Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
I had one of those tiresome encounters the other week. One of those moments that’s exclusively confined to social media. It was a status that someone posted, a baiting status; one which is the real life equivalent of standing in your local shopping centre with a megaphone and a sandwich board. If you shout loud enough you’ll always attract the requisite number of village idiots, shuffling towards the speaker, pitchforks in hand.
The subject? Eli Roth. Ah yes, always an easy one to gather the baying hordes. It’s the equivalent of wearing a UKIP rosette at an EDL rally – you’ll soon underline your popularity with like-minded individuals. Anyway, the Roth-hating post emerged, and thus the following ensued…
“Roth is the world’s biggest jerk”
“Roth is an arsehole”
“Roth is a hack and a moron, like an overgrown frat boy”
And the sneering continued, all stemming from the notion that Eli Roth “wants to convince everyone he’s the world’s biggest horror fan”. Jealous much? Anyway, before they managed to drag the Bostonian filmmakers burning effigy through the middle of the village, someone who’d actually MET Roth stepped in to make the point that he IS actually a massive horror fan, an uber-geek, and also fiercely independent. Are these not traits which, irrespective of our opinion of his films, we in the horror community should respect him for? In any case, following the interjection from the voice of reason, the level of hate diminished to an embarrassed whimper.
All this meandering preamble brings us to CLOWN, a feature whose popularity will no doubt be down to Eli’s current standing in the latest MORI popularity poll. If anything, Clown deserves your attention just for the insane way in which came into being. In 2010, Jon Watts and Christopher D. Ford put a trailer for a film called Clown on YouTube, and had the temerity to (falsely) prefix it with ‘From the Master of Horror – Eli Roth’. Instead of incurring the wrath of Roth, this bold step was successful in not just attracting his attention, but in getting it greenlit through Roth and Cross Creek Pictures. A crazy ride indeed, but what about the finished product?
It’s Jack’s tenth birthday, but the clown has cancelled. His Dad, Kent (Andy Powers), finds an old clown suit in the attic and saves the party. After the party is over, Kent discovers he has a problem – the suit won’t come off. What starts as a joke quickly descends into a hellish nightmare as an uncontrollable hunger begins to consume him; an overwhelming and insatiable hunger… for children.
Having worked in movie rental for over half my life, the sight of a group of teenagers squealing upon the glimpse of some clown themed artwork is a familiar occurrence… and that’s just the boys. Rarely though, does such red-nosed mayhem live up to the strikingly designed box. I’d take a controversial nod towards Clownhouse, then another in the direction of Stephen King’s It, The Clown at Midnight, and last years All Hallows’ Eve, as a few that DO warrant the hype, but overall we tend to brace ourselves for disappointment.
Thankfully, for Clown, you can keep those expectations raised. With no laboured exposition, we’re introduced into some good natured clown-time by well-meaning dad Kent, before his swift descent into madness. It’s a really funny opening twenty minutes, where his mind boggling situation is exploited for some treacle dark humour. So far, so playful, you think, but Clown’ s success lies in a subtle yet gradual slide into sinister territory, as we experience the degradation and blood-soaked carnage that Kent’s affliction causes.
Mr. Roth’s gamble on these two chancers could have backfired spectacularly, and barring a wee dip in pace when Peter Stormare becomes more central to the narrative, Clown is a gripping slice of pasty-faced horror; one that will repulse, shock and entertain in equal measure.
David Hayter is best known for his screenwriting, with his work on the first two X-Men films sitting prominently on his CV. For his directorial debut WOLVES, he turned to the world of the werewolf, stating to gonewiththemovies.com how “it was just an opportunity that came to me through a producer friend”. Not perhaps the most organic of personal projects, but during the five or so years that it’s been in development, Hayter certainly seems to have put his thumbprint on proceedings and delivered a film that’s worthy of some attention.
Popular high school student Cayden Richards (Lucas Till) wakes from a horrific nightmare, only to realise he’s living it. He’s changing into something unpredictable and wild. Forced to hit the road after the brutal murder of his parents, Cayden tries to hunt down the truth of what he is; the revelation of which will change his life more than he could ever imagine.
The character of Cayden is the antithesis of the guy that you normally root for in a horror movie. He’s the type that we uber-geeks revile; the Quarterback, with his lush blonde locks and the requisite cheerleader girlfriend. Despite this, Cayden grows on you; he’s a well written character who succeeds in drawing compassion from us.
Wolves certainly isn’t Teen Wolf, and nor is it Twilight (just) with its cast of finely coiffured, bland characters. There’s some depth here, and a good dollop of grit and individuality which pulls the rug from beneath the tedium that it could easily veer towards. Hayter is a good writer, so much so he managed to forge an impressive script from the greatest comic book ever written, Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Here, he’s created a very watchable feature that’s breezy, fun, and has Stephen McHattie in it too! If there’s one gripe, it’s that you can’t help but wish he’d loosened those shackles a little further and delivered something R-rated; if only to rid itself of those tiresome tween-trash comparisons.