Secrets Of The Clown makes its intentions blindingly obvious from the very first scene when, startled by a noise downstairs, a woman snaps bolt upright in bed, exposed breasts flapping all over the screen. Her beefed-up-verging-on-deformed-looking boyfriend takes up a baseball bat (everybody in a horror film, when woken in the middle of the night, has access to a baseball bat; it’s just the way things are) and goes to investigate the disturbance. A moment of tension, and then he is killed by a giant demonic clown!
From this tackiest of openings, we’re introduced to the main characters: a Goth woman named Val, and her pug-faced partner, Bobby. When Bobby’s best friend is murdered also, we follow the couple as they attempt to contact the deceased and uncover the truth about the clown’s origins.
When it comes to stories about evil clowns, the bar has already been set incredibly high by Stephen King’s It. The book is a masterwork of horror and while the film adaptation’s second half may suffer from sliding into corny B-movie territory, it’s still an enjoyable few hours filled with horror, suspense, creativity and a wealth of great ideas. When pitched against this benchmark, Secrets Of The Clown fails, but even when taken on its own merits, it still fails miserably.
The truth is you don’t even need to watch the entire film to work out what’s going to happen, as everything you need to know is shown in a flashback within the first five minutes. I won’t give away the ending for those who are interested, but suffice it to say there is lots of witchcraft involved. Indeed, it takes over an hour for people to figure out – shock, horror! – Val is a witch. If it wasn’t clear from the black clothes and black hair and black lipstick, it was pretty damn obvious from the demonic spell book and spooky clown doll she spends most of the film carrying around with her.
Okay, so this is cheap, low-budget stuff, so what did I expect, right? The acting is worse than a GCSE drama class, the screen is often too dark to work out what’s going on, and the male gaze ensures all women in the film are merely there to get killed off or get their baps out.
There are two points in this film regarding women that leave a bad aftertaste: one is with the “Women – you can’t live without ‘em, you can’t kill ‘em,” line, and the other is when a creepy old man kidnaps Val and threatens to rape her, which is dealt with in a kind of lascivious manner that suggests it’s all just a bit kinky and not sexual violence at all.
Secondly, the film lacks any real originality or creativity whatsoever. In fact, several scenes have simply been ripped off from other films in the genre. A scene involving Bobby approaching a bathtub full of blood, only for two hands to reach out and try to pull him in, is reminiscent of any number of horror films, but Dark Water especially springs to mind. A scene where blood oozes out from a photograph of the dead friend is also directly stolen from the aforementioned It.
It also starts to grate when just about every scene involving the clown turns out to be Bobby having a bad dream, yet again. It may be low budget, but that’s not a license to start plagiarising other films, dubbing the voices of the actors, and dealing out all manner of women-hating dialogue.
Put simply, Secrets Of The Clown is a film you’ll fail to find amusing even after a few drinks and in the company of friends.
Secrets Of The Clown is out now.