The notion that clowns are scary has become a more easily propagated meme in the web age. Before the Internet we had Poltergeist and – to a lesser extent – Killer Klowns From Outer Space to assure us of how scary clowns were, but you only have to do an image search for ‘scary clown’ to see how effective a cultural artefact it is.
So it’s kind of amazing it’s taken this long for a movie that feels like it wants to be the definitive statement on how scary clowns can be. When the clown organised for his son’s birthday party is cancelled at the last minute – and knowing how crushed his little boy would be – real estate agent Kent (Andy Powers) finds an old clown suit in one of the properties he’s preparing to sell, putting it on to turn up at the party and delight everyone.
Exhausted, Kent falls asleep that night with the make-up, nose and outfit still on, and things go from bemused to scary over the next few days as he finds he can’t get the white face, coloured wig, red nose or suit off for love nor money.
The suit, it turns out thanks to the exposition of Central Casting’s wise old sage 101 character – Karlsson (Peter Stormare) – is actually a demon that inhabits the wearer, one who lived hundreds of years before in Europe and lived off the flesh of children in rural villages. Before long Kent is going to have the same strange cravings, horrified at his new hunger and running away from his family to hide in the dark while it overpowers him.
The make-up turns dirty, the rainbow wig turns dusty and the clothes get tattered, but they’re soon stuck to Kent for good as he turns slowly into a monster.
One of the best-handled aspects of the film is the transition. It’s actually quite clever the way it deals with something most of us would find so ridiculous as not being able to remove clown makeup for days on end, all while trying to deal with work, family, etc until the time comes when we have to admit something’s seriously wrong.
As Kent loses more of his humanity and turns into a demon that wants to hunt down and eat children, his wife Meg (Laura Allen) teams up with Karlsson to try and lift the curse and save her husband’s life. There are some very cool and effective horror scenes and set pieces, and as if knowing it would be a little bit one-note without some blood and guts, it doesn’t scrimp.