Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Rating: 7 out of 10
A harried father, wanting to make his sons birthday not clown-less, dons an old clown costume he found in a house he’s renting and soon discovers to his horror, he can’t take the cursed thing off!
One would think, from that oversimplified version of the plot I just spouted, that the movie is just going to be a gore-fest of body-Horror-turned-hack-n-slash, which is fairly standard for Eli Roth’s MO. However, Roth had little to do with the film in the beginning and was half seduced and half strongarm-convinced to lend his name and reputation to Clown. While yes, there is plenty of body Horror, as poor hapless Kent discovers himself literally turning into a demon, and lots of hack n slash as Kent makes his way towards the sacrifice the demon demands, the story behind the clown skin is quite cool and very different, a welcome unexpected treat.
So Kent McCoy (Andy Powers) is your standard real estate contractor type, he sells houses and has a wife and son he loves; your average schmo who’s done not a thing to deserve this nonsense. It just so happens that Kent wants his kid Jack (Christian Distefano) to have the happiest birthday possible, and if that means donning a borrowed clown costume he found in the trunk of some house he’s renting and going out to be the entertainment his damn self, he’ll do it. Good for you, Kent. The trouble is, now, he can’t take the damned clown suit, or that idiotic nose and the rainbow hair, off. Kent’s early attempts to get the cursed suit offa him, or at least cover it up, are some of the bright spots of a very dark movie.
Kent’s wife Meg (Laura Allen), well of course she’s mighty concerned, and it doesn’t help that the bit of clown-nose she managed to get off Kent only to have it eaten by the dog, is now causing the dog to act funny too. Tracking down the costumes previous owner, Dr. Martin Karlsson, proves difficult, but his brother Herbert (Peter Stormhare) has some answers that Kent really doesn’t like. And here is where Clown takes an abrupt turn down a very different Krampus-like path – Herbert informs Kent of the legend of Cløyne, an ancient demon of Northern Europe that requires a sacrifice of five children, one for each month of winter where it comes from, to eat before it is satisfied. That clown suit that is now taking over Kent is no suit, it’s the actual skin and hair from a Cløyne demon, and that is precisely what Kent is becoming.
From there, we have a mix of hilariously dark moments where Dadclown is still trying not to turn into Cløyne by killing himself and it so doesn’t work, or Dadclown deciding to get some revenge for his kids bullying while getting his demon parasite fed at the same time, interspersed with some truly odd moments with Herbert showing back abruptly to try and finish Cløyne off himself. Things come to a showdown in a Chuck E. Cheese’s, of all places, and we are forcibly reminded that there are few things scarier in this world, even moreso than an actual demon, than a mother afraid for her children.
The makeup affects for the body horror and transformation in the film are astounding, and they had better be, considering there’s practically nothing in the way of CGI. The feeling of plausibility that comes across, this could happen to you too in the right (wrong) circumstances, is also well done and gives the movie that extra creepy kick. While the slaughter-y scenes certainly do have Roth’s signature on them, one would be hard-pressed to tell that from the rest of the film. Director of the film Jon Watts, who also did Cop Car (and directed and freaking co-wrote the upcoming Spiderman Homecoming movie), gives us a stylized Horror flick that he clearly felt passionately about. For all Watts’ love of the movie and the Cløyne legend of the demonic clown, we are treated, almost tricked, into a Horror flick that has a bit of everything, and that is what the dark carnival is all about.
Visit the legend of Cløyne in Clown on Netflix!