One of the horror genre’s most famous and long-lasting tropes is the perversion of seemingly innocent iconography in an attempt to scare the audience when they’re at their most vulnerable. At this point, however, we seem to be more familiar with the “scary” perverted image of clowns than their kid-friendly roots, so it’s no surprise that every year more killer clown movies are produced. The latest of these is Aaron Mirtes’ supernatural thriller, Clowntergeist!
Clowntergeist follows Brittany Belland as Emma, a college girl with coulrophobia living with her friend Heather (Monica Baker), when an evil clown-themed spirit begins to terrorize her small town. As the supernatural attacks grow ever closer and deadlier, Emma must face her fears and discover why she seems to be the demonic clown’s next target.
The plot actually sounds fun enough for an unpretentious b-movie romp, with lots of potential for amusing chase sequences and outlandish visuals. However, Mirtes attempts to take this story seriously (for the most part), allowing for only a few extravagant moments in an otherwise decent but unremarkable film. The big issue here is how Clowntergeist attempts to be frightening while working with an inherently humorous (not to mention slightly stale) concept.
That’s not to say that the movie is entirely devoid of a sense of humor, but it’s clear that Mirtes doesn’t quite embrace the ridiculousness of this premise, while simultaneously being unable to escape from it. That leaves the film trapped in a kind of limbo, where it’s not frightening or dramatic enough to work as a proper horror film and not fun or comedic enough to work as a traditional B-movie.
Nevertheless, there are still a few legitimately thrilling sequences peppered throughout the film, with some interesting visuals and creative direction. Hell, the movie even boasts an ice cream truck chase, complete with whimsical music in the background, highlighting the absurdity of the situation. The allusions to popular urban legends were also a nice touch, as the film is clearly at its best when playing with popular scary clown tropes.
Clowntergeist also treats us to some unexpectedly likable main characters, which is always a plus when a movie expects the audience to root for the protagonists during horrific circumstances. Emma and Heather’s friendship is genuinely believable and helps to sell some of the less credible scenes later in the film. Sadly, there isn’t much character depth beyond that, especially with the clown antagonist (who’s also incredibly hard to take seriously when we finally see him in broad daylight).
Either way, Clowntergeist isn’t a bad movie, it just doesn’t come close to fully taking advantage of its premise. Fortunately, the film hits more than it misses, but it’s still not enough to stand out among all the other killer clown flicks. There aren’t any Pennywise-level scares to be had here, but Clowntergeist is still worth a late-night watch if you’re in need of an urgent killer clown fix.
Clowntergeist will be available on VOD September 12th!
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