'd think the real life man who dressed up as a clown and also had the unfortunate hobby of murdering people had something to do with it.

But nah, maybe not...

Either way, it seems like the fear of clowns is hear to stay. Which must be the worst feeling in the world for people who grew up unaware of this fear and just wanted to be clowns to make people laugh. That has gotta suck. Imagine spending all your time training to become something else, like, say, a painter, only to find out that painters were regarded as subhuman sexual deviants in the community you lived in, lepers who should in no way be trusted.

But not all movies about clowns portray them as creepy serial killers! Some of them portray them as immaterial, immortal monsters who, if you put on a clown suit, possess you and make you kill people.

Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Eli Roth, Peter Stormare, Andy Powers, Laura Allen

Co-written with Michelle.

Well, OK. That's fine.

Clearly as the movie is called Clown, it had to start off with a bunch of loud noises over pictures of clowns, then the word CLOWN in bright bulbous letters. You know, just to make sure we didn't confuse this for the other kind of clown. We had to know it was about the kind that everyone and their brother is afraid of at birthday parties.

Then we get an opening scene with a birthday party for little kids. Like I said in the Godsend review – nobody wants to see a birthday party for kids in a movie. Especially not one where the only source of drama is that they're waiting for a fucking clown to show up. I think most kids would just be waiting to open up their new Xbox One at this point – the clown really has no relevance. I don't even think the adults remember why they wanted a clown. The clown is going to be there for no one. What a sad nihilistic existence.

Pictured: the face no child makes for a clown.

But the clown doesn't show up, so the mom, Meg, has to call her weenie of a husband, Kent. Kent is a real estate agent who seems to think it's ethical to browse around in the basements of old houses and take shitty looking costumes he finds in the attic. People like this guy are the reason Party City is going out of business. You scum!

"Man, I really need a fucking drink right now."

So he shows up looking like a hungover Ronald McDonald and, apparently, entertains the kids somehow – probably because the birthday boy had already peeked into the closet beforehand and seen that Xbox in there, so he knew he could stand the stupid clown. Later on, he almost has sex with his wife with the clown suit on, but she pusses out at the last second. I'm glad the movie shows both lights of being a clown – the disappointing last-ditch effort nature of taking the job, and the fact that their lives inevitably end up sexless and asleep on couches.

It isn't even a good looking clown suit. It's ugly as fuck. That suit looks like your grandma's knitting quilt made into a costume. I hate to say it, but Gacy did it better in terms of being a clown.

The next day, he discovers that he can't take the clown suit off. Ugh! Yet another annoyance of being a clown in the modern world. He even tries to slice it off with a power drill, but that has no effect except that it makes him bleed like a leaking faucet. He has to go to the hospital, where he insists very adamantly that he isn't a clown – well, buddy, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and appears in a movie titled Clown...I think you're gonna have a hard time convincing anyone.

So I guess his next move is putting on orange face make-up that I imagine he stole from an Oompa Loompa factory nearby and trying to disguise himself as normal.

Zero stars, movie. Zero stars.

He tracks down the guy who originally owned the house he found the suit in, who is of course some scraggly homeless-looking guy who warns him vehemently not to put on the suit – not knowing yet, of course, that Kent already has. Kent shows up and the guy gives him this whole spiel about how clowns are evil and came from these monsters who used to live in caves. Then, somehow, over time, that evolved into makeup people wore to entertain kids at parties., I just...don't have any fucking clue what your problem is. I mean, it's good that you're trying to satirize this overdone trope, but it feels like you aren't exactly aware that you're not actually making a joke. That's like saying you don't believe in God because you hate make believe fairytales, but then saying you have absolute faith in Odin and believe he will return next year and smite all of your personal enemies.

One thing I don't get is, how is that clown suit still in existence? Part of the backstory, I guess, is that the crazy guy apparently got it off someone else years ago. Why didn't he burn it or hide it away somewhere better than an old house's attic? I guess he really just wanted to cut off someone's head the next time anyone put the suit on.

Because, apparently, that's how you kill clowns. By cutting off their heads.

Are you taking notes at home, kids? Next time a clown comes to your party, trumping up your driveway in those big annoying red shoes, you know what to do.

