By BREANNA WHIPPLE
Starring Elissa Dowling, Sadie Katz, Randy Wayne
Written and Directed by Minh Collins
Distributed by Grindstone Entertainment Group
I dig the hell outta clown horror and given that It (2017) remains the highest grossing horror movie of all time, I’m sure you dig it too. Though plagued by abysmal entries like any other horror sub-category, I’ve typically been able to find the hilarity behind murderous clowns even in the weakest of stories. With this put into consideration, I’ll be truthful in admitting I was fairly optimistic when it came time to consume CLOWN FEAR, the latest in low-budget clown horror from director Minh Collins.
CLOWN FEAR is a grimy little movie that seemingly derives inspiration from the world-famous Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada. For those of you unfamiliar, it is a motel dominated by clown decor smack-dab in the middle of the desert. Much like this very real roadside attraction, CLOWN FEAR borrows this niche tourist trap and expands it to further possess an entire community with an all-encompassing clown obsession.
We end up in the middle of this bizarre, clown-crazed community when bride-to-be, Carlee (Sadie Katz) and her trio of bridesmaids happen to have a tire blow out in the parking lot of the Clown Hotel. Much of the film’s 110 minute runtime then becomes focused on following the bridal party as they interact with the seemingly socially inept members of the community, ignoring every red flag presented as folks in horror movies often do.
I must admit, I was slightly taken aback by the level of ambition driving this story. I was genuinely surprised upon discovering that the whacky clown mania all stemmed from a local legend, and that the indoctrinated members of the community were driven to fanaticism primarily based out of fear. Being quite fond of horror that heavily flirts with urban legends, my enthusiasm only blossomed further upon discovering that drinking heavily and chain-smoking cigarettes was the primary way to keep the murderous clowns at bay. I thought I had died and gone to some sort of weird, trashy heaven. I was also impressed by the set design, namely in the third act. This didn’t seem like Party City clown stuff to me, either—it felt like a great amount of thought and attention was invested into the creative design, and I really enjoyed taking it all in. Though a feast for the eyes, I can’t help but wonder what the finished product would’ve been had that commendable level of attentiveness been evenly dispersed instead.
I didn’t abandon all hope initially. Truth be told, I thought I was in for one of those ‘so-bad-its-good’ trips that are a perfect companion for cocktail parties with fellow horror-fiends. I suspect this was written with tongue firmly placed in cheek, however the trashy atmosphere wore thin very quickly, even if intended to be self-aware. As is typically the case with clown films, I was expecting the obnoxious monstrosities to be delivered by the grease-painted heathens themselves; The clowns ended up not only being the least bonkers piece in this disastrous puzzle, but also the least insufferable to watch. Though it did contain enjoyable moments of inventive kills inspired by traditional carnival fare, these brief flashes in the pan weren’t enough to save the overall experience for me. Had CLOWN FEAR focused more on the clowns themselves rather than the overwhelmingly drawn out and awkward bouts of dialogue, I think it would’ve been a more digestible entry of junky horror.
I had very low expectations heading into this, and somehow still managed to leave disappointed. As aforementioned, the potential was there… However, CLOWN FEAR ended up leaving me laughing for all the wrong reasons.