9 March 2015 | gregsrants
Much Better Than Expected
This hurts to say – Eli Roth is no longer a 'go-to' name for me in horror. Ouch. Go back a decade ago and I didn't think that possible. I was present when he brought Cabin Fever (2002) to Toronto and again in 2005 when he introduced his Canadian audience to Hostel. I met Eli a few times since and I think his knowledge and enthusiasm for horror is outstanding.
But since 2007, Eli has focused himself more on acting (Inglorious Basterds) and producing (The Last Exorcism). Since then, the quality of the projects that bear his name on the film's one sheet has been sub-par. The Man With the Iron Fists (2012), The Last Exorcism II (2013) and The Sacrament (2013) were all throwaway entries on an ever expanding filmography. And don't even get us started on Netflix's timewaster series Hemlock Grove.
So when I saw the DVD cover for Clown with Eli Roth's name above the title, it was hardly the seven letters in the actor/producer's name that had me walking out of the market with the disc under my forearm.
Clown has an intriguing premise. A demon possesses a clown suit and morphs anyone who dons the outfit into killer that preys particularly, yet not exclusively, on children. Andy Powers plays Kent, the unlucky son-of-a-bitch that adorns the found garment to appease his son Jack who is awaiting a cancelled clown at his backyard birthday party. But after applying the suit and make-up, Kent finds the outfit impossible to remove. He also finds an increasing appetite that is appeased when a child is devoured while straying from his campgrounds.
Kent attempts to remove himself from his family life and seclude himself to where he may be a lesser threat to those around him. But as the demon begins to take hold, Kent's cravings for violence extended outside his given will and even the help of someone who has history with the suit, Karlsson played by the always reliable Peter Stormare, might not be enough to help stop the demon's rampage on the youth of his stalked community.
I was intrigued by the idea behind Christopher D. Ford and Jon Watts' screenplay and the idea did feel fresh and at times inspired. Jon Watts does double duty behind the camera and executes the fine line of dealing with a serial killer of children with diplomacy. But it's the diplomacy that grounds the film from really taking flight. Unfortunately, the kills are largely off-screen with only the bloody after affects represented after the deed is completed. I am sure this was done to keep censors edit happy but if the gore was to match say, Eli Roth's Hostel II, in this format, we might be talking about Clown being the horror movie to see if 2015. A particular chapter where our morphing demon ends up at a ChuckeCheese was a particular waste of a fantastic opportunity to showcase unmuted violence in an extraordinary setting.
Still, Clown was an above average horror film for its ilk. It follows some of the horror film handbook 'To Do's' that are as aggravating as they are accepted, but there is enough freshness and commitment to the overall goal to keep Clown's head above the recommendation waters.
And now back to Mr. Roth. Although Clown is hardly Silence of the Lambs it does provide a definite upswing on the Roth career chart that was beginning to resemble my investments circa 2009. Let's hope the momentum continues and I can update the first sentence of this review in short time.