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The top of the packaging for this Blu-ray release screams "FROM MASTER OF TERROR ELI ROTH" but in reality, Clown was directed by Jon Watts, who co-wrote the script with Christopher Ford. To be fair, Roth produced this movie, but he didn't direct it or write it so those expecting Clown to be made in his style might be in for a bit of a surprise. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you, because it is a very good movie. It's just different in tone than Roth's work. The film started as a trailer in 2010 (it's still on youtube if you want to look for it), made by Watts and Ford for a movie that didn't exist, but that they credited Roth with directing. Well, Roth came along, liked what he saw, and helped to get the trailer turned into a feature that was completed in 2012. It took a few years, but now that it's 2016 Clown gets an overdue home video release after playing a few scattered theatrical dates here and there.
The movie tells the story of a man named Kent McKoy (Andy Powers), a real estate agent by trade. When the film begins, he's about to leave work to head home, his son Jack (Christian Distefano) is to celebrate his tenth birthday. Before he splits, his wife Meg (Laura Allen) calls to tell him that the clown they'd hired as entertainment has cancelled. In a bizarre stroke of luck, the empty house that Kent is trying to sell just so happens to have a trunk with a clown costume sitting about inside, and so Kent puts on the outfit the wig and the big red nose and heads home, hoping to save the party and make both his kid and that kid's guests plenty happy.
The party goes off like gangbusters, the kids love Kent and his goofy routines. After they all go home, however, things get weird. Kent can't get the costume off, the wig is stuck to his head, and that big red nose seems to be permanently affixed to his face. Attempts to get the makeup off of his face result in skin damage and it would seem that, yes, Kent has somehow permanently turned into a clown. But it doesn't stop with that. As time passes, Kent's outfit starts to morph into skin, his face begins to change and it's clear that he's turning into something else altogether. And then he starts getting hungrier and hungrier and hungrier… so he tries to figure out just what the history of this costume is. Helping him with that is Dr. Herbert Karlsson (Robert Reynolds), brother of the man who owned the house that this costume came from, but Kent might have been better off not learning the history of the costume in the first place…
This one starts off as a fairly comic endeavor but by the time it's over, Clown has dragged us into some very dark territory indeed. It's also pretty intense in the blood and guts department, with some strong gore sequences that are actually genuinely unsettling. Kent starts off as a nice guy with good intentions and the movie does a good job of making the audience like him. Andy Powers gets a lot of credit for this. He's got an everyman quality about him, but he clearly wants to do right by his wife and kid. Most viewers should find him a pretty easy character to relate to. Laura Allen is also good as Kent's wife. She's understandably quite concerned about what is happening to her husband and why and she plays the part well. Christian Distefano as their kid also does fine work. Robert Reynolds as the doctor is decent enough as well. The movie is quite well acted, and because of this, it's easier than it should be to accept what is really a pretty ludicrous premise. The cast do their part to make this work.
The film is also well paced. It takes about twenty-minutes or so to find its footing as a horror picture, but in that twenty-minutes the filmmakers build character development and set in place a few little details that come into play later. The middle part of the film has a chunk to it where we spend a bit more time with Karlsson than maybe we really needed to, but again, even this slower section does tie into the story rather well.The Blu-ray:
Clown is presented in a nice looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.40.1 widescreen. The image shows off respectable detail and features solid color reproduction despite the fact that the movie makes use of a predominantly dark color and grim color scheme. The movie is quite nicely shot and the transfer brings that out really nicely, but like a lot of digitally lensed features made on a modest budget, there's some flatness here and sometimes things look just a little too smooth. Texture is solid, colors are nicely reproduced and all the grit and grime in the bars and dives that much of the movie takes place in is visible. Black levels are solid and skin tones look good. The image is free of noise reduction but eagle-eyed viewers might spot some mild compression in a few spots. Overall, things look good, but they stop a few steps short of perfection.Sound:
The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Things sound very good and when the movie calls for surround activity, you'll definitely notice it in a few key moments where the sound design really heightens the tension. Dialogue is clean, clear and succinct and some well-placed sound effects take advantage of the surround channels at various times throughout the movie. Hiss and distortion are never a problem and the audio is properly balanced throughout the movie. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.Extras:
Aside from menus, chapter selection and a few promo spots that play before those menu screens load, the only extra on the disc is a six and a half minute featurette called Making Clown With Producer Eli Roth. Here Roth talks about how he came onboard to take what was originally made as a trailer and help get it made as a feature, his thoughts on the visuals and the performances and more. It's interesting enough, just a bit on the short side. You'd think there'd be more to this than that, maybe a commentary or at the very least the original trailer that started all of this, but nope. Didn't happen.
Inside the Blu-ray case alongside the disc is an insert card with a code to download a Digital HD version of the movie. The case in turn fits inside a cardboard slipcover.Final Thoughts:
If Clown is more than a tad predictable, it's nevertheless a well-made picture with some solid acting, clever writing and impressive camerawork. The Blu-ray release from Anchor Bay/Starz presents the movie in nice shape, though it is light on extras. This isn't a new classic, but it's worth seeing. Recommended for those with an interest in modern horror.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.