Believe it or not, I kind of like James Van Der Beek. He was pretty decent in the Clive Barker produced flick THE PLAGUE (despite that film’s mess of an ending), I loved him in THE RULES OF ATTRACTION and even here, he gives a really solid performance. This movie however will leave most horror fans scratching their heads and for each of us, it’ll probably be for different reasons.
Van Der Beek plays Paul Twist, a screenwriter with one success under his belt who’s suffering from writer’s block. He meets frequently with his actor friend David for coffee to catch up and chat about their latest ideas. Paul remembers an experience from his childhood where he witnessed a clown performing a trick that went wrong and caused a fire which accidentally killed him. He wonders aloud what it must’ve been like for “Punchy the clown” to die in front of an audience and to have children laugh at him, assuming it was all part of his act. What would “Punchy” do? “He’d come back and kill off all those kids that laughed at him.” And with that thought, Paul’s got the perfect jumping point for his next screenplay. The only problem is, every time he sits down to write it, he draws a blank. He can’t make his “killer clown” story work. Eventually, he makes David lock him in his apartment literally until he finishes the screenplay. What follows is a torturous battle with Paul’s own demons and past. He begins seeing various people from his own personal past whom he incorporates as characters in the script. But then “Punchy the clown” begins appearing and killing off his imaginary characters. Is he going stir crazy? Or is he finally writing his masterpiece?
All of the above presents itself with plenty of great ideas to fill a feature up with, but sadly it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s a well written film. Anyone who writes knows the struggle of dealing with writer’s block and the demons you have to battle to sometimes get it done. (Hell, writing today’s batch of DVD reviews has been tough!) But I can’t imagine the average movie-goer (or renter) finding this premise interesting if they themselves have never battled to write something. Especially when that’s primarily what the movie is solely about. The filmmakers try to set it up so you wonder “Oh, is Punchy real? Is this all really happening? Or is it all in his head!” Well, he’s locked in his own apartment seeing figments of his imagination, so of course it’s not really happening. Why couldn’t we see a “Punchy The Clown” movie stem from this? Sure, we can still have the writer writing it, but this killer clown movie has a killer clown that never shows up or does anything. (The box cover is terribly misleading by having a giant clown face on the cover.) While the acting from this small cast is great, great acting just doesn’t make an interesting film. And after watching this once, I have no desire to watch it again because nothing really happens. It’s a horror film for writers who know the horrors of writers block. And that’s about it.
Special Features: There’s a making-of feature which features interview with Van Der Beek, writer Darryn Lucio (who also plays Paul’s friend David in the movie) and director Jonathan Dueck. They all seem fairly excited about doing something different then the average “killer clown” movie, but there’s no real killer clown in this movie to begin with. The DVD also features a music video. –Robg.
Buy it on Amazon.com!