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MOVIE REVIEW: “GAGS THE CLOWN” needs more gags

Sunday, October 6, 2019 | Review

Starring: Lauren Ashley Carter, Tracy Perez, Aaron Christensen
Directed by: Adam Krause
Written by: Adam Krause, John Pata
Doppelganger Releasing

And so the welter of “evil clowns” continues. But along with “seedy backwoods homicidal maniac” (Captain Spaulding in H01KC / THE DEVIL’S REJECTS) and “Cosmic Horror archetype” (Pennywise in IT), “damaged criminal supervillain” (The Joker, whichever version you choose), or “grotty splatter-film homage” (Art The Clown in TERRIFIER) – just to name a few – here’s a “found footage/POV/Viral media” version! (with “Documentary/Mockumentary” styled WRINKLES THE CLOWN coming soon as well!)

GAGS THE CLOWN begins in media res as people in Green Bay, Wisconsin have reported sightings of a mute, ominous, creepy clown (dubbed “Gags” by the local media, natch) holding black balloons and lurking in various spots, which starts a low-level panic. Various denizens of the city find themselves (intentionally and unintentionally) drawn into the mysterious figure’s orbit. Young adults Tyler (Michael Gideon Sherry), Chris (Squall Charlson) & Sara (Halley Sharp) only want to film drunken pranks on unsuspecting people. Police officers Renard (Tracy Perez) & Gruber (Evan Gamble) simply want to keep the peace, as their job demands they interact with the panicked populace. Conservative podcaster Charles Wright (Aaron Christensen) wants ratings, as he demands vigilante justice on the freaky prankster, even if he must hunt it up (and film it) himself. And local TV news reporter Heather Duprey (Lauren Ashley Carter), who initially scoffs at the reports, find herself drawn into the story as well, following deaths at a parking garage (and some professional rivalry). And as others begin to succumb to strange powder spewed from the popped balloons (which induces a trance state and acts of self-mutilation), all the characters begin to converge at the same locale…


GAGS is an uneven film. No doubt, the [clown’s] decayed visage is effective in small doses.”


Told in a choppy, collage style that intercuts POV video, surveillance footage, news reports and the like, GAGS is an uneven film. No doubt, the decayed visage of the titular figure (with black hollows for eyes) is effective in small doses. But the demands of the film’s approach – in that it wants to be a POV video horror film, while maybe vaguely saying something about viral internet culture – leaves the viewer with no identifier characters and too much jumping around, which undermines any suspense it might generate. Gestures towards deeper details (the powder infections, the implication that Gags is somehow tied to a circus fire in 1974) come to almost nothing and seem lazy filler in retrospect. Just know that Gags remains a silent enigma throughout, always distanced and mute. The ending, set in the gloomy warren of an industrial park, generates some chills – especially the initial reveal of Gag’s “lair” or “focus point” – but the film’s overall loose-limbed structure works against it, frustrating the viewer,

Gags appears and disappears with regularity…

The acting and humor is mostly serviceable, although at times stiff or cartoonish, and the film’s adoption of POV/Found Footage cliches (in which climactic scenes of terror or revelation suddenly judder/stutter and cut to black) cements these narrative moves as having overstayed their welcome. In the end, there’s a pointlessness to the whole thing that a stronger script could have fixed (the finale preceeding the final “gag”, involving some released balloons, could easily have lent the film an apocalyptic climax with a little thought). Is GAGS THE CLOWN a bad movie, then? Well, it’s not terrible, and if you want a low-impact, “scary clown” film you could do worse, especially if you dig the BLAIR WITCH/PARANORMAL ACTIVITY aesthetic. Perhaps best for younger audiences and undemanding adults looking for some Halloween creeps (but nothing too heavy).

Shawn Garrett
Shawn M. Garrett is the co-editor of PSEUDOPOD, the premiere horror fiction podcast, and is either the dumbest smart man or the smartest dumb man you ever met. Thanks to a youth spent in the company of Richard Matheson, Vincent Price, Carl Kolchak & Jupiter Jones, he has pursued a life-long interest in the thrilling, the horrific and the mysterious – be it in print, film, art or audio. He has worked as a sewerage groundskeeper, audio transcription editor, pornography enabler, insurance letter writer – he was once paid by Marvel Comics to pastiche the voice of Stan Lee in promotional materials and he spends his days converting old pulp fiction into digital form for minimal pay. He now lives near the ocean in a small metal box and he hopes that becoming a Yuggothian brain-in-a-jar is a viable future, as there is NO WAY he will ever read all the books he has on his lists, or listen to all the music he wants to hear. Everything that he is he owes to his late sister Susan, a shining star in the pre-internet world of fan-fiction, who left this world unexpectedly in 2010. He spends an inordinate amount of time reading, writing and watching movies.