Annabelle Creation: They’ve Created a Monster

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Please note: Annabelle in italics refers to the film, while plain text Annabelle refers to the character.

Annabelle: Creation is the cinematic form of Frankenstein’s monster. By that I mean it’s a bunch of parts stitched together to make an abomination trying to pass itself off as the real deal. The film desperately tries to cram in all of the usual possession film tropes in order to create tension. Since the tension is never allowed to evolve naturally, the results feel heavy handed and laughable. At this point, Hollywood’s desperation to imitate the James Wan aesthetic is nothing more than a pathetic cash grab.

This catastrophe revolves around a group of young orphans sent to live in the country with a couple of doll makers. These doll makers are of course the creators of the original Annabelle who was modeled after their daughter. When their daughter dies tragically, they seal her room away with the doll in it. The arrival of the young girls triggers her awakening. Terror ensues.

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The first problem of Annabelle: Creation is that there is just too much happening. The film tries to introduce about 50 set pieces. There’s a tea set, a dollhouse, a scarecrow, a stairlift, and more. While each of these elements could be wicked cool on their own, none of them are ever given the proper amount of time to shine.

Then we have the forced supernatural atmosphere. I’m convinced someone over at Blumhouse has a checklist of all the cliches that need to be shoved into every modern horror film. Annabelle: Creation provides all the usual suspects including loud string music, fake jump scares, and little girls bending like contortionists. Unfortunately all of the tropes leave little room for actual plot. For example, a demon possesses the doll, and it needs a human host. Why? I couldn’t tell you. It already has a physical form. Plot holes like this can be found popping up throughout the entire movie.

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Another unavoidable issue with the film is that the doll is absurd looking. They tried way too hard to make her look creepy. No one would buy a doll that ugly. She looks like a Halloween decoration. Dolls are inherently creepy. It’s just unnecessary to take it so far. In a campy film like Dolly Dearest, this approach works. However in a gravely serious supernatural horror/drama it does not.

In all honesty, I’ve never cared for Annabelle. I didn’t like her in The Conjuring. The Annabelle portion of The Conjuring always seemed out of place, like that subplot was an afterthought. I absolutely despised the first Annabelle spinoff, and this latest addition isn’t much better.

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Annabelle: Creation does contain some spooky stuff, but the majority of the film is messy and unentertaining. While the setting and costumes are appealing, no amount of scenery can make up for the lack of a good story. I love The Conjuring 2 and Ouija: Origins, but I’m starting to think it might be time to put the “little girls getting possessed” narrative back into the coffin. Anyone with me?

If you want to read more articles like this one, follow our blog and be sure to follow us on Twitter @HallowsHaunts. For professional inquiries reach out to us (allhallowshaunts@gmail.com). I can also be found on Etsy, selling stuff for weird girls on my store page, Lola Tarantula.

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Are You Ready For The Exorcist?

excorcist_fox_title_cardA few weeks ago, the world saw the return of The Exorcist with the new TV show based on the classic horror movie franchise. Now, those who are familiar with the franchise, know that historically, the sequels, spinoffs, and reboots of The Exorcist have not met much success. However, it looks like this time around, the series has found success… so far.

As of today, we are two episodes in and the story has become quite intriguing.Viewers have been introduced to the Rance family, who seem to be going through troubled times. Matriarch Angela (Geena Davis) is trying to hold her family together as her husband (Alan Ruck) seems to be suffering from a mental degenerative issue and her oldest daughter has become a recluse after a car accident. Angela finds comfort and support from her local church, headed by Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera).

the-exorcist-tv-seriesNow to add more intrigue to the story, Tomas has been experiencing odd dreams of another priest, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels). In his dreams, Keane performs an exorcism on a small boy, that goes horribly wrong, resulting in a demon killing the boy. Tomas tries to ignore the dreams until Angela approaches him after witnessing strange things occurring in her home. When Tomas investigates, he witnesses the demon in action. It’s possessed Angela’s daughter. Now believing that these events are possibly connected, Tomas seeks help from Marcus to fight these demons. Reluctantly, Marcus joins the fight, but may have a few secrets and demons of his own to battle.

Only two episodes in, I’m already intrigued by the story and am finding myself more hooked than I thought I would be. While I’m not finding the show to be particularly terrifying, I am enjoying the story and the mystery. That makes the it worth watching.

the_exorcist2I really appreciate the fact that the show hasn’t tried to rip off the original or ignore it completely. It has a few hidden Easter eggs from the original film. At the same time, it’s trying to pave its own path with its own story and characters. With that being said, I’m excited and nervous to see where it goes from here. There is a fine line between the show being amazing or another disaster, and it’s going to have to tip toe along that line for a while.