Kent escapes though, and bursts into his house screaming about what just happened, only for the camera to pan over and see the rest of their family sitting around. Because, I guess in stupid movies, they didn't exist until the camera panned over there, and Kent is the type of person who can't look a few feet to the left before screaming insanely about clowns.

The faces of everyone who saw the advance screening of the movie, which were promptly disregarded completely.

Then we find out that he tied up that crazy guy and plans on taking him to the police. But the crazy guy escapes, so Kent has to incapacitate him with his newfound clown super strength. He also attacks some other dude a few minutes later.

Yes, another common and well known side of being a clown, super strength. I can't even tell you how many clowns I've seen who go to make a balloon animal and then accidentally break the balloon, causing a horrific loud sound that rips the fabric of time, opens a void into another dimension, and scares all the children at the party. It's just not good.

Kent has to go into hiding in the woods, where he calls some kid from a boy scouts thing over and tries to eat his hand. It doesn't work. But I do think this is one of the more effective scenes in the film – there are quite a lot of cool shots and scenery in this film, but they're so often hampered by boring and tepid cliché.

Later, he hides out in a motel room that I guess he was supposed to be selling at his real estate job. Feeling that everything is hopeless, he takes a gun and tries to kill himself in the bathtub. Like all clowns, his blood has been replaced by rainbow slime:

Wow. You tried to make suicide funny and...didn't succeed at all. Not that I'm offended though, it just isn't funny.

But ultimately he survives that, because I guess the bullets just have no effect on evil clown monsters. He tries the next best thing to being shot – constructing a ludicrous set-up of industrial sawblades and sitting in a chair to fall back into them. You know, the normal go-to when shooting yourself in the head doesn't work – killing yourself via sawblades!

"Man, I can't believe I went through this much trouble to kill myself. I should kill myself for this!"

You know, this whole clown suicide sub plot is interesting and all – not to mention realistic for clowns – but really, for a horror movie it just doesn't work. It's confused as hell; even moreso than that girl in your high school drama class who dyed her hair blue and started talking about how she was a lesbian. The tone is just off. Some parts of the movie were funny earlier, but these darker scenes just really, really don't work in contrast.

But anyway, Kent is still trying to kill himself with that sawblade thing. Unfortunately for him, a kid comes in and distracts him, so he misses the blades when he falls, and knocks a piece of the blade at the kid, which impales and kills him.

Wow. That could only have happened in a completely implausible, stupid ass movie like this. Thanks for not being in any way clever, Clown! You hack-ass piece of shit.

But yeah, I guess that was just a set-up so Kent could then taste the blood of a child, which is an important rite in any clown's career, really.

Next we see his wife coming to find him, telling him she's pregnant and that's why he shouldn't give up on life. Because of course she is – pregnancy is just a catch-all, easy solution in these kinds of shitty movies. What other plot point could a woman ever participate in? Her womb is the only interesting thing about her.

I think the movie missed an opportunity though, by not having the wife be pregnant with a clown baby. Because as you all know, clowns are a separate species of wretched degenerate subhumans.

"There's nothing else to do for a woman besides be pregnant, right?"

The pregnancy thing persuades Kent to come back home, though he forces Meg to lock him in the basement tied to a pole. Meanwhile, Kent's son at school is bullied by a couple of kids who care way too much that his dad looked like a clown. This is the kind of shitty writing these movies always have – making the bullies just way too implausible. Really, they want to smear paint on his face because his dad looked like a clown? THAT was the best bullying they could think of? Fuck, just give him a wedgie, you twerps.

The son goes home and lets out Kent, who then goes and disembowels and eats the little bully kid. Which, yeah, seems a little excessive now that I write it out that way.

This movie sure loves killing kids. And that's the greatest thing about it.

What follows this is something I've always wanted to see in a horror movie. Well, not really, but now that the movie brings it up, it seems like a good idea: a slasher scene set in a mall playplace.

This is why they started to phase out playplaces at McDonalds - too often, demented Ronald impersonators would try to kill anyone who entered them.

This is actually pretty damn good, building tension and atmosphere even despite the goofy setting – actually, I'd argue the setting helps the scene through the contrast. Surprisingly, this part ends up being easily the best thing about the entire movie.

