Tuesday, April 18, 2006

REVIEW: Fear Of Clowns

Hunting Humans was the first feature by Kevin Kangas and crew. I was fortunate enough to snag that DVD from a bargain bin. I did so because a filmmaker friend of mine had an idea to do a film about two serial killers in competition with each other. Hunting Humans was nothing like what my friend had in mind, but was entertaining as hell. It had all the basics of the serial killer films, but threw so many twists and turns at the viewer that it never skated by on cliches.

So then the big question is: Can Kevin Kangas live up to a very solid first feature with his second feature?

Fear Of Clowns gives us a lead character haunted by some childhood trauma that left her with coulrophobia, which is a fear of clowns. She does the whole intensive therapy routine by way of splattering her mental demons onto canvas, creating an artistic resume littered with paintings of distorted, mutilated and just pain disturbing clown imagery. Her life is slipping down the toilet, her finances are fading, and, damn it all, a hideous clown seems to be stalking her. People around her die, often and in various grisly ways.

The film does a number of things rather well. The opening sequences are truly disturbing. Frankly, I would have been happy with a whole movie about a young girl haunted by a gruesome clown. The actors are very appealing, and there are no distracting performances. Fear Of Clowns also tends to avoid the "stalk and kill" format with small twists to the story that keep diverting your attention. And the single greatest thing is that Kevin Kangas knows how to actually put together a low budget film that looks like it was made on a far larger budget. Thanks in this area also goes to his Cinematographer, David Mun. It is a great looking film.

With the good also comes a couple of bad things. The least of the two problems is the opening of the film is so strong that it sets up some images that seem to go nowhere. It seems as if the main character's fear of clowns is merely hinted at and then takes a backseat to hitting the story points. A bit more development of this part of the film and the main character's fear would have made for considerable emotional tension as the story continued.

The biggest problem I had with Fear Of Clowns is the final third of the film. The whole film trips along with great pacing and action. Suddenly, everything grinds to a halt. The film seems to lose its focus and becomes the "stalk and kill" film it had so carefully avoided being. To be honest, Kevin Kangas said he had some misgivings about parts of the film. I assume it is the final third of the movie that he is referring to.

Does that soft final act of the film ruin the whole thing? No. Sure, it's frustrating, but I still sat through the rolling credits feeling as though I'd gotten my money's worth. The main thing is that the film is entertaining and worth investing your time in the hour and a half or so that the movie lasts.

Another nice bonus is the "Making Of" documentary included on the DVD. It is as fun to watch as the actual movie. It makes you realize the strain a production like this puts on everyone. Watch Kevin Kangas slowly deteriorate as the documentary progresses. Marvel at the hurricane that put a crimp on the crew's very limited filming schedule. Cringe as Shivers the clown puts in some very uncomfortable-looking contacts.

Rent or buy Fear Of Clowns. Consider it an investment in the sequel that Kangas is supposed to start filming soon. You'll feel good about doing so.

(Images are used with the kind permission of Kevin Kangas. I just hope he's as kind after he reads this review.)

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