There's a fine line between "too good to be true," and "I should have known better." While neither one is what directors, actors or fans want to read about their movie, I'm going to go ahead and put the blame on me. Why, oh why did I think a movie called Clown Hunt, about roving gangs of cannibalistic clowns and the drunken rednecks who hunt them, would be any good? It's written in garbled syntax right there on the DVD case: "Clowns, they're not just for laughing anymore." Sadly, neither is this movie, though in case you're wondering, we're talking about both laughing with and laughing at.
From the otherwise fairly inspired packaging on down, we're the ones getting seltzer in the face, as the box claims a 90-minute movie, while in reality we get an overlong 72-minute feature (with credits) and maybe 18-minutes worth of extras (which consists of a one-minute-long slideshow - they must be using that new Clown Math I've been hearing about). At any rate, what you get is the above mentioned high-concept nonsense and not a character with which to identify, as the rednecks go gunnin' for clown - especially that rarest of clowns, Albino Willie.
To director Barry Tubb's credit, there is a smattering of inspired visual poetry in Clown Hunt - possibly inspired by Salvador Dali - as clowns on stilts stride through flocks of panicked sheep. But hey-hey-hey, you know what? That's it! What comes off as a slumming Christopher Guest movie (Waiting for Laughman maybe?) struggles to find a raison d'etre, an engaging plot, and most importantly, the laughs. When the music-video montages, and there are many, start at the 5-minute mark, you know you've got a video suffering from a crippling dearth of ideas. What should have been a surreal art school short subject is mercilessly stretched like taffy to its breaking point.
Concept this broad might work, but you must be able to buy into it, and the actors have to sell it. Sadly, most of Tubb's crew seems to be in for a lark and nothing more. Not that they really have a chance in a movie that wants to be funny and a little gross/scary at the same time. Such a balancing act is hard to pull off, but if you must resort to scenes of scantily clad men mud-wrestling, (for no particular reason) or feral clowns having sex accompanied by 'boinging' sounds, all hope is lost. Nah, hope isn't lost, just show the clowns eating people and it will all work out. Right?
Short as it is, Clown Hunt is mostly weird and aimless. Yes, there is stunt plane activity, (a staple of clown horror-comedies) but there's also way too many scenes of rednecks standing around drinking beer while trying to sound funny and naturalistic. As Clown Hunt hopes to be two or three different types of movies, it misses the mark on each. Its cummerbund has snapped up, pants fallen down, and bowtie started spinning wildly. Shove these clowns back into the VW Bug and start again, please.
MVD Visual provides a fairly nice-looking 1.85:1 transfer, with nicely naturalistic colors and a sharp image. Fore and mid-ground detail levels are tight, and compression artifacts are tamped down effectively. It's probably the best looking low-budget clown horror comedy of the year.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound Audio is your choice, which sounds OK but not super whiz-bang or anything. Problem is that dialog levels fluctuate a lot, seeming to indicate poor source audio. There is probably a good deal of live on set dialog recording, so you'll have to boost the volume during crowd scenes and such to get the full, negligible effect of the dialog.
Chapter Stops and an 80-second Slideshow are the only extras.
Regardless of the amount of time and effort it takes to produce and release any kind of movie, Clown Hunt feels like it wasn't thought through adequately. What might have been a crackerjack arty short subject gets the 'stretch it out for home video' treatment, leading to low-level improv-type dialog, neat visual ideas driven into the ground, and a thoroughly uneven tone. High-concept clown comedy is hard, never mind the fact that no one wants it. Throw in a little horrific cannibal gore and limp clown sex, and you've got a movie only a stoned college student could love. Skip It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com