I don’t know about you, but clowns never scared me as a kid. In fact, much as they do to this day, clowns really annoy me. Now, I don’t want you to think that I was predestined to hate this film before I ever even saw it, because Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise in Stephen King’s seminal spook fest It, did wonders for creeping me out late at night. In fact his taunting cackle of “they all float down here” still gives me chills. I wish that I could say the same for Shivers the Clown, the baddie behind the fear in this clown film. But, even though the character is menacing and the make-up is pretty cool, Shivers left me cold.
Jacky Reres portrays Lynn, a down on her luck artist whose fortunes, in some respects, are about to change for the better. Lynn paints clowns. Not happy, cheerful, kiddy loving clowns, but mean, nasty, scary ass clowns that would just as soon bite the head off your puppy dog as produce some boring balloon animals. Lynn has a lot of issues to work out. To start with her psychiatrist husband is divorcing her, suing for sole custody of the kids and petitioning the court for alimony payments as well. All this has made Lynn a bit wary of men, but that doesn’t stop suave businessman Tuck Flynn (Rick Ganz) from trying to sweep her off her feet by purchasing an $8,000 painting at her latest showing. If all that isn’t enough, a killer clown that may be working for her husband, a strange art collector or Flynn himself, is stalking Lynn and killing off her friends.
This little flick has a few things going for it, and a lot of things going against it. So lets start with the good. As I mentioned before, Mark Lassise’s performance as Shivers is solid. He has little to work with and virtually no dialogue but his intimidating presence, and a big ax, are sufficient enough to strike a few nerves jingling. We see a bit of information about Shivers past, almost enough to piece together why he is trying to kill Lynn but not quite enough to flesh Shivers out as a certifiable horror film madman. In the same sense Jacky Reres gives a solid showing as Lynn, which is exceedingly important since she is the only identifiable character in the picture. Unfortunately, Lynn is as two dimensional as the Clown. She seems to have a backstory, but it never feels immediate and I suspect that some of that history may have hit the cutting room floor. The cast is rounded out by Frank Lama who portrays Detective Peters like some strange homage to Bruce Campbell. Detective Peters serves virtually no purpose other than to suspect the wrong killer and show up in the final frames to save the day. This is textbook stuff here and it gets old real quick.
First off, Fear of Clowns needs to lose at least 15 minutes of flab. Some scenes seemed to run on for what felt like eons. Others were entirely unnecessary. The film lost its focus about mid-way through when one of the major characters is eliminated and the backstory on Shivers begins to unfold. The pacing starts to pick up again, but loses steam during the final reel which also features one of the most indescribable moments of “what the hell are you thinking logic” I’ve seen from a movie character in a long time.
The DVD edition of Fear of Clowns does feature one highlight, a solid behind the scenes featurette that looks at the entire breadth of production, specifically highlighting some of the major problems, including a hurricane, which slowed or stopped the crew. The Filmmakers also noted several scenes that required the dialogue to be done in ADR due to outside noise issues. This was specifically interesting since, for a low budget production such as this, the scenes that were overdubbed, showed no outward signs of the sometimes-annoying procedure. It is my understanding that a Fear of Clowns II is in the works, I can assume that it will feature the further exploits of Shivers. It is my sincere hope that part II trims the running time and ups the scare quotient exponentially; perhaps proving the audience with some of the promise the original fails to deliver.