Clowntergeist is a bizarre little piece of independent horror that does two things I absolutely love. First, it uses a terrifyingly crazed clown as its antagonist. I mean, let’s face it, there’s not a lot else in the mundane world that can cause an irrational fear in a person quite like a clown. Second, it uses a lot of old urban legends in strange new ways to tell a story about a killer clown on a spree in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Was it the dog licking your hand in the middle of the night, or the crazed killer hiding under your bed? Can I cover that creepy clown statue in the living room? What clown statue? We don’t own a clown statue!
The premise is interesting to say the least, though the execution leaves a bit to be desired. In a small college town in the middle-of-nowhere a demon possessed clown is going on a killing spree. A young girl named Emma, terrified of clowns, has just become his next target. The more Emma tries to run, allows her fear to drive her, the more the people around her die at the hands of Ribcage the Clown.
Let’s talk about that name for just a second. Because a creepy, homicidal clown isn’t just horrifying enough in itself, let’s name him Ribcage because of his penchant for ripping his victims apart and leaving their exposed ribs open for the whole world to see. It’s the horrifying calling card of a maniac who intends to inflict as much fear into his victims as any amount of pain. Unfortunately, Ribcage isn’t the malevolent mastermind pulling the strings.
If you don’t want a major plot point ruined for you, I’d go ahead and watch Clowntergeist now before you read any more on this review.
No? Nothing? You still want to keep reading, huh? Well, I tried.
So, Ribcage the Clown goes from being malevolent, murderous mastermind to little more than a poorly trained housepet when it’s revealed that beloved old ice cream man Pops is actually the one pulling the strings. Where an ice cream man learned how to speak ancient languages, control arcane magics, and still manage to build a reputation as the most beloved old guy town is all a mystery. What becomes clear is that he has a very twisted sense of right and wrong and absolutely no understanding about popular psychology. With Ribcage in tow, he uses his demon jester to terrorize young girls with an irrational fear of clowns. He hopes that they will overcome this fear and be better people but, when his killer clown therapy doesn’t work, well, Ribcage gonna do what Ribcage gonna do.
The scariest thing about this isn’t the homicidal clown but the old man’s belief that a homicidal clown will somehow cure the fear of clowns in a group of collegiate girls.
To quote the greatest philosopher of the 1990’s, Bart Simpson, “Once again, a knife wielding maniac has shown us the way.”
The idea behind Clowntergeist is interesting and could easily become something phenomenal. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The characters and their motivations are just not as clearly developed as you’d hope to see and, as far as the overall narrative, there’s a lot of dead space that could have been filled with some back story. Why clowns? Why Ribcage? How’d he become demon possessed and what really pushed Pops to think that this would help ANYONE?
The cinematography and lighting are wonderful as are some of the performances by ancillary characters. The scenes out on the highway at night are genuinely creepy and the atmosphere they manage to create through the entire film definitely makes it worth a watch. It isn’t spectacular especially in the age of IT and crazed clowns on the evening news, but it does leave an impression on an audience that will be felt.
Are you willing to let the Clowntergeist cure you?
Beware. This review is dark and full of spoilers.
Okay, so this can be seen as either a movie about a demonic clown that hunts down and brutally murders people who are afraid of clowns or a coming of age story about a young woman overcoming her fears. Either way, it’s a good watch.
The pacing is pretty good; before the opening credits are over we glimpse our good friend Ribcage the Clown as he tears into a terrified coed. There are no real lulls in the movie, (there are some lulz though) but I feel like there could have been more time devoted to what the hell is really going on in this little town. We get a whole scene of the protagonist and her roomie making fun of a character that was on screen for less than a minute. We get nothing, however, about the father of the aforementioned coed doing demonology research and finding a way to stop the clown. I feel like some of the dialog that was meant to flesh out characters kind of wasted time that could have went into building a more solid narrative.
For example, a flashback of the man behind the demonic creature either gaining control of the demon or the moment in his life that fucked him up enough to think that what he was doing was a good plan would have been nice. What man and what plan you ask? Well it seems that the kindly old ice cream man, Pops is scared to death of clowns. So he did what any rational adult would do. He gained control of a demon possessed clown in order to scare and kill people that suffer from coulrophobia. How did he do that? How does he choose his victims? Who the hell named that clown? No clue. What we do know is that Pops and his pet Juggalo are dead set on ridding the world of clown phobias one descent into madness and brutal murder at a time.
There are some great creepy moments in this movie. The way Ribcage moves is great; he comes off as a great mixture of crazy, malevolent, and broken. The clown leaves red balloons with messages on them and that gets pretty unnerving if you can get past the obvious nod to IT. I mean they could have been a different color; but now I’m just nitpicking. There was one scene where Ribcage vomits what looks like black face paint all over this guy. Just thick, black, shiny grossness all over his face. What they don’t tell you is that that is how Juggalos are made. One day, you’re in the kitchen hiding from a demon clown that ends up barfing on you then the next thing you know, you’re listening to rapping clowns that make other people want to puke. So yeah, even without Michael Bay level effects, this movie brings some scares.
All in all it was a good flick, I suggest you check it out. Unless you’re afraid of clowns in which case you should probably be watching for the ice cream man. You never know, he could be stashing a grease paint smeared demon next to the bomb pops. Until next time, clowny daggers, y’all.