Monday, October 17, 2016

#2,224. ClownTown (2016)

Directed By: Tom Nagel

Starring: Brian Nagel, Lauren Compton, Andrew Staton

Tag line: "They'll Rip Out Your Funny Bone"

Trivia: The house on fire in the clown montage is not an effect. The cast and crew were on their way back to base for lunch when a couple of them noticed a "flicker" off down the road

The pre-title sequence for ClownTown, a 2016 horror film directed by Tom Nagel, is a tribute to John Carpenter’s Halloween. After a brief shot of a house (the mailbox has the name “Strode” on it), the action shifts to the backyard, where a babysitter in a bikini (Kaitlyn Sapp) is sitting by the pool, reading a bedtime story to youngsters Megan (Ava Joy Anselmo) and Ricky (Nathan D. Goins). Megan is a lively, outgoing young girl, but Ricky is withdrawn, and never so much as utters a word. 

Shortly after tucking the two kids in for the night, the babysitter receives a call from their parents, telling her there’s been a train derailment nearby, and that they’re on their way home. Moments later, the babysitter is startled by a sound, and upon investigating finds Ricky out of bed and dressed in a clown costume. The babysitter then follows Ricky upstairs, where she has an unfortunate run-in with the business end of a meat cleaver.

The nods to Halloween are obvious, and it’s possible that ClownTown was designed to show audiences what might have happened if, instead of centering on a serial killer named Michael Myers, Carpenter took his classic film in another direction, focusing on killer clowns that take over a small Ohio town. Having just now finished ClownTown, I can tell you, in no uncertain terms, that there’s a damn good reason Carpenter went the route he did; ClownTown is a bad movie.

The film then jumps ahead 15 years. Two couples: Brad (Brian Nagel) and Sarah (Laure Compton), and Mike (Andrew Staton) and Jill (Katie Keene), stop at a roadside diner to ask for directions (because they’re in the middle of nowhere, neither their phones nor their GPS are working properly… surprise, surprise). Once they have the information they need, the good friends hit the open road, only to find a short time later that Jill left her cell phone back at the diner. 

When Sarah calls the missing phone, a man answers and tells them to meet him in the nearby town of Clinton, where he’ll gladly return Jill’s property. But instead of a Good Samaritan, the couples find themselves being stalked by several well-armed, psychotic clowns. Joining forces with two locals, and with the help of a slightly deranged guy named Frank (Greg Violand), Brad, Jill and the others hope to survive this terrifying ordeal. But the clowns have no intention of letting their prey escape without a fight.

Supposedly inspired by a 2014 incident in Bakersfield, California, when a group of people dressed up as clowns and went around scaring the locals, ClownTown has a number of problems, including sub-par performances and an over-reliance on some of the genre’s more tiresome clichés (seriously, doesn’t anyone in these films have a decent cell phone provider?). In addition, the entire mid-section of the movie features a lot of running and hiding, and little else besides. To get away from the clowns, our heroes duck inside an old school bus in the middle of a field. Convinced the coast is clear, they next sprint to an abandoned trailer, where they hide once again; and later, while scurrying around a deserted warehouse, they do their damnedest to avoid a pair of clowns. These repetitive scenes might have worked if they’d generated even the slightest bit of tension. But they don’t; and as a result the movie spins its wheels for a fair portion of its run time.

The head clown (played by David Greathouse) is definitely creepy, and the film features a couple of well-executed kill scenes (including one involving a crowbar to the face), but as far as positives go, that’s all that ClownTown has to offer. In fact, the movie is so lackluster that I doubt it will even scare those with a pre-existing phobia of clowns!

ClownTown is just… blah.

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