Imagine you are Eli Roth and you wake up one morning to your phone blowing up with text messages and calls congratulating you on your new film after they were so impressed by the trailer that was released for it. Only you didn’t release a new trailer because you haven’t made a new movie. What does Eli do? He goes online watches said trailer about an evil clown suit and sure enough in the middle of the trailer comes the tag “From master of horror Eli Roth.” Thankfully he enjoyed it and thought the trailer looked awesome so he calls up Jon Watts and Christopher Ford who made the trailer and together the three hatch a plan for a full length feature that goes down as an amazing body horror.
Kent is a real estate agent who is trying to finish up at one of the houses he’s trying to sell so he can get to his son Jack’s birthday party. Before he can leave he gets a call from his wife informing him the clown they booked for the party couldn’t make it. Desperate, Kent looks around the house for something he can maybe use to dress himself up and stumbles upon an old trunk that contains a clown costume. He shows up in full clown costume saving the day and entertaining all the kids. Exhausted from his long day he falls asleep on the couch in the costume. He awakens to find he’s having trouble getting the wig, nose, makeup and costume off and is forced to head into work with a hat and coat covering his hair and costume. He struggles to get it off using power tools, blades and anything else he can use but they merely break. As he struggles to figure out how to get it off he also begins to have an unending hunger. Tracing the costume’s origin to an old costume shop he meets a man named Karrlson who says he knows its what type of costume it is and how to take it off. Upon meeting him he drugs Kent ready to kill him revealing he is wearing the skin of an ancient demon and death is his only salvation. Kent escapes and runs out into the night afraid and with each day that goes by, Kent’s body morphs in stranger ways and his hunger grows especially around children. His family, the police and Karrlson look for him as he hides out in the woods trying to figure out what to do and trying his best not to give into his hunger every time he sees a child.
This is perhaps one of the best body horrors I’ve seen in a long time and it wastes no time getting into the thick of it. We only see Kent looking normal in the opening credits and by the time the credits are over he is in full costume and the change begins to take hold. It’s one of those body horrors that makes you squirm as he tries to cut off the costume and accidentally cuts himself. So many moments like that make up the first half of the film. You really get a good sense of his desperation and pity him for all that he goes through. It’s a good Pixar kind of start because in the first five minutes you get a sense of the guy and how good he is, in trying to be a good dad he had damned himself and it’s pretty tragic. Once he has hit his breaking point after throwing up his teeth, his hands and feet growing in strange ways and Karrlson screaming the only way to end it is to kill himself the body horror switches gears a bit as the clown begins taking control of him and his wife has to discover the secrets of the costume. At this point it goes into detective territory as his wife Meg has to step up and figure out the history of the costume and find better ways to stop it and you can’t help but feel for her as her life is suddenly ripped apart. The decisions she has to make to protect her family challenge her human decency and her ability to be a good wife and parent. It’s a really good family drama with this body horror element that the two combined really make the film worth watching.
This is an Eli Roth production and we already get the slimy body horror but we also get the gore stamp of approval. Since the Clown’s desired meal is kids there is quite a bit of kids getting eaten and maimed. This turned a lot of people off from the film but it’s kind of integral to the plot. Personally I give it props for going there and even having kids killed because it’s a horror film and the most ancient of fairy tales involve the death of children or their innocence. My favorite kill though probably has to be when the Clown eats a kid named Colton whose been picking on Kent’s kid Jack. This kid is maybe ten and is pushing kids around calling them douche and pussy while rubbing glue in their face. What really made me hate the kid though was he is a rich spoiled kid who spends all his time trash talking people in video games. We all know that kid online and we all hate that kid. The Clown delivers us justice as this little jack ass is torn to pieces and blood splatters his video game. The most blood filled sequence though is when the Clown attacks Chuck E Cheese. If you’ve every had a kid you know what a hell hole that place is. It smells like feet and pee, kids run around like rabid dogs, food is terrible and the whole place looks like it’s barely ever been cleaned. In a clever shot, Watts has Meg’s car pull up to the place as the sign is reflected in the car’s window and it’s backwards so the movie tells you where it is without saying it. It may be memory but Watts somehow manages to illicit those same horrible senses with the look of Chuck E Cheese and makes it scarier with dark lighting that bounces off the color of the interiors which just freaked me out. The Clown crawls through the tubes eating kids, one he drags down Jaws style in the ball pit and another he completely devours leaving arms and legs flailing through the tubes when a flood of blood and a severed arm comes down the slide and the whole place flips out. It’s chaotic, bloody and just makes the almost fully transformed Clown terrifying.
Tony Gardner’s company did the practical FX on the film and the subtle makeup changes throughout the movie are really awesome. Of course there are pretty big changes throughout as well with the suit becoming his skin, wig becoming his hair, but the craziest thing is his face. They worked really hard on the history of the “Cloyn” as a demon and based on drawings in a book the production team made, Gardner’s crew brought that look to life. Eyes farther apart, jagged jackal like teeth and my favorite being the horn on its head that looks like a birthday or clown hat. It all just looks amazing.
For his first film Watts really knew how to tell his story with really great visuals and told it at a quick successive pace. The character work is solid, makeup FX is epic and the scares and gore are all there. It’s sad that the brutality of the film itself and its subject matter gave it such a hard time to get released. The trailer was made in 2010, movie shot in 2012 and the only release it got on VOD with limited theatrical was at the beginning of 2016 with it just hitting home video in August. The posters them self were banned in Italy for being too terrifying. I’m glad though it’s finally getting its proper due and it helped catapult Jon Watts who is now directing and writing the new Spider-Man film! I hope that helps get the word on this movie out because it’s got the ability to easily continue as a franchise.
6 More Day’s til’ Halloween! Halloween!
6 More Day’s til’ Halloween! Silver Shamrock!