JBB Featured Film Reviewer

Ben Nagy reviews ‘Clown Fear’: So This is What a Psycho Clown Society Looks Like

Clown Fear calls back to the 1960s gore shocker 2,000 Maniacs, but instead of hillbilly rednecks doing the murdering, it’s a bunch of folks in facepaint who couldn't cut it at the circus.

It’s sorta like The Hills Have Eyes, with fewer cannibals, and the oldie-but-goodie 2,000 Maniacs, with less gore

There’s nothing funny about the murderous clowns who torment a wedding party someplace well outside of Vegas in Clown Fear.

The general idea of this one calls back to the 1960s gore shocker 2,000 Maniacs, but instead of hillbilly rednecks doing the murdering, it’s a bunch of folks in facepaint who in my imagination are actually the abandoned offspring of the great Sid Haig’s Capt. Spaulding after he went on a bender at Circus Circus. You get some elements of Psycho and of Last House on the Left and from a thematic standpoint, Clown Fear is sorta like the original Hills Have Eyes with clowns.

We start out with a redneck clown who doesn’t appear to be wearing any pants, a giant clown of African-American descent and a little person clown. They have a woman trussed in a basement somewhere and eventually do a number on her with the assistance of another non-disguised woman. A girl who was having trouble getting to sleep walks in while they were in the process of disposing of this “Outsider” and the murderers are none too pleased with her presence. They send her butt back to bed, telling her she’s not old enough to be murdering people yet.

After murder No. 1, we flash forward 10 years later and a woman, Britney, has flipped her car on the highway after nearly hitting something on the road. The clowns have been industrious, establishing their version of the Bates Motel called The Clown Inn just off the side of the highway in “Clown City.”

Britney (Sarah French) presumably checks into the Clown Inn and arranges for the car to be towed from the scene of the wreck (we don’t see that part). After admiring the circus-themed decor, she then decides to take a shower (we see that part).

After all that, we get our second murder of the flick as Britney gets a knife through the back of her skull that goes through her mouth, just like that one scene in Lucio Fulcl’s House By the Cemetery but not before she kicks the little person clown in the head, presumably killing him because we don’t ever see him again for the rest of the movie, and saying, “That’s what you get, you little perv.”

R.I.P, Brit. We hardly knew ya, but at least you were hygienic prior to before the clowns got you.

So after our second first victim (did I mention this flick runs nearly two hours?), the main characters we’re supposed to be caring about are introduced. We meet Carlee (Sadie Katz) and Tommy (Gianni Capaldi), who have been together for something like seven years and they’re finally getting hitched in Vegas by a minister who doesn’t know his Bible from his Poor Richard’s Almanack. Tommy has his philosophical best man, Myles (Rufus Dorsey) with him, while Carlee’s bridal party consists of spunky Mia (Augie Duke), Amber (Tiffany Fest) and Nicole (Nikki Kris).

Things don’t go well.

Tommy goes down to Carlee’s car because she forgot her ID or something, there he finds Carlee’s phone and it receives an ill-timed text message suggesting that Carlee was less than faithful to him the night before. El kaput-o for the wedding — the women take their leave and head on down the highway until they, you guessed it, blow out a tire right near the Clown Inn.

Here are the ladies of Clown Fear, from left, Nicole (Nikki Kris), Mia (Augie Duke), Carlee (Sadie Katz), Amber (Tiffani Fest) and Kat (Courtney Akbar). By flick’s end, they had a 60 percent survival rate, which honestly isn’t bad for a homicidal clown movie.

They head to the inn and intend to stay for the night until they can get the wheel of Carlee’s Mustang convertible fixed, and bond in a manner in which only a drunken Vegas bridal party holding a bunch of pot can with a 20-something named Kat (Courtney Akbar) who is working the front desk. “You’re 24 and never been laid?” Carlee says incredulously. “You’re quite the enigma.”

Meanwhile Tommy still has Carlee’s phone and another text comes from the person whom Carlee cheated with and it ends up being a woman, so all is forgiven since that’s the kind of guy Tommy is and he and Myles decide to drive after the women who have a couple hours’ head start and darkness is falling.

I’ll give you one guess where they end up…

That and we find out that the entire Clown City populace, including the menacing cops, are part of this clowny cult whose members don red noses in broad daylight and put on a deadly carnival when there are outsiders to off. Clown City is also home to the world’s most seductive tow truck driver, who goes by the name Jebidiah. 

Director Minh Collins really could have gone farther down the path set by Hills Have Eyes and other “death to outsiders” type of movies by making the clowns cannibals. This movie runs about a half-hour too long for an exploitation flick, and the screener I watched had some sound clipping issues and a few of the scenes were too damn dark when, if you’re doing a flick about killer clowns, some garish primary-colored lighting would have been a better thematic choice. By lopping off some exposition and substituting some gore and a bit more thought into the on-screen carnage (practically everyone attempting to throw the ball to trigger the acid dunk tank had tee-ball-level throwing skills), some of the fat also coulda been trimmed in exchange for more drive-in elements.

Speaking of redness in unexpected places…

  • Best Reason to Call it All Off: Tommy’s instinct was right with the Vegas wedding scene. When given the opportunity, Carlie hooks up with the Clown City’s resident tow truck driver, Jebidiah.
  • Best Man With a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Myles predicts his own demise “the black guy always dies in horror movies,” he tells Tommy. A few minutes later, he’s right.
  • Best Opportunity for Life-Changing Re-evaluation: Myles succinctly offers Tommy a reason why the ceremony fell through as they drink and drive in pursuit of the girls. “Because bitches are crazy for real,. OK, I mean, I’m down with the hashtag metoo and all, but bitches are really f—–g crazy,” he says. His message resonated with the jilted Tommy because …
  • Best Impersonation of a One-Man Gang: In order to properly avenge the demise of his best man, Tommy wanders through the desert, slapping himself in the head and dropping F-bombs until he finds a blunt object and happens upon the clowns doing Spin-the-Wheel in conjunction with Russian roulette. Tommy then unleashes his fury, pledging vengeance in the name of Myles and a decapitated bunny rabbit and basically beating the crap out of the three clowns, including executing a Jake “The Snake” Roberts DDT on one of them. The melee ends when Joey’s girl makes the save from behind with a crowbar, basically putting Tommy out of commission until the last 15 minutes of the movie when an improbable reconciliation occurs.
Put me in, coach: Head killer clown Joey (Marv Blauvelt) in reality was a disgruntled softball player who ran off to join the circus and sadly struck out there too.
  • Best Player on the Clown Softball Team: The boss clown played by Marc Blauvelt prefers aluminum bats to pies and creams the exposition-delivering Matthew after he delivers a big monologue about a mine disaster that inspired a bunch of carnies to come to the area and mate with the mine workers’ widows that added to the film’s length. Matt also attempted to get with Kat in the hot spring, so Swingin Marv had two reasons to beat him to a pulp.
  • Best Deliverer of Lines: Mia says, “I mean, who even builds a creepy clown motel in the middle of nowhere without being a little deranged,” then drops a Pennywise reference, and then comments on Joey’s woman, who’s the hotel manager and mom to Kat: “She’s one taco short of a combination plate.” She also takes a bath.

Two stars.

Check out Clown Fear on DVD, the Avail streaming channel and on Amazon Prime.

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