Under normal circumstances I’d admire and appreciate a B-movie auteur beginning and ending his horror opus with two different sets of naked titties, but unfortunately Ryan Badalamenti’s SECRETS OF THE CLOWN is the exception to the rule. The first set of fake circus tits (perhaps a sly reference to the film’s title) comes at in at a brave 38-second mark, as a topless girl and her beefcake boyfriend are awakened by the sounds of a break-in, only to be quickly dispatched by a clown wielding a knife and some unnecessarily loud “jump” sound effects.
After this titillating prologue, Badalamenti settles into his meandering, convoluted plot. Val and Bobby are a volatile couple that seem to enjoy breaking up at a moment’s notice, without much in the way of explanation. Val is haunted by clown visions, and she openly and creepily relishes a clown doll from her childhood. Val has a particularly spooky clown vision which seems like enough reason to dump Bobby’s ass; as a result, Bobby ends up hitting the bottle pretty hard with his friend Jim. In a moment of recklessness, Jim picks up a bottle of liquor and smashes the feet of Val’s clown doll, a huge no-no in the SECRETS OF THE CLOWN world. A few moments later, while catching a smoke on the front porch, Jim gets his insides jacked up by the clown-slasher’s knife. You know, until he dies.
Bobby gathers with a bunch of his childhood buddies at Jim’s gravesite a month later and they all make a pact to find out who murdered their friend. Well, except for one of the buddies, who gets killed by the clown while waiting out in his car. This additional murder sends Bobby and his boys on a long-winded and frequently boring investigation to find out the true identity of the killer. The clown doll seems to be somehow involved, Val may be involved, everybody’s a suspect when it comes to not-so-scary clown murders.
Although not entirely inept, SECRETS OF THE CLOWN suffers from a silly script, obnoxious musical cues, and acting that is all over the map. Bobby (Paul Piero) has exactly one facial expression, the Adrian Brody Plaintive Deluxe, and it gets old quickly. The low-budget gore is one of the highlights of the films; sadly, all of the kill scenes are staged in the most generic, white-bread manner possible. It looks like there was enough fake blood to go around, but it’s all cosmetically spread around the murder scenes like a Bob Ross painting, whereas some crazy-ass, murder-reenactment spattering would have been more aesthetically pleasing. I know it’s nitpicking, but SECRETS OF THE CLOWN is a decent premise undermined by its complete lack of attention to detail. Everybody loves killer clowns and naked tits, so SECRETS OF THE CLOWN already has a built-in fan base; too bad the narrative gets tangled in its own rainbow shoelaces and hits the dirt at about the 45 minute mark.