If there weren’t already plenty enough reasons to hate clowns, you can add the horror film ClownTown to the list. Tom Nagel’s low-budget debut feature is inspired by the premise that people wearing clown costumes are inherently creepy, which is not exactly a novel screen concept.
The film at least has the courage of its derivative and exploitive convictions, as demonstrated by its prologue in which a comely young woman is shown topless and the first murder occurs even before the opening credits. The victim is a babysitter, naturally, and the segment has only a tenuous connection to the rest of the story. But hey, at least the teenage male target audience gets to see some naked breasts, right?
Your typical circus clown is scarier.
We’re then introduced to a generic quartet of twentysomethings — for the record, they’re played by Brian Nagel, Lauren Elise, Andrew Staton and Katie Keene — driving through Ohio on their way to a concert when one of them leaves her cellphone at a roadside diner. Upon discovering it missing, they call the phone, and the person who answers instructs them to head to Clinton, a nearby small town where he’ll meet them.
(Let’s assume it’s a coincidence that the Ohio town in question is named for the presidential candidate who’s currently not doing very well in the state, if only because it would demonstrate a cheeky imagination that the rest of the misbegotten film sorely lacks).
Anyway, the group heads to the town, which has apparently been deserted since a catastrophic train accident years earlier. Deserted, that is, except for a bunch of homicidal maniacs wearing differently styled clown costumes and makeup. All of them are silent except for the chatty, sole female in the bunch. During the ensuing cat-and-mouse game, the would-be victims meet two older residents who provide the uninteresting backstory about what’s going on.
It’s all as generic and pointless as it sounds, with tyro filmmaker Nagel unable to muster up the sort of visceral thrills that a John Carpenter or Wes Craven would have been able to deliver in their sleep. Judging by the number of Nagels listed in the film’s credits, ClownTown would seem to be some sort of family project. A trip to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion would have been a better choice.
Distribution: ITN Distribution
Production companies: Millman Productions, Steel House Productions, Zorya Films
Cast: Brian Nagel, Lauren Elise, Andrew Staton, Katie Keene, Jeff Denton
Director-editor: Tom Nagel
Screenwriter: Jeff Miller
Producers: Jeff Miller, Tom Nagel, Brian Nagel, Christopher Lawrence Chapman
Executive producers: Jeff Miller, Christopher Lawrence Chapman, Ronnie D. Lee, Brian Nagel
Director of photography: Ken Stachnik
Production designer: Ryan Pilz
Composer: Holly Amber Church
Casting: Mark Sikes
Not rated, 86 minutes