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Eli Roth

March 6, 2015

Clown

Clown – Myths

Say what you want about Eli Roth, but just when you think he’s disappeared into obscurity, he always finds a way back into a cinephile’s consciousnesses. Sure, he’s not the best filmmaker, and not even the best horror filmmaker, but for some reason when I see his name attached to a project I feel compelled to watch. With that being said, this brings me to Eli Roth Presents (?) “Clown.” While not a great film, there are still some really cool ideas in the film and adds to the myths we all know and probably fear from our childhoods, if you are, in fact, scared of clowns.

Our tales begins with kids at a birthday party eagerly awaiting the arrival of a clown. Loving mother Meg receives a call shortly after that the clown they are waiting for has been double-booked and can’t make the party. Meg calls her realtor husband, Kent, and delivers the bad news, but Kent has other plans. Fortune smiles upon Kent when he finds an old clown suit in a chest…hidden away of course. The party goes off without a hitch, and Dummo the Clown is the hero of the day. Things begin to get weird when Kent can’t remove the costume, wig, or clown nose. Things gets even weirder when he meets Karlsson, played by resident Swedish weirdo Peter Stormare. Needless to say, Kent is cursed to wear the suit until he takes the lives of five children as he slowly turns into something that isn’t quite human.

The fear of clowns trope has been one of horror’s go to tropes for years. You can go to “Stephen King’s It” for the best example of the evil clown. Personally, my first experience with clowns was “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” which is a goofier and more light-hearted take on the evil clown. “Clown” is far more earnest than “Killer Klowns” not to mention several other recent clown films that pretty much make the killer a clown, or clown-like being, that uses goofy ways to dispatch their quarry.

What sets this film apart from other films of it’s ilk, is, again, its earnestness. It doesn’t try to be goofy just to be goofy, it’s actually a very nicely paced horror film that takes the creepiness of clowns and creates an interesting mythic story. Essentially this clown is Pennywise from “It” if you took away all the humor and replaced it with gore and horror. The biggest gripe that I have, however, is the third act, which pretty much falls into the typical “killer in the house” cliché. There is also the occasional use of CG blood, which always sticks in my craw, but its used sparingly enough to be tolerable.

One of the highlights of the film is one scene specifically that is few reminiscent of “Alien.” It takes place in the plastic tunnels of a Chuck E Cheese playground and provides a great deal of suspense. Another aspect of the film that might be overlooked is the sound design and score. The stomach rumblings of Kent throughout the film are very unnerving, and the score by Matt Veligdan sounds like a re-purposed John Harrison score, but it’s subtle and adds to the tension.

All in all, “Clown” is a fun watch, but it isn’t perfect. It suffers from some overused horror tropes and it gets dragged down in its own ridiculousness at times, but its a good take on the killer clown genre that doesn’t rely on “a vengeful ghost or deranged-mental-patient-in-a-clown-suit.”

Fun Fact: One of the earliest ideas of the “evil clown” comes from “Hop-Frog” a short story written by Edgar Allen Poe in 1849.

October 4, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Audition

Audition – Kiri

Asians, specifically Japanese folk, have given us plenty to be happy about.  Playstation, Nintendo, Karaoke, Anime, Godzilla, and of course giggling Japanese school girls.  But the hell with that!  I’m talking about hardcore, blood-soaked, WTF, mind imprinting moments of sheer horror, and one person has been giving Westerners nightmares for quite sometime; give a round of applause for Mr. Takashi Miike-san and his magnum opus, 1999’s “Audition.”

Apparently love stories in Japan are totally fu*cked, but on the surface “Audition” is a classic, where a lonely widower is looking for love in what ends up to be all the wrong places.  The lesson(s) to be learned from this film would be to never trust an overzealous friend who encourages you to meet women by way of a fake TV/film audition and choosing the one girl who A) was a former dancer B) waits by the phone for your call C) worked in a bar where people go missing and D) has an acupuncture/piano wire fetish and loves to whisper “kiri, kiri, kiri“.  These are the A,B,C (and D’s) of leading a happy, productive, and not-missing-your-feet life in Japan.

“Audition” is well paced, and has a solid narrative throughout, with good acting (I’m sure it would be better if I understood Japanese). The final, grueling, 30 minutes is an exercise in horror, suspense, and mind-fuckery at its very best.  Miike knows how to pull out all the stops and create an atmosphere of dread and hopelessness where the audience doesn’t know where, or when, he will stop and give a breather.  It’s an art that is lost upon the modern horror director and in my opinion hasn’t really been seen since Alfred Hitchcock.

So if you’ve just gotten out of a relationship, or maybe are about to go out on the town with your finest Affliction glitter-tee, destroyed denim, and are going to fist-pump your way into the heart of the girl at the bar drinking the cranberry juice who volunteered as the designated driver, think about this;  you might be the one in the burlap sack slurping up vomit from a dog bowl.  Do yourself a favor, check out “Audition.”

Fun Fact:  Takashi Miike made a cameo appearance in torture porn pioneer Eli Roth’s film “Hostel.”  He’s credited as “Miike Takashi.” 

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