So there’s this no-budget indie thriller “ClownTown” coming out Sept. 30.
Is there a connection between it and the sudden surge in scary clown sightings all over the South, originating in South Carolina?
The setting is rural Ohio, but the rutted, remote roads could easily pass for S.C., and at least one character in the country-music-concert-going cast has a drawl.
The clowns seem inspired by all manner of painted Pagliaccis, from serial killer John Wayne Gacy to Stephen King’s “Pennywise” to “The Baseball Furies” street gang of “The Warriors.”
So. Maybe. Probably not, but maybe. Check the distributor’s phone records, see if anybody put in a call to any of the “Blair Witch Project” boys.
The movie, actually filmed in Ohio, is pretty bad, but not campy bad. Frank (Greg Violand), the old man who explains the sordid history of ClownTown to the five travelers trapped in it, has the only funny line.
“Clowns OWN this town, now.”
It’s a perfunctory by-the-numbers slasher pic with no frights and only the two female leads getting across the idea that something terrifying is happening. The guys? A quartet of stiffs.
A stop in Stanley’s Diner leads to bad directions, and a set-up. Jill (Katie Keen, a beauty and a great screamer) loses her phone. Her beau (Andrew Staton) and their traveling friends Sarah (Lauren Compton, another gorgeous screamer) and Brad (Brian Nagel) are stuck with her as she tries to track the lost phone down.
No way they’re going to make it to the big country music show they’re Jeeping to.
Billy and Dylan (Tom Nagel, and Jeff Denton) are roughnecks who stumble into the lost four just as it’s getting dark, just as clowns start to turn up, reflected in their rear-view mirrors but unseen. Until it’s too late.
There’s a machete clown and a baseball bat wielding clown, a crowbar clown and a tire-iron clown. Only the girl clown, offering makeup to any of their victims they manage to take hostage, has any lines. She’ll make you real “purty,” she will.
A pointless “Scream” prologue shows ostensibly the first victim, a nubile babysitter whose role required her to strip off her top. I’ll leave her name out of this to spare her mother the embarrassment.
Did that stripteease trigger the Clown Apocalypse? Not really, not that they’ve explained here.
The women shriek in terror, the guys just stare blankly as this or that “buddy” is butchered, tentatively running as if their only fear is that they’re not going to hit their marks. Every guy in this thing who isn’t in clown makeup is as bad as the ridiculous, obvious and disjointed script they’re trying to play. An awful lot of the guys, and a woman playing a waitress, share the director’s last name — Nagel.
But who knows? Maybe this is a movie where the real genius is in the marketing. Start with clown sightings in the South, work your way north.
Keep an eye on the news. See if the cops ever catch anybody pulling these clown stunts. If any suspect’s name is “Nagel” we’ll have our answer.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, nudity
Running time: 1:24