CLOWN **** USA / Canada 2014 Dir: Jon Watts. 95 mins

Realtor Andy Powers, panic stricken when the clown cancels at the last minute for his kid’s birthday party, is forced to don an old clown costume he finds in a junk pile at a house he is selling, but undergoes a hideous transformation after inadvertently sleeping in a costume that, via the exposition of Peter Stormare, is actually the skin of a demon demanding five juvenile sacrifices.

A witty feature debut for writer-director Watts, CLOWN offers an ingenious variation on the central idea behind the “Cloak” episode from Amicus anthology THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. Deftly balancing the tone between muted black comedy, pathos and physical horror, it subtly borrows from underrated cult items like CHRISSTMAS EVIL (a sympathetic guy transformed into his own fancy dress costume for real) and CAPTAIN KRONOS VAMPIRE HUNTER (a series of grimly funny failed suicide attempts) and offers a marvellously gruesome gradual metamorphosis clearly paying homage to Cronenberg’s take on THE FLY. Powers is excellent as the hapless hero, his transformation conveyed via Tony Gardner’s malevolent make-up, while Watts commendably refuses to hold back where most American genre films would pull their punches: dogs are decapitated, kids are slaughtered and the ultra-violent climax at the soft play area inside Chuck E Cheese is one of 2015’s greatest movie sequences…of any genre.

Review by Steven West

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