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Deep Cuts: Clown, from Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts

Contributed by
Feb 8, 2018

The world of horror is vast. With so many films across the spectrum of budget, studio involvement, quality, availability, and, above all else, pure scare-the-living-shit-out-of-you-ness, it helps to have trained professionals parse through some of the older and/or lesser-known offerings. That's where Team Fangrrls comes in with Deep Cuts, our series dedicated to bringing the hidden gems of horror out of the vault and into your nightmares. 2014's Clown incorporates body horror and the long-visited trope of killer clowns to impressive effect.

Before Jon Watts helmed the hilarious and heartfelt Spider-Man: Homecoming, he made his feature directorial debut with the darkly funny and deeply creepy Clown. This red-nosed creature feature began as a spec trailer, uploaded to YouTube with the hopes of going viral and grabbing the attention of heralded horror producer Eli Roth. And it worked.

"I remember around Halloween in 2010 my phone and email blew up with people saying my new movie looked awesome," Roth told THR. "I had no idea what they were talking about, and then I went online and saw this brilliant fake trailer for a film calledClown, and it said 'From Master of Horror Eli Roth.' They cut it just like Hostel, with the same music from the trailer and everything."

 

Impressed by Watts' moxie and concept, Roth reached out to the aspiring filmmaker, and helped develop the property for Dimension Films. The result was an R-rated horror treat that boldly blends merriment and mayhem.

Clown centers on mild-mannered real estate agent and family man, Kent McCoy (Andy Powers). When a party clown bails on his young son's birthday celebration, Kent is quick to uncover a solution. He plucks a costume out of a cryptic box tucked away in the basement of his latest property.

In a pinch, it'll do, but there's something off about this clown suit. Its colors are faded, its ruffles rotted. The fabric is not a vibrant satin, but appears to be a dingy, pastel snakeskin. The wig is rotted. Even the red nose seems wrong. It's not bright and bulbous, but small, hard, and the color of clotted blood. More worrisome, after a day of clowning around, Kent can't take it off. Physically, it's impossible. The whole thing has fused to his flesh. Not even power tools can cut him free of it. And soon, this suit's evil infects him, making him burn with a deep desire to feast on the flesh of children.

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Yup. This movie is about a child-eating clown. But Clown has more in common with Stephen King's The Shining than IT. Trapped in the hell of this suit, Kent's brain warps, his fingers twist, his face festers, and he turns from a loving dad into a wretched nightmare with a merciless glare. Once he begins stalking children and snapping the wrists of anyone who gets in his way, his horrified wife (Laura Allen) must figure out how to protect their son from his father's deadly cravings. Assisting her is a grimacing expert, played by with eccentricity and eerie bravado by cult-adored character actor Peter Stormare (The Brothers Grimm, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters). 

Sure, you've seen killer clown movies before. But Watts' vision is distinct and disgusting with an inventive and unnerving mythos that brings the demonic into the origin of clowns. Rather than cheery face-paint, this de-evolution favors scars, spreading infection, and scabs. The clown's red nose is one of fresh blood. And Kent's torturous journey is stippled with mottled skin, self-mutilation, and stomach-churning body-horror.

Then, Watts spins ghoulish fun out of his clown's hunt for children, relishing the vengeance on a bullying little boy and spinning an unintentional yet vicious mousetrap for an overeager one. But perhaps the most explosive moment of macabre humor comes when Kent tries to draw the curtain on this circus of carnage through suicide. After a tearful call to his wife, he puts a gun in his mouth. After he pulls the trigger, it's not blood that sprays out of the wound, but a rainbow of colors, like gory confetti. Yet the crueler joke is the grimace on his face that follows, as he realizes he cannot be killed so easily. This isn't the laugh-out-loud kind of horror-comedy. Instead, Clown's laughs will get caught in your throat, tangled up in the terror that's got you gulping for air. 

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On top of all this devilishly deranged family trauma and gore, Clown boasts a set piece in a kid-craving creature's perfect hunting ground, a Discovery Zone-like playland, complete with arcade and colorful jungle gym tunnels. As a young boy cries out for his lost little brother, these bright symbols of childhood turn sinister. Their cheery interiors streaked with shadows and stained with small bloody handprints. Crawling along on his hands and knees through the echoing tubes, the boy seems doomed. But the true horror will hit the ball pit, launching Clown into a wild and frightening finale.

Dripping with blood, laced in terror, and spiked with grisly humor, Clown is a willfully disgusting and demented good time. See for yourself on Netflix.

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