Fear of Clowns DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Lionsgate
That is the biggest fucking clown I've ever seen. – Detective Peters
Written and directed by Kevin Kangas
2004, Region 1 (NTSC), 106 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on February 28th, 2006
Jacky Reres as Lynn Blodgett
Mark Lassise as The Clown
Rick Ganz as Tucker Reid
Frank Lama as Detective Peters
Lauren Pellegrino as Amanda
Carl Randolph as Bert
Andrew Schneider as Phillip
Lisa Willis Brush as Julie
Things are not going well for Lynn (Jacky Reres). Not well at all. Her life is the epitome of Murphy's Law — if things can go wrong they will.
The movie opens with Lynn telling a friend she is leaving her husband. Lynn explains that when she told her husband she was leaving him, he became abusive. This is already a sign of things to come.
After her lunch date, she goes home, only to find police activity a couple of doors down from where she is house-sitting. Apparently the occupants of the house were murdered.
Things seem to get better when she sells one of her paintings for $8,000 at an exhibit at a premier art gallery, but then her husband shows up to make her night miserable. However, the gentleman who bought the painting, Tucker Reed (Rick Ganz — Hunting Humans), has offered to show her where he works. Obviously, there is a connection between the two, and she agrees to go. But after some pool and a few drinks, Tucker and Lynn are leaving his office when they are promptly mugged.
That night, while on the phone with the curator of the art gallery, Lynn hears a noise from the back porch. Low and behold, when she flicks on the light to see what caused the noise, she sees a clown staring back at her. She promptly faints.
When she is awoken by a paramedic, she tells a police officer, who is also on the scene, about the clown she saw. The officer relays Lynn's story to a detective — the same one who is investigating the murder of the family a few doors down. However, the detective does not believe her. He thinks it is a publicity stunt.
It should be mentioned that Lynn has coulrophobia — the fear of clowns. And her paintings? Clowns. But not the Ronald McDonald-type clowns that bring visions of happiness to some, but clowns like Pennywise. The clowns that will eat your flesh for dinner and devour your soul for dessert.
Show of hands — who hates clowns? Exactly.
Fear of Clowns is Kevin Kangas' sophomore project, his first being Hunting Humans. Humans was an outstanding first film and I eagerly awaited his next film, in no small part because it dealt with something that scares the living hell out of me: clowns. So when I got my grubby hands on the movie screener for Clowns, I immediately sat down to watch it.
Was I disappointed? Absolutely not.
Did it live up to my expectations? Absolutely.
First, Kangas has gotten noticeably better with the camera. As mentioned in my Humans review, he is quickly developing his own style of filmmaking. There are numerous scenes in Clowns that are shot very, very well. One in particular — which I will not spoil — is so good, I rewound the film twice to watch it again. Kangas has an uncanny knack for framing shots in such a way that they not only have terrific tension, but sometimes give you a little surprise when he pans out. And I'm not talking about found-a-five-in-the-couch-cushions surprise. I'm talking about the type of surprise you get when you look in your rear-view mirror and someone's in the back seat looking back at you. Smiling. With a cleaver. Kangas is good, and it is frightening to think how good he would be if given the money and the opportunity to make a major motion picture.
Also immediately noticeable is that Kangas Khan Films' (previously Marauder Productions) production values have gone through the roof. While Humans was grainy and blurry, Clowns is clear and free from grain. Even the night shots are well done. Granted, the grain worked for Humans, but Clowns looks so good on the screener, I cannot wait for the actual release.
In addition to the production values, the quality of the actors has increased dramatically. Newcomer Jacky Reres, as Lynn, has a great deal of potential. While she does overact a tad in a few scenes, it is evident that, with a few more films under her belt, she could be a familiar face not only in the Maryland film scene, but beyond. According to the Internet Movie Database, this is Reres' first role, and she does more than an adequate job of handling the lead.
Hunting Humans star Rick Ganz turns in another solid performance as the mysterious Tucker Reid. He plays the role perfectly as someone you trust one minute and wonder what he is up to the next. His best scenes are those with Frank Lama, the smarmy Detective Peters because that's when his sarcasm shines. Ganz has great timing — particularly comedic — and that is when he is at his best.
