“So you think there’s a paranormal circus clown after you who is nice enough to warn you before he attacks you?” -Heather, Clowntergeist
There is no denying that clowns are creepy (and if you are in doubt of that fact, you yourself are probably a clown). Is it the red noses? The manic, bordering on psychotic, ever-present grins? The fact that John Wayne Gacy, serial killer and cannibal, used to dress as a clown for children’s parties? Clowns don’t have to work at scary. Unfortunately for Aaron Mirtes’ Clowntergeist, the task proved to be too much.
Emma (Brittany Belland), a young college student, is afraid of clowns. No judgement from me, totally normal. What’s not so normal is to find a balloon in her sink. An ominous warning that a supernatural clown named Ribcage (Eric Culver) is coming after her. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? To give the clown credit, he does warn you that he’s coming and gives a date of the attack. That’s more than Pennywise ever did. Emma meets Mr. Randall (Burt Culver) whose own daughter fell victim to Ribcage the clown. He offers to help her if the police can’t. Of course, his help didn’t do his daughter any good, so maybe he’s not the best person to turn to. Will Emma and her friends escape Ribcage? Will the audience care enough to stick around to find out? (Spoiler alert: probably not.)
Where does it all go horribly wrong? It shouldn’t be this hard to make a clown scary. Part of the problem may be relying far too much on balloons. Clowns may be scary, but balloons aren’t. The only thing remotely scary about balloons is a bad case of static electricity hair. Filling a room with balloons in lieu of some sort of supernatural villain? Negatively scary. When the balloons get more screen time than the clown, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Clowntergeist’s biggest flaw is that it is a movie that desperately wants to be scary, but instead it’s just silly. The proper response to seeing someone lying split open in the middle of the road should not be to giggle, yet when the image of a split open torso is followed by a car being filled with (once again) balloons and then driving itself off, there’s really no other way to respond.
It also isn’t helped by some of the baffling decisions some of the characters make. Listen people, this cannot be stressed enough. If you get a balloon with instructions to “Look Behind You?” Don’t. Just don’t. Run. Break a window. Grab a weapon. Do not simply look behind you. At that point, the law of horror films says you deserve whatever it is that is coming for you. In one scene, while Ribcage is stalking them, rather than trying to run or fight, Emma and her friends just sort of sit there waiting for the inevitable.
Perhaps one of the most baffling things about this movie is how readily everyone accepts that there is some sort of evil supernatural clown chasing Emma. There’s a little doubt in the very beginning, but before anything really happens, everyone is fully on board the evil supernatural clown train. In some ways, it’s a nice switch from the constant doubt most women receive in horror films when they’re convinced some sort of haunting is going on, but this is one of those rare times where extreme doubt would have continued to be appropriate.
The acting is…fine. It’s not offensive, and given the material the actors are given to work with, it’s actually a miracle they do as well as they do. Eric Corbin as Ribcage the clown gives it his all, but unfortunately fails to elicit even the slightest shiver of fear. The costume design looks cheap and hokey instead of menacing, and there never seems to truly be anything actually threatening about Ribcage other than a penchant for using balloons as a stand in for himself.
Is Clowntergeist the worst movie you’ll ever watch? No. Is it worth the hour and a half you’ll spend watching it? No. If you find yourself in need of a clown scare, do yourself a favor. Watch It, or Poltergeist or even Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Hell, look up a picture of John Wayne Gacy dressed in clown gear. If, however, you find that you are horrifically frightened of balloons, then this may actually be the perfect movie for you.
2 stupid fucking red balloons out of 5