Meg teams up with that crazy guy from earlier, who wants to help her get rid of the clown by cutting his head off. There's this whole fucking dumb, boring scene of the two of them going over all this clown mythology bullshit. Why do these movies constantly do this? We don't need scenes of them researching things and we don't need a made-up “history” of evil clowns in a movie about a clown suit that takes over your body. Just give us a fucking story about an evil demon clown killing people if you want – we don't need to take this so seriously!

That's Eli Roth as the clown monster's final form, by the way. He's mad because this piece of crap movie is still better than his own movies. But seriously - THIS picture is all we need out of the movie. Just a clown being evil. Nothing else.

After that, though, we get another extremely silly scene where the clown demands Meg bring him a child to eat or else he'll just come home and eat his own son. Meg finds a girl she knows from the neighborhood and gets her in the car and drives her out to the woods to give her to the stupid clown monster. My favorite part about this scene is that the girl gets out of the car not realizing she's in the woods and not at her house. How do you not SEE that without getting out of the car? “I live in the woods, but not THESE woods...”

"Praying she's stupid enough to fall for this awfully planned out idea...YES!"

Then we go back to the house where the clown has gone to kill everyone. This climax is seriously just full of every cliché in the universe for these sorts of slasher horror movies. There are shitloads of scenes where it goes quiet, the kid being chased looks out to see if the coast is clear, but then something surprises him...

There's a scene where Meg's father, having seen blood from the clown on the floor, thinks Meg has killed someone and wants to help her cover it up. He of course moves right in front of the door, strategically placed for the clown to burst through the window and kill him.

Then we even get the always-vomit-worthy scene where, after committing God knows how many heinous acts and killing a bunch of people, the clown turns back into Kent for a second and goes “help me!” It's practically a grocery list of bad, bad cliché that all of these kinds of movies have. Wake me up when the credits are done rolling.

Finally, they kill him, and the clown suit is put into evidence at the FBI headquarters.

Truly an image striking fear into the hearts of men.

Wow, I can't wait for a sequel where an FBI agent puts on that suit and becomes an evil clown monster too!

Damn, a lot of kids died in this fucking movie. I mean Jesus. Talk about an overreaction. Most clowns kill a couple of kids during their careers, but THIS many, wow, just too much. Wasn't the movie educational about how clowns really are, guys???

This movie wasn't too awful or anything – the acting was fine, there were a handful of pretty decent scenes, and the movie looked very suitably creepy and also carnivalesque and fun. But despite only being like 90 minutes long, it had so much dead space and padding, and just felt so much longer. Just give us a dumb, corny movie about an evil clown killing kids. We didn't need any of this nonsense about the mythology of clowns or anything like that.

The writing was strictly pedestrian and lazy, padded out with every old cliché in the book, none of them done well enough to justify their use. It's hard to be enthusiastic about this when it mostly doesn't care enough to give us anything beyond the standard. Plus, the tone was just confused as hell – is it a campy horror comedy, or a serious drama about a pregnant woman trying to save her husband? Make up your minds. Some direction really would have helped here.

I guess what really bothered me was – what was this movie trying to say? “Hey, kids, clowns are evil! Be scared of them!”? Yeah, awesome message there. Eli Roth apparently compared this to The Fly, and I dunno – the 1980s The Fly was a better movie than this, with some social commentary on STDs and a good story about a man's tampering with science. In fact, that's the first time something has been better because of STDs.

This has nothing except, I guess, the fear of clowns? There isn't much else to glean from it.

I think people have always been afraid of clowns. It wasn't some newfound fear that never existed before IT came out. Some people don't like the makeup or the smiles or the fake-jubilance. I think scary movies and stories about clowns are made because people like juxtaposing something so cheery and happy with the darkness of a horror story.

But really, if you've got nothing to fucking say aside from 'be afraid of clowns' – is it worth making a movie? It'd be one thing if there were a lot of good movies about evil clowns, but there really aren't. Most of em pretty much fucking suck. I dunno. Maybe it's not a worthwhile story if all you're really doing is making someone's job, that they like doing, look like Satan's caretaker.

I'm pretty sure most real clown suits don't possess you and turn you into a demon, is all I'm saying. Food for thought.

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