REVIEW: Clown (2014)

Haunted clown suits: How the fuck do they work?

Haunted clown suits: How the fuck do they work?

Clown: C+

There isn’t really anything fresh about this movie. Everything in it has been done a billion times, but it was compelling and silly enough to keep me interested. As far as clown movies go, it is funnier than Patch Adams but less funny than It. All three movies have dead kids though. So there’s that.

A guy finds a haunted clown suit, which he dons in order to amuse a battalion of annoying brats at his son’s birthday party. BAM: He’s cursed.

As explained by the Wise Elder character, Peter Stormare (the guy who feeds Steve Buscemi into a wood chipper in Fargo), clowns were originally not balloon sculpting ding-dongs, but cave dwelling Nordic demons who would feast on children. The costume is haunted and infested with demonic energy. Stormare even has a leather bound ancient text complete with Guillermo del Toroesque clown monster sketches, so you know he’s legit.

Dude can’t get out of the clown suit; it’s bonded to him like the Venom symbiote or the Goosebumps haunted mask and it is slowly transforming him into the Icelandic variety of Bronze Age kid-munching clowns. The only way to get him out of the suit/stop the clown-demon is to chop his head off or let him eat five children. Once he gets started munching on kids, you’d think they would just let him finish, but the other characters are committed to decapitation despite the pileup of child corpses.

To the guy’s credit, he tries to decapitate himself, but he quits trying once he realizes how fun it is to eat kids. Once the dust from the exposition settles, the rest of the movie is pretty typical possession/demon/slasher stuff that borrows from other popular killer clown stories: He has the fangs of It, but none of the one liners; he has the charisma of Gacy, but none of the sodomy; he looks just like a juggalo, but doesn’t dump Faygo all over himself or rap about titties.

The origin story of the actual movie is more interesting than the clown mythology in the film itself. A couple of guys made a fake trailer for this movie with no (clear) intention of ever filming the thing. In their mock trailer, they start with “From Master of Horror, Eli Roth…” which I guess flattered/interested Roth enough to track these guys down and invite himself on board as the producer. No one probably thought of this movie as “theirs”; the trailer-makers probably thought their inside joke got scooped up as Roth’s new pet and Roth probably thought his semi-pandering to internet horror nerds and attachment of his name would be enough of a contribution. What emerges is a pretty “meh” horror movie with some cool cinematography and make-up that follows a played out formula.

REVIEW: The Thing (1982)

Hello, comrade!

Hello, comrade!

The Thing: A+

This movie is about an Arctic research scientist and flamethrower enthusiast named Kurt Russell fighting a homicidal alien. It’s also about the Cold War. It’s also one of my favorite movies ever, so I’m not fucking around here.

The Thing came out in 1982, before I was born, and was one of the first rated-R horror movies I ever saw. It was made a few years after Alien and the two share the same dark atmosphere of isolation and paranoia although I would argue The Thing is scarier because the monster’s infiltration is much more intimate than in Alien. Imagine that radar scene from Alien, but now it is 80 minutes long!

Scientists dug too deep in the ice and they found the Thing. The Thing murders the shit out of all the scientists (as imagined in the forgettable CGI orgy that is the 2011 Thing reboot/prequel) and flees to a nearby research station run by Kurt Russell and friends.

The biology of the Thing is sort of confusing; it can mimic other organisms, but it can also “absorb” them, assimilating living things cell-by-cell until the organism has become a part of the Thing. The Thing is one sentient creature, but each cell has an independent survival instinct and is able to exist independently from the central Thing. It’s a hive-mind alien with self-replicating abilities. I don’t know if I’m making any sense; Wilford Brimley does a better job explaining it in the movie with Atari-esque computer models that represent the alien microbiology.

Since the Thing can shapeshift and absorb its prey, it decides that the best thing to do is enter the base disguised as a stray dog (in Antarctica?) and assimilate the crew one-by-one. All it has to do is get a guy alone in a room, and then it can Thing-ify him.

The Thing is also a communist; it is a foreign power posing as your neighbor. The 1950’s Cold War paranoia that barbeque owners Bill and Natalie next door might secretly be KGB operatives Boris and Natalia is ballooned to intergalactic proportions. And while the Thing personifies American fears of communism (like forced “equality,” total homogenous conformity, and just being foreign), Kurt Russell’s handsome ass represents the rugged individualism of blue blooded Americans. He looks more like Wild Bill Hickok than a fucking Arctic research scientist (he even wears a cowboy hat for much of the movie).

The Cold War undertones are pretty consistent, even to the point where, in the final act, K-Train is ready for some Mutually Assured Destruction. This part is foreshadowed brilliantly at the beginning of the movie when Russell loses at computer chess and responds by dumping a glass of scotch on the motherboard. The Thing is content executing a methodical takedown of the base, calculating its moves and taking people (pieces) one at a time, but Russell decides that the best move might be to torch the entire base; if he can’t get the Thing in checkmate, he wants an incendiary stalemate. Take that, you fucking pinko!

Some people think that there is no Cold War allegory and this is just a movie about an alien and Kurt Russell and glasses of scotch and flamethrowers. Pay no attention to these people. They will go away if you ignore them. I am so all-in with this allegory, that I think you could make the argument that it has a timeless quality; to the original audience of the film, the Thing is a communist. Or maybe it is an AIDS patient. Now, he’s a terrorist cell. “Snake Plissken Fights a Monster, The End” isn’t good enough. There’s more here.

Critics of the movie will also pick apart Kurt Russell’s ham-handed Thing-hunting and, yeah okay, he is pretty Kurt Russelly the whole time, I’ll give you that. But who did you want in there instead? This is The All-American Computer who Wore Tennis Shoes! Sorry stool admonisher Clint fucking Eastwood wasn’t available to squint at the Thing for 90 minutes and instead you are stuck with a guy who has done a pretty good job making a career out of running around yelling like a lunatic.

The film has legitimately revolting special effects, probably the most impressive horror/sci-fi makeup ever. If you read some other reviews for the movie, they will likely spend more time on it than I did, which is the right thing to do. For instance, you know that scene with the arms? They got a guy who has no arms for that scene. And it’s fucking gross. There is dismemberment, reanimation, people getting sprayed with parasitic Thing goo, and all sorts of other horrifying shit.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. See it right away.