Director: Victor Salva
Nathan Forrest Winters/Casey
Three kids are left home alone and the youngest (Winters) has a mortal fear of clowns. Guess what? The circus is in town. Want to know something else? Three psychos just escaped from the mental ward, killed three clowns at the circus and slipped on their gear. Can you guess where the three killer clowns are going? Think real hard. You bet!
The writer/ director of this film served 15 months in prison for giving oral sex to its lead: Nathan Forrest Winters (Casey). I knew this cause I remembered the uproar when "Powder" came out and never forgot the director's name: Victor Salva. It's kind of hard to separate the man’s actions from the man’s film but I’ll do my best.
Clownhouse works real good on one level: A clown standing in the shadows is scary. Salva knows this and milks it for all it's worth. If you have a fear of clowns, this flick will get to you (it got to me, clowns give me the brrr's). Where the film falters is that its payoffs are not as groovy as its setups. The fight scenes are clumsy (fake), the chase scenes sometimes finish in stupid ways (clown bumps head on low ceiling…where’s Macaulay Culkin?) and the kills are mostly implied. Here’s an example of the film bailing out on its promises: Throughout the whole film, the director teases us with a hangman’s noose outside the house. I was hoping that eventually it would be put to good use. Came close but no dice…what a let down. Maybe the fact that the film was made for TV has something to do with its watered down vibe but it definitely could’ve went further with its nasty side.
I also had trouble with the kids reactions to the situation. I must say they’re pretty chill about all of it even after they find out that they’re not alone in the house. More fear from them would have meant more fear from me. The scariest thing in the flick is that the director’s pedophilic tendencies come out a few times. How many shots of young boys in undies, bulging all over the place do we need (none in my book)? We get lots of "boy fondling" shots and they nauseated me.
On a positive note, Salva glazes over themes that fascinate me such as our fears and our fate to meet them. Notice how every time there’s a clown behind young Winters he feels an itch in his neck or funny how the puppet he wins at the carnival is a clown. I’m a sucker for that destiny shite and I ate it up. I also like the way Salva handled the killers before they put on the clown get up. We hardly see them (he sticks to shots of eyes and mouth) so when they do become clowns we hardly know them otherwise. It makes the clown posse so much scarier.
Overall, Clownhouse is a fun, and easy watch. It made me jump a few times and creeped me out. Some of the chase scenes are pretty exciting and even though Salva overplays the whole "a clown is next to you one second but when you turn your head around, it's gone" thang, it works most of the time. When the clowns are peeking through doors, standing in shadows with their big smiles or hiding out, they’re scary as hell. Too bad that when it's time to get down to business they don’t really fulfill the threat they’ve been projecting for an hour. These clowns should have been more badass! Peek inside this Carnival!
Fake blood here and there. I felt letdown by the absence of good kills. The violence should have been more…well…more violent.
Nathan Forrest Winters (Casey) does ok as the young frightened kid but I feel he didn’t show enough fear throughout the movie. Brian McHugh (Geoffrey) does very well as the middle child. He’s definitely the smartest one and the least annoying. Sam Rockwell (Randy) plays the a-hole older brother well. Tree (Evil Cheezo) wears his name well, the man is way tall and way scary.
T & A
Winters gives us a butt shot, lots of shots of kids shirtless and in their underwear. Not my bag! Like AT ALL!
Salva does some interesting things with sound and shadows. He exploits the image of a creepy clown to its fullest (loved the fuse box scene), is good at the chase scenes, gives some gnarly close ups and loves that occasional slow motion. The film moves at a quick pace and never lags.
An uneven score. It goes from circus like, to creepy, to over the top and kinda of silly.
You can do worse than Clownhouse. I actually had a good time. It has good suspense and lots of spooky imagery. Too bad the film lacks in the "balls" department (no pun intended), these clowns should have been more violent. If you can get passed the kiddie porn feel Salva occasionally injects in the flick you might have a good time too.
The release of "Powder" prompted the sexual molestation victim, Nathan Winters (20 at the time), to go public with his ordeal and to protest Disney's employment of filmmaker Victor Salva, (37 at the time). Winters and five friends picketed outside the industry screening of "Powder", handing out leaflets about Salva to hundreds of grim-faced Hollywood executives leaving the theater.