#272 -- Clownhouse (1989)

Director: Victor Salva
Rating: 3.5 / 5

When going into a movie about killer clowns, most people (including me) probably expect it to be kind of cheesy. Most of the time we're right. Clowns are funny, whether they're evil or not. Surprisingly, though, Clownhouse really isn't all that cheesy. It's a very simple movie, and you should know what it's all about before you watch it, or else you might be disappointed.

It focuses on three brothers, Randy, Jeffrey, and Casey. Casey was terrified of clowns, since he saw some at the circus the year before. He was so scared of them that he had nightmares about drawings of them. Yes, drawings. Not real clowns trying to kill him, but drawings in his windows. And these nightmares scared him so badly that he would wet the bed. Poor Casey had some shit luck, since there was a circus nearby. There was also an asylum nearby. You can smell the disaster already, right? So, all Casey and his brothers had to do while their parents were away was to go to that circus. Casey was scared shitless when one of the clowns tried to get him to come on stage with him, but that was only the beginning of his terrible night. Three inmates from the nearby asylum broke into the circus after hours, killed the three performing clowns, stole their costumes, and made their way to Casey's house. As he became increasingly nervous being in that house without his parents (especially when all the lights went out), those clowns were lurking in the shadows waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He and his brothers were in for the fight of their lives when they finally emerged from the shadows and decided to kill them.

Clownhouse has its problems, but the good outweighs the bad, and I've enjoyed the movie on more than one occasion. The story is a bit contrived, but I can't hate it for that. It's a huge and almost laughable coincidence that there's a circus and an asylum apparently right next door to a boy who is terrified of clowns. But how else can you explain a couple of killer clowns getting into someone's house? It's a stretch, but it makes sense. We never got any insight to the inmates, which is cool, I guess. But I think they would have been scarier had we learned that they'd killed a hundred people, or something. I wanted to know just how crazy they were. But I guess it doesn't really matter how crazy they are; what matters is that they are, and that they're trying to kill a couple of kids.

They didn't have much funds to work with here (with a budget of $200,000), but they did work with what they had. The cinematography was pretty impressive; the use of lighting, shadows, and camera angles succeeded in creating a pretty creepy atmosphere. Seeing those clowns lurking in the shadows, right out of the boys' reach was definitely spooky. I also enjoyed the scenes at the circus, though it made really want to go to the carnival. It's a shitty time to be wishing for carnivals, though, so I'll just have to wait.

The three brothers worked really well together, and I almost felt like they were actually brothers. Casey was the youngest, wimpiest brother. Jeffrey was the middle brother who was kind of nerdy and sweet, and he was always looking out for Casey and caring for him. Randy was the oldest, and he was kind of a dick-head. He tried to act tough, I guess because he was the oldest, but when it came right down to it, you could tell that he cared about his brothers. The chemistry between them was good, and their acting was pretty impressive. Randy was played by Sam Rockwell (Wild Bill from The Green Mile), so I don't have to tell you that he was pretty great. The other two didn't shine quite as brightly, but I was still fairly impressed by them.

All of the kills were done off screen, and there wasn't much blood at all. But that was okay, because the movie relied heavily on atmosphere, and it definitely succeeded in that department. Yes, I am a gore whore, but I don't mind a lack of bloodshed as long as there's something  to make up for it. I can only call this movie slightly creepy but, while it didn't scare me personally, I'm sure it would have your coulrophobic friends up all night.

Even though it had a few issues, it's definitely a enjoyable film, and I can hardly call it bad. I, personally, can't bash it, since I've watched it more than once. I was impressed and entertained each time. Plus, it was directed by the same guy who directed Jeepers Creepers, so you can't hate it too much.


Storyline - 7 points. It was a bit contrived, but that didn't  distract from the overall feel or entertainment value of the movie.

Cinematography - 6 points. It made good use of lighting and shadows. It didn't have that ultra spooky feel that I love, but I was impressed by it, especially since it had such a low budget.

Characters - 8 points. Sometimes the characters felt a little forced, but that was probably due to the fact that they were only kids. Sometimes their actions didn't quite match their personalities, but overall I felt the actors worked well together and the characters were believable.

Gore - 1 point. There was no gore.

Scariness - 5 points. It didn't scare me personally, but I feel like there's got to be someone out there that was at least a little creeped out by it.

T & A - 1 point. Again, there wasn't any, other than one shot of Casey's ass, which was awkward.

Overall score - 28 / 60

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