For those unfamiliar with original horror film classic, The Exorcist came out in 1973 and still to this day is considered one of the scariest movies ever made. As a fan of both the film and the William Peter Blatty novel, which the film is based, I agree it’s terrifying.

It’s enjoyable, a little creepy, and a mystery. It’s worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of the film.

The Exorcist airs Friday nights on Fox. Check your local listings for times and channels.

(All Photos from 20th Century Fox)

The Conjuring 2 as good as The Exorcist?

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I must admit, I was skeptical going into The Conjuring 2. While I enjoyed the first film, it was way overhyped. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson shine as Ed and Lorraine Warren. James Wan is clearly a master craftsman. However the story seems lacking. When all is said and done, it’s just another haunted house film. It’s nowhere near as innovative as films like It Follows or The Babadook. So with all that in mind, I entered the sequel with low expectations. I came out blown away, and elated by the delightful creepfest that is The Conjuring 2.

The film opens with the Warrens attempting to rid the Amityville house of evil spirits. Lorraine confronts the spectres in the basement. During her encounter with the ghosts, she has a vision of Ed’s death. This leads the couple to decide to stop taking cases.

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At the same time in Enfield, England, a family is at the mercy of a violent entity occupying their home. It has targeted the youngest daughter, turning her life into a living nightmare. The church requests the help of the Warrens. The Warrens, unable to ignore a family in need, rush to Enfield. They soon find themselves intertwined in one of the most famous and well documented hauntings in history.

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One of my favorite aspects of the film is the way it embraces the style of 70s horror. From the yellow titles, to the production design, and the plot, The Conjuring 2 is a love letter to films like The Sentinel and The Legend of Hell House. The 70s was arguably the best decade for horror films. Wan understands this and he manages to make his film feel like a product of a time gone by, rather than just an imitation.

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Another thing that The Conjuring 2 has going for it, is that it’s blood-curdling to the extreme. Wan knows how to create tension. One of my favorite scenes involves the Warrens attempting to contact the ghost that is tormenting the young girl. The girl tells them that the spirit won’t speak unless they turn around. With his back to the girl, Ed begins asking the spirit questions. The creaky voice of an old man begins to speak through the girl. Now this scene could’ve been shot in a thousand different ways. Wan chose to put Ed in the foreground, and the little girl in the background out of focus. As the entity begins to speak, the girl morphs into an old man. Of course all of this is blurry, so the details are left up to the viewers to imagine.

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At the center of all of this madness are Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. I’ve always found both of these actors to be quite charming. Together, their chemistry is palpable. Despite being defenders against evil, Wilson and Farmiga make the Warrens seem like normal people. Actually, they come off as kind of square. Some of my favorite moments in the movie are just the two of them talking. It’s a case of true love, if I’ve ever seen one.

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Finally, I need to address the theme of the film. This is an old fashioned good vs. evil flick. If the Catholic church was smart, they would’ve invested in The Conjuring 2. I don’t particularly identify with any religion, but there’s something nice about the idea that if your faith is strong enough it can drive away even the most vile of evils. It reminds me of the old Hammer films like The Horror of Dracula. Van Helsing was only able to defeat Dracula through the strength of his convictions. Lately, films have been reflecting society’s shift away from religion. Again, I’m not opposed to this, but sometimes it’s good to see things from another perspective.

One of the reasons The Conjuring 2 has been so successful, is that it holds appeal for all audiences. It’s artsy enough for the indie horror crowd, yet straightforward enough for mainstream movie-goers. Not to mention, it’s just flat out scary as hell! I don’t think it’s going too far to say that The Conjuring 2 is The Exorcist for a new generation.

P.S. Look at the letters on the bookshelf during Vera Farmiga’s vision.

In The Night- A Poem

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Maiden White coiled in moonlight,

Death is always waiting,

By candle in the witching hour,

For her breath abating,

 

Hushed whispers down the corridor,

The ghosts just passing through,

Tears glitter in the dark,

Oh, turn another screw,

 

She calls the devils with her spell,

“Bring them onto me”,

Painted by shades of afterlife,

Screaming like a banshee,

 

Fingers move up the bed sheets,

This is silent revelation,

Feeding from the bone,

Whatʼs another violation?

 

They take it all,

Drank the milk straight from her breast,

And she prays to fall,

Against the safety of Abrahamʼs chest,

 

Breathe in, breathe out,

Dawn is just within her reach,

Unfathomable fathoms,

Slither back to the breach,

 

Closing the gates behind them,

Limbs rising from the bed,

Another night sheʼs lived through,

And many more to dread.

