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CLOWNHOUSE
1989 / Horror
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8.3 / 10
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Directed by Victor Salva
Written by Victor Salva
Starring Nathan Forrest Winters, Brian McHugh, Sam Rockwell and Michael Jerome West

Just before Halloween, three young brothers alone in a big house are menaced by three escaped mental patients who have murdered some traveling circus clowns and taken their identities.

The following tags are associated with this movie: Clown, Slasher, Halloween, Home Invasion
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Movie Discussion
Clownhouse (1989)
Review by Bradley Frohloff

8 / 10
Before reviewing the film, I guess I feel obligated to touch on the topic that usually comes up with any movie involving Victor Salva. For those not in the know, he groomed and molested the youngest of the three child actors in this movie. Some people will refuse to watch this film or any film with his name attached to it because of that and some people are able to separate the movie from the man. Whatever you choose to do is okay, I get it for both sides. For the sake of reviewing the film itself, I will review it as if a no-name directed it.

I originally watched this film in the 90's, way before I ever heard anything about Salva's history. Since Tim Curry's Pennywise from Stephen King's IT had such a lasting effect on me as a child, I gained an affinity for horror movies featuring clowns. My thoughts on the movie now are still more or less the same as when I watched it for the first time.

Clownhouse plays out like a slasher flick but has very little violence and almost no blood in it. Yet it somehow manages to keep your attention. The performances by the child actors is about what you'd expect from a low budget movie with very little acting experience. But because they're kids, it's easy enough to dismiss and give them a pass. There are three mental patients on the loose here, all dressed as clowns. The main one, Cheezo, is the only one with some sort of charisma as he has the most on-screen interaction. The other two are just kind of bumbling around, going through the motions.

Because the movie is entertaining enough without having to use much violence, I feel compelled to commend it for doing so. At the same time, the acting isn't very good and there isn't much substance to the plot. All in all, it is just some kids being chased by some mental patients in clown suits. Nothing more, nothing less. But since I'm into clown horror, it gets a little extra bump from me.
Clownhouse (1989)
Review by Michael Mahoney

8 / 10
As far as the plot's concerned, there's not really a lot to Clownhouse. Over the course of a few hours, three escaped mental patients, dressed up as clowns, terrorize three brothers in a large house. That's pretty much it, but it works out well do to the solid tension and suspense through the film.

A large part of whether or not someone's likely to find this creepy may be their feelings on clowns. Personally, I don't know if I've ever even seen a clown in person, but I always felt they were a bit on the sinister side. There's a lot of great scenes in this film showing these clowns in the background, or their gloved hands, and it's rather creepy much of the time.

The three brothers (played by Nathan Forrest Winters, Brian McHugh, and Sam Rockwell, the only one to make a career of acting) really act like brothers, with their constant bickering, some of it rather mean-spirited, and I certainly got the sense that while there were often unkind toward each other, deep down there was love there. Personally, I think all three brothers did pretty well - Rockwell was rather funny at times, McHugh showed solid sensitivity and maturity, and Winters, despite his oldest brother constantly picking on him, really fought back against the horrors they were facing.

It's not until the final thirty minutes when all three brothers actually realize there are clowns prowling their property, but that doesn't mean the movie was slow or without tension beforehand. The escaped mental patients really are messed up and creepy, especially their leader, played by Michael Jerome West (credited for some reason as 'Tree'). The three of them, though West is most notable by far, are unsettling throughout the movie, and despite the plot not really being much, they make a lot out of it.

There are plenty of really solid scenes here, such as the fortune teller sequence (which really showcases the personalities of the brothers well), the scene in which the oldest and youngest brothers are walking to a store to pick up some popcorn (loved the clown chase here), and the scene early on with the real clowns in the circus show. With the music and the close-up on his face, that scene is still unsettling. And let's not forget the scene in which the youngest kid first sees the clowns outside - again, damn creepy stuff.

Clownhouse doesn't have that much going for it in terms of gore, but much like Halloween, it really doesn't need any, as the tension carries it. I also love the music here, too - upbeat, jovial, carnival music, it really works well with the film and ratchets up the intensity.

When I first saw this film some years back, I was rather impressed with it. Seeing it again, even from a blurry and out-of-sync audio/video VHS rip, Clownhouse still impresses me. The director, Victor Salva, went on to direct what many consider a modern-day classic, Jeepers Creepers. Here, he made a solid film which isn't demanding insofar as length goes, and is a rather enjoyable movie. It's a shame that the director's atrocious actions have somewhat marred this film to some audiences.
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