Movie Review: ClownTown

Clowntown poster

@dinsmorality reviews...

Director: Tom Nagel
Writer: Jeff Miller
Stars: Brian Nagel, Lauren Compton, Andrew Staton                      

Review

Clowns are trending. All, it seems, at the expense of those suffering from coulrophobia (fear of clowns). The last year or two of American cinema and television have re-produced the killer clown archetype popularized by Stephen King’s IT, with new genre takes from American Horror Story: Freak Show, to the Eli Roth produced Clown, to Rob Zombie’s action-horror film 31. Even here in the US of A, the killer clown sighting has become ubiquitous in states like Georgia and South Carolina, leading to bizarre incidences of machine-wielding clowns attempting to lure children into the woods in a real-life nightmare scenario (I’m not joking: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/killer-clowns-inside-the-terrifying-hoax-sweeping-america-w442649).

Why clowns have proliferated pop culture (again) is a topic for another day, but the bridging between what is real and what is sick fantasy (or is it the other way around?) makes the new film ClownTown even more compelling than its title suggests. You may think this film is a campy satire or exploitation film – at times, it is – but quickly we see clowns that are not joking around. Surprisingly, ClownTown is able to use familiar horror tropes and take us on a wild survival chase that is both entertaining and terrifying.

clowntown image

First, the familiar. You know the story about the four 20-something-year olds on a road trip traveling through rural America that still doesn’t have cell phone reception? Or how one character is a compelling male figure (the lead) with a beautiful girlfriend? Or the goof ball, who is part comedy sidekick, part jock who exudes masculine confidence, and also happens to have a beautiful babe at his side?

Or the moment in the film when the group is lured into an abandoned town (bye bye cell service), only to have their car engine tampered with and disabled after a quick stroll in aforementioned town to search for…well…anyone?

Yes, that’s all here.

clowntown image

But let that not dissuade you. Even the safest of plot devices are worthy of surprise. And the surprise here is how, for example, the potty-mouthed dialogue of characters like Mike (Andrew Staton) devolve to screams and sobs by him and his friends Brad, Sarah, and Jill (respectively, Brian Nagel, Lauren Elise, and Katie Keene). The irony of the killer clown, after all, is that the clown is no longer funny. And when the clowns show up, our group is not laughing. And neither are we.

For the pleasant surprise of ClownTown is the compelling performances of our leads, who turn their naïveté into genuine fear. The clowns themselves are indeed as creepy as they come, but they are surprisingly violent and agile, forcing our characters to fight back in heart-stopping sequences.

There is a backstory to why these clowns are terrorizing our leads, but I will not spoil that here. One clue: It’s not seemingly as random as the frightful encounters happening in rural America today. But the connection is uncanny: For all the fright and irony of the killer clown in this film and real life, the joke is no laughing matter. When a clown shows up with a machete, you better run or fight.

Eric Dinsmore

Twitter: @dinsmorality

Images: IMDb

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