 

Horror Movie Review – “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” (2015)

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SPOILER WARNING! This review contains a brief synopsis of the film. If you haven’t seen the movie and wish for it not to be spoiled, watch the film and then read. If you have seen it, read the review and watch it again!

Being a huge a fan of the “Found Footage” horror films (Don’t ask me why I am a fan of them. I don’t even truly understand why. I just find them fascinating.), I wanted to check out the final installment in the Paranormal Activity series- Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. This is the sixth installment in the series and is supposed to bring the story full circle. The big thing about this movie compared to the rest of the series is that the audience will finally get to see the “Activity.”

Ryan (Chris J. Murray), his wife Emily (Brit Shaw), and their young daughter Leila (Ivy George) are just finishing decorating the house for Christmas, when Ryan and his brother, Mike (Dan Gill), find some old VHS tapes and an old video camera that has been altered. The camera has the ability to pick up fragments floating in the air. The family notices that Leila begins to act strange and begins to talk to an imaginary friend, Toby. As the days grow closer to Christmas, Ryan and his brother watch the videos, which are of Katie and Kristi, (the original victims of “the activity”) as they are trained to serve Toby. It’s also during this time that weird things keep happening around the house and the camera is beginning to pick up more and more things. Ryan observes that in the videos, Katie and Kristi are able to see into the future, even describing Ryan watching the tapes. It’s at this point that Leila’s behavior really starts to change. With Leila’s behavior becoming more erratic and Toby growing more violent, the family seeks the help of a priest. The priest determines that Leila is being manipulated by a demon of some kind. The family then learns that the house they live in was built on Katie and Kristi’s old house before it burned down and that the real estate agent who sold them the house was actually, adult Katie. Realizing that the family may have been set up and that the ghost is getting more and more dangerous, the they try to flee the house, but Leila sneaks back and actually enters a portal in her room. As Toby begins to attack the family more frequently, the priest returns to perform a type of exorcism on the house that will remove Toby. As the family prepares and attempts to trap Toby, the demon attacks and kills the priest. After taking over where the priest left off, the family is finally able to trap and rid themselves of Toby. With Toby gone, Leila turns back to normal… or so it appears. Suddenly, Toby returns and begins to kill the family. Leila escapes back to her room and enters the portal. Emily chases after her, and discovers that the portal took them back to Katie and Kristi’s house in 1992. Emily frantically searches for Leila, being taunted by children in the process. Emily finally finds Leila in the garage and they immediately hide from Toby, who has now grown strong enough to take a physical form. In the final scene of the movie, Toby grabs Emily by the throat and strangles her to death, then takes Leila by the hand and walks away.

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Being the sixth film in any franchise, there is always the concern of “will the film stand up to the rest in the series?” Films 2-5, while introducing the elements of the family story, the witches and the marked ones, relied way too much on many of the same tricks and ideas of the original. There are only so many ways to build the suspense and scare the audience with the antics of Toby (That’s the name of the demon, for those not familiar with the series.). However, this film definitely raises the stakes and changes the formula by now showing the activity through the special camera. This is the real first time, outside of the occasional shadows in the past films, that you actually see the activity in a physical form. This element changes the formula of the film enough to help it stand out from the rest of the films.

I also found the addition of the time travel aspect of the story to be very interesting. I wasn’t expecting for a doorway to be opened that traveled to the past. Throwing in something like that could ruin a plot line for a movie. However, I felt that it was used in a great way that did a fantastic job bringing the entire story of the franchise together.

Yet, is time travel and showing the activity enough? While it makes for an interesting change to the overall franchise, there is definitely a loss of suspense with the movie. The audience is more interested in seeing the ghost/demon move rather than being scared or intrigued by the story.

The acting in the film is good. Like the others in the series, and as for most “Found Footage” films, there is a degree of improvisation. This gives it a more “real world” look. No one really stood out in a great or bad way. The kid is creepy though.

The big loss to me in this film is that it’s only one in the series to not feature actress Katie Featherston as Katie. While her character appears in the film as a child, it was a real disappointment not to see the actress in this one. She has been integral to all the main entries, especially the first film.

The Paranormal Activity franchise has been one of the most successful film franchises in recent years. The first film was released nation wide in 2009 and there was a sequel released almost every year until the final film in 2015. In terms of success, all the films combined have made almost $900 million, on a combined budget of under $30 million. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension had the largest budget in the series, $10 million.

The thing about “Found Footage” horror movies is that they are either really good or really bad. We keep getting drawn to them because the ones that are really good, use the film style so well that we want to see more. As a result, we willingly try other films. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and the overall Paranormal Activity series have been one of, if not, the most successful franchises to use the “Found Footage” technique. They have found a way of making a difficult technique fun and successful.