Lama, as the detective, is a riot. While he is a little wooden in some scenes, every time he busts out his sarcasm, he is laugh-out-loud funny. If William Shatner and Bruce Campbell had a baby, his name would be Frank Lama. Lama is a solid supporting actor and I hope to see him in more roles.
Mark Lassise, as "Shivers" the clown, is a far cry from his role as Sonny Renko in Vampire Sisters. In Sisters, Lassise was a cocky and arrogant tough-guy, while in Clowns he's the polar opposite: silent and maniacal. And he's brilliant at it. Lassise doesn't have many lines, but his menacing looks and ominous presence take the killer clown to another level. Not just a homicidal maniac with some face paint, Lassise makes "Shivers" the clown that wakes you up at night in a cold sweat, reaching for the light and hoping when you turn it on, he's not really there.
The kills in Clowns are a step up from Humans as well. Scratch that. They aren't a step up, they are a whole flight of stairs up. From a decapitation to a dismemberment, Shivers is efficient at what he does best — and it isn't entertaining kids at birthday parties. While the camera shouldn't have lingered on the severed head for so long (it loses a little of its realism), it was still quite entertaining seeing the brainpan bounce off a car windshield.
If there is one thing that takes the edge off the film, it is that you see a lot of Shivers. Kangas dances a fine line between too much and too little and, unfortunately, he crosses over the line just enough that you don't fear the lunatic as much as you should. For instance, in Jaws, the shark does not get as much screen time as some people think. Instead, it is the simple idea of Jaws that scares people. Granted, this damn clown will still keep me awake at night, but fewer appearances and, thus, more suspense would have made me forget even trying to sleep.
Fear of Clowns is a great second offering from Kangas, and he is obviously learning as he moves forward in his career. There are some legitimate scares in Clowns, some owing strictly to great, subtle camera moves. Once again, Kangas manages to make a standout film on a limited budget — a film that rivals many Hollywood productions.
Review (second look):
Recently, Lionsgate released Fear of Clowns straight to DVD, but it was a more trimmed-down version than the previous release. Where the original cut of Clowns was a hefty 120 minutes, the new cut is a much leaner 106 minutes.
This new cut really helps the film flow a lot smoother, because Kangas took out some of the excess scenes that — while they seemed to work in the original version — are better off gone. One scene in particular, a mugging, has completely vanished. And it’s cuts like those that help the film.
The thinner clown is more attractive, so it gets a bump in grade.
Video and Audio:
The 2.35:1 picture is outstanding — colors are very natural and blacks are deep and solid. And even though it was shot on digital, the movie has a film-like quality to it. It doesn’t seem to suffer in the darker scenes, which seems to hurt many low-budget movies shot on digital.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix sounds as good as the video looks. Dialogue is always crisp, clear and easy to understand. The terrific score is at the perfect level and never overpowers the dialogue.
English and Spanish subtitles are available.
- Filmmaker’s Commentary
- “No Clowning Around: The Making of Fear of Clowns”
- Trailer Gallery
The commentary with Kevin Kangas and his brother, Joe — who also did the clown paintings seen in the movie, as well as played a major role in designing Shivers’ “look” — is hilarious and informative. There are occasional moments of silence, but the quality of the commentary makes up for those moments. Plus you learn the rules to make Clowns a drinking game. You can’t go wrong with that.
“No Clowning Around: The Making of Fear of Clowns” is a must watch. Clocking in at just over half an hour, it contains interviews with both Kangases and actors Rick Ganz, Mark Lassise, Jacky Reres and Frank Lama. It also has some behind-the-scenes footage of the movie, including a wannabe Eminem and a friend auditioning for a part, as well as a videotape audition of Lauren Pellegrino’s kicking her own ass. Good times.
The outtakes are your standard fare, worth at least one watch, and the included trailers are for Fear of Clowns, Saw II, Cerberus, Buried Alive, Three... Extremes and Waiting.
Kangas has put out another impressive film with Fear of Clowns. It's well written, well directed and another reason why Hollywood should stand up and take notice of Kangas and filmmakers like him — these guys are breaking the mold for horror movies.