Written by: Colton Tenner
Directed by: Tom Nagel
Cast: Brian Nagel, Lauren Compton, Andrew Staton
I caught this film last year in southern California while visiting from far across the pond. First, Hollywood and the surrounding area is a strange site to behold. And, I had the firm belief that the elderly gentleman relieving his bladder on one of the many stars riddled on the “walk of fame” would be the most frightening experience my trip to the states would produce.
And then a friend dragged me to a cinema hosting the premiere of some indie film (I’d never heard of) known as Clowntown.
I didn’t hold out much hope for the film, as I’d never heard of it (time lines often become blurred and distorted between the UK and the US). But, I was in Los Angeles for the first (and probably last) time and I figured, why not relax for a brief time and enjoy something light hearted in the midst of my busy adventure. With a name like Clowntown I expected to have the piss taken on a regular, but, as it turns out, these clowns really weren’t very funny at all. In fact, they were terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.
I wouldn’t consider myself to be a sissy when it comes to film (note: I’m the first to slip from the pub when the fists and bottles fly, but I’m no sissy when in the comfort of my home, in front of the telly), but Clowntown had a strangely unsettling effect on me.
The film showcases clearly limited production values and while I’m not extremely familiar with all American actors, I didn’t recognize anyone in the ensemble. However, if memory serves me right (it’s been a while now since seeing the film) the group – all 20-somethings – did a fine job with their content. Their primary task is to act terrified. They did that very well, and most would, with three brutish freaks in clown makeup stalking abandoned streets in the middle of the night.
And that’s really the gist of the film: A group of friends on a road trip find themselves a bit lost, before finding themselves in an oddly unoccupied little town with sudden car trouble. But there’s no help to be found here, just those menacing blokes with eerie face-paint and a penchant for ultraviolence.
The story isn’t ground breaking, but it is a blast. The film speeds along, giving viewers no chance to catch their breath, and the presence that accompanies the antagonists is absolutely brilliant. When these hooligans enter the picture, the natural instinct is to cut your breath short, trapped in the esophagus, trembling while we wait for an outburst of violence.
That’s just the sort of film I can get behind.
Clowntown is a paralyzing experiment in human terror. Your skin will crawl, your nerves will fray within the core of your body and you’ll sit patiently, anticipating and dreading the oncoming display of pure savagery… but you’re still going to jump, you can bet on that. If you’re looking for a properly assembled, frightening genre film crafted on a shoestring budget, Clowntown is an early Christmas gift.