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Overall, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is an okay movie. It’s different than the other films, better than the other sequels in the series, but it is nowhere as good as the original, and for me at least, there isn’t much of a re-watch value. It’s worth watching, but not more than once.

Haunt Review- Sinister Pointe Productions Presents Séance

 

image1(1)SPOILER WARNING! This review contains a synopsis of the haunt, Séance.

The gang here at All Hallows’ Haunts headed out to Brea, California this weekend to experience the latest adventure from Sinister Pointe Productions. (www.sinisterpointe.com, @SinisterPointe )- Séance. Séance is a live interactive event where attendees join Medium Scott Michael, as he opens a gateway to the Other Side.scott

  • Please note that this review is based on the regular showing of Séance. The special, more intense, Witching Hour showing at midnight sold out immediately.

We arrived 30 minutes before our scheduled start time. We spent the 30 minutes looking at items in Sinister Pointe’s Curiosity shop, where they have an interesting collection of macabre items and movie memorabilia. A gentleman, clad in Gothic garb  (including a dapper top hot, flowing cloak, and walking stick), gathered us just before the séance was to start, explained the initial rules, and then took us into the room, 2 at a time. Once we were all seated, Scott Michael entered. Scott introduced himself and then had us introduce ourselves; imploring us to describe any supernatural experiences we may have had. After the introductions, he explained the rules and then began to open a door to the Other Side. After applying several tricks to summon a spirit, a connection was made. The lights went out and the ghost was in the room. We could feel the ghost and hear its unworldly speech. Ultimately, Scott Michael communicated with the spirit and then sent it away. Once the spirit was gone, we were allowed to leave.

Since we went as a group, we decided to share our review as a chat. The All Hallows’ Haunts members that attended Séance are: Lola Tarantula, Adam Neubauer, The Chris Nelson and Andy Shultz. The chat is below:

 

Andy- I’ll say, they did a very nice job creating an atmosphere.

Chris- I loved the atmosphere of the lobby. The smell of sage before they let us in was cool.

Lola- I thought the sage was a nice touch too. They definitely played up the whole “demonic entity” mythology well.

Adam- The whole set was great.

Andy- From the time we got into the lobby, they set the mood just right. The music, the lighting, and the guy talking to everyone about the history of séances. It was fun. I felt that room was really neat, and wanted to see more of it, but the method of taking us in two at a time had mixed results.

Chris- The chairs weren’t very comfortable though.

Lola- I wasn’t uncomfortable, Chris. There was just no reason to take us in two at a time. Also, I enjoyed that guy in the lobby, but I needed a little less of him.

Adam- I wouldn’t have minded the “two-at-a-time”, but it didn’t really seem to serve any purpose.

Chris- I think it was meant to take us out of our comfort zones, break up big groups like us.

Andy- While you guys got in first and had time to look at it, I was the last one let in and didn’t have time to look at things.

Adam- But the presentation was done well.

Andy- The table was really neat, but there wasn’t a real explanation for it.

Lola- I think we all felt the beginning was a little slow.

Andy- All the symbols were cool, but hardly talked about.

Chris- Yeah. I think an explanation of each symbols makings would have been nice.

Lola- Yeah, since they worked so hard on having all the symbols there, it would have been nice if they some how worked it into the story.

Adam- Lola, that was my biggest complaint: I wanted all of the story to be more connected. The stories seemed a bit disparate. All kind of the connecting to spirits, but that was about it.

Andy- As for Scott Michael, the medium, he did a great job introducing himself and introducing us, but it seemed a little rushed.

Lola- I’ll agree with that. He was basically putting on a play, so it seemed like one over-arching story would’ve been more effective than a few unrelated ones. I sensed that he was a tad nervous… and not because of the spirits.

Andy- Yes, I would have liked the tricks he was doing to tie into the overall séance more. He was nervous and stumbled a few times, but he recovered nicely. I also thought that once the main part of the séance started, it was a bit rushed and was too short.

Adam- The build up to actually communicating with the spirit could’ve been fleshed out more, but once we got into it, it was fun.

Chris- I think the breaking of real props was a great touch too. Having to walk out over the broken debris is a new experience.

Andy- Yes, the real props were awesome. It made for a more realistic time.

Lola- I’m not that impressed by a piece of string on my face in the dark.

Chris- Nor the water to the face. I also couldn’t tell what the spirit was saying during the blackout.

Andy- I was hoping for the lights to come back on and see the ghost or for some lighting effects.

Lola- The water to the face just reminds me of a theme park ride. I liked Adam’s idea of having ectoplasm.

Chris- There shouldn’t have been anything  happening to our faces.

Adam- It wasn’t really scary. More surprising.

Andy- