Since Christopher Lawrence Chapman took the director’s chair in his feature horror film debut with Inoperable, it only seemed proper to unearth this archived review of a film he produced as well as reteaming with actor Chris Hahn who also acts in his latest creation.
The latest trend, to encounter the horror genre, seems to focus the rampant display of clown films, and especially exploiting the fears of coulrophobia (the technical name for fear of clowns), and why not as for a few years individuals dress as them staking out parks and streets at night all to the delights of news media. Hence the release of ClownTown, from first time feature debut director Tom Nagel, who also stars in the film, though he did do five previous short films, but this is his first feature horror flick. Lending a guiding hand to the production, well-known producer Robert Kurtzman, who has worked on films, which did star Tom, such as The Dead Matter (2010). The film itself, brings screenwriter and producer Jeff Miller’s script to life, and combines a b-movie with a slasher thriller, with a low-budgeted production and reunites Tom and Jeff for the fourth time in their career.
First, ClownTown never tries to become more than it already is, just another slasher movie, with less emphasis on slashing and more terrorizing. The film starts with a great homage to director John Carpenter and his film Halloween (1978), with a sequence that shows at least three key pieces, the test for the horror fans to find them. Soon enough the film moves away from the initial setup and introduces the principle characters, two 20-somethings couples, Brad and Sarah (Brian Nagel and Lauren Compton), and Mike and Jill (Andrew Staton [who serve also as stunt coordinator] and Katie Keene), on their way to a concert, only to become lost. Yes, while sounding familiar, the film has a different character issue the warning of stay away, this present from a helpful sheriff (Christopher Lawrence Chapman, who also served as producer), soon enough the group takes a shortcut. Now, every horror fan knows this rule, in the genre, never take the advice, which instructs about a shortcut, nevertheless, it occurs, and soon, the group realizes one of them lost their cell phone at a diner where they stopped many miles back. Amazingly even in the horror films, the ditzy folks that forget a phone, the things seem attach to people even at restaurant so to forget it, boggles the mind, and yet it serves a linkage to recover it. This all shows the script structure a tad loose, yet still entertains, as the group enters a deserted town, walk around to meet a stranger who has one of their phones. By nightfall, the clowns appear and starts wreaking havoc, and death on the group, which grows larger with other strangers, and then much smaller, by the ending of the film. The clowns, include about five them, and rarely speak, though David Greathouse (who served as makeup artist along with Beki Ingram) both portrayed Baseball Clown and Girl Clown, respectively. While a mysterious woman, (Maryanne Nagel) provides the necessary back-story for the audience to understand the situation more clearly, while surrounded by clown figurines. Sadly, there’s a lack of spillage of blood and scares, leaving silent meddling clowns to terrorize while tension tries to fill the stillness in the scenes.
As mentioned earlier, the phenomenon of ‘clown movies’ began saturating the horror genre, though when most think of the signature clowns two ideally come to mind Gacy and Stephen King’s It, these two definitely responsible for terrorizing both children and adults in their maddening methods. Gacy a real life serial killer and the other from the creator of many horror tales, either way the monsters released by them have gone onto to influence many filmmakers. However, many other films continue the trend, such as Thomas Norman’s Gitchy (2009), All Hallow’ Eve (2013) (hatched from the short film Terrifer (2011), with Art the Clown), Circus of the Dead (2014), Stitches (2012), Eli Roth’s Clown (2014), and now Rob Zombie’s 31(2016). Some have estimated the current count of killer clown flicks at 50-titles, dating back to 1976 with The Clown Murders, however, it overlooks, terms such as circus, freakshow, and sideshow, therefore a larger portion might exist dating back to 1932 with the infamous horror movie Freaks. In either, case the terrorizing and sickening tricks of clowns, likely to become a mainstay of the industry for many years to come.
The cinematography captures visually interesting locations of a deserted town, thanks to Kurtzman, and provides a well-lit stage for the mayhem to occur, but the curtain never truly opens, leaving a stale script for the actors to provide the necessary suspense. While the silent killers, such as Michael Myers or Jason, can get away without speaking, and even sometimes clowns in general stay mute, allowing their actions to convey everything, it all feels as if the menacing clowns, large stage props, never truly toying with their victims. Therefore, yes, plot holes exist, but the b-movie carries the film a tad further than many would think it could. However, why it works comes from reviewing the cast and crew, Tom Nagel incorporates his own talents into various positions, working as a camera operator, visual effects, editor, and producer, aside from director and actor, it shows clearly his passion and yet spreads himself far too thinly. In addition, his entire family picked up various roles and the some of the cast doubled in other capacities, and this shows the dedication of independent filmmakers, harkening back to that of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981).
Now, ClownTown isn’t going to set the world afire, and might of pick the wrong year for the release, but when it went into production the genre, of clowns was fairly vacant, however now, the clown car exploded with releases. Nagel’s movie, released by ITN Distribution, leaves the possibility of a sequel, open, as for entertainment value, it gets the initial viewing, though repeat viewers might find themselves in line for cotton candy for a more filling time of enjoyment.
This review originally appeared on the Rogue Cinema site in October of 2016 with a view count of 1,432.
IMDb Rating: 3.9
Baron’s Rating 3.5/5