“Listen to me closely. Get out of the house now. I’ll call the police. We don’t have a clown statue.”
Wait, a high school girl was brutally murdered? There’s a manhunt underway?! Look, of course Emma (Brittany Belland) appreciates what a tragedy this is. At the same time, it’s the most exciting thing to happen to this sleepy little college town in decades, so she can’t help but get some morbid thrills out of this whole deal.
That is, until Emma starts finding red balloons all over her house, each with the date and time of her impending death scrawled on them. Ominous sounds! Night terrors with puffy sleeves and oversized, white gloves! And, y’know, the more I think about it, the less sure I am that it was her puppy licking Emma’s hand as she dozed off to sleep.
You see where all this is going: these are, after all, the tell-tale signs of a clowntergeist.
‘Clowntergeist’ has so many checkmarks in the “Win” column: an inexplicably British sheriff, a grieving father decked out like Quint in ‘Jaws’ and hunting harlequin with a crossbow, and, yes, a clowntergeist. Heck, even its two leading ladies – roommates Emma and Heather (Monica Baker) – are capable, immediately likeable actresses who deftly handle everything this horror flick throws their way.
The lengthy opening sequence is admittedly no great shakes, dragged down by clunky dialogue, limp scares, and one of the film’s weaker performances, but that’s a distant memory soon enough. From there, the movie breezes along at a brisk pace. I found myself genuinely enjoying hanging out with its central characters, and I just sat there with a smile, eagerly anticipating the looming clowntergeistocalypse.
Alas, ‘Clowntergeist’ doesn’t manage to live up to its entrancingly ridiculous title. More than anything, it’s just not clowntergeist-y enough. Forget the nightmarish figure in Amazon Video’s teaser art; at no point does Ribcage the Clown (Eric Corbin) ever come close to resembling that. Sure, he has a misshapen pretzel walk ripped straight out of a J-horror flick, but otherwise, Ribcage is an awfully straightforward lookin’ clown. He’s just not that menacing a presence.
Further distancing him from the likes of Pennywise, he doesn’t talk much either. Yeah, there are the messages that Ribcage scribbles on balloons, demonic voices gurgling from ghastly images of the dead, and I guess he bought a Mr. Microphone to taunt fleeing victims from their car stereos. It just feels like a missed opportunity for a demonically-possessed clown to just slowly, quietly walk around. The aftermaths of his attacks are gory and brutal, but most of what we see unfold on-camera are just choking or vomiting up a couple gallons of chocolate syrup. C’mon, where’s all the dementedly inventive, clown-themed mayhem?
The whole “-tergeist” angle is similarly squandered. A chair squeaks over a few inches. Car doors lock by themselves. Shades of a certain someone taking a chomp out of a chicken leg and scraping off a faceful of decaying skin, there are some swiftly executed murders that turn out to just be waking nightmares. It’s just that all hell never really breaks loose the way I was expecting. It’s also soon revealed that Ribcage can be wounded when he’s on the attack, making him seem far less unstoppable than the non-corporeal threats typical to ghost movies.
At the end of the day, ‘Clowntergeist’ still ranks as OK. The key roles are well-cast. Even though many of its scares are routine, it ekes out some tension from the constantly ticking clock, filling the audience in on when and for whom the
bellclown tolls. Its low-budget seams are noticeable but not terribly intrusive, such as how you never actually see a collision in the frantic chase against an ice cream truck or the occasionally awkwardly balanced / poorly recorded audio in the restaurant. The big reveal at the end doesn’t really make any sense either, but whatever.
It’s just that if you’re hellbent on making a movie titled ‘Clowntergeist’, go for broke! Its scares aren’t intense or inspired enough to make for much of a horror flick, and ‘Clowntergeist’ doesn’t embrace the absurdity of its premise enough to be memorably ridiculous. I never really thought I’d say “Y’know, Clowntergeist isn’t nearly as good as I thought it’d be!”, and yet here we are.
‘Clowntergeist’ is currently streaming on Amazon Video, and it’s included with your Prime membership. Apologies if I’m being presumptuous by assuming you subscribe.