J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, September 30, 2016

ClownTown: Getting Psycho in Ohio

They are like the Drayton family in the Texas Chainsaw films, but they have floppier feet and they can all fit in the same compact car. This pack of psychos likes to don clown makeup and kill unsuspecting motorists. Granted, the nights are pretty quiet in southern Ohio, but can’t they just get drunk like everyone else? The killer clowns rule the roost in Tom Nagel’s ClownTown (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

This used to be a nice, quiet town to settle down in, until Little Ricky started hacking up his babysitters. Jamie will be the next victim, but at least he will give her time for a brief nude scene first. Her death will coincide with an infamous train derailment that will precipitate a profound economic downturn for the town (sort of like what that highway bypass did to the Bates Motel). As slasher backstories go, that’s a decent start, but Nagel never really takes it anywhere.

Flashing forward two decades, two fun loving couples are driving through what sure looks like Clark County to get to a concert in Columbus. Brad is even planning to propose to Sarah, which really annoys his best bud Mike, because it will make him look bad in front his less serious girlfriend Jill. Unfortunately, they will have more pressing concerns when an ill-advised detour takes them to a nearly abandoned town terrorized by a feral gang of clowns.

So yeah, that is pretty much the long and the short of it. Everything follows strictly according to the numbers from this point forward—just one running and cowering scene followed by another. Frankly, Brad and Sarah seem unusually bad at hiding when the clowns start stalking them. Perhaps most disappointing, the villainous clowns are all rather bland, despite their flamboyant makeup. Instead, all the flair, such as it is, comes from Andrew Staton and Katie Keene as the comparatively attitudinal Mike and Jill.

How sad is it that a grisly no-budget film like ClownTown is more fun than 31, Rob Zombie’s forthcoming film? That doesn’t mean it is necessarily passable, but it doesn’t leave viewers feeling so unclean. Yet, it must be said, the fearful, mind-your-own-business southern Ohio of the film does not match the Clark Country of my experience. Not really recommended, but whatever—ClownTown opens today (9/30) in LA at the Arena Cinema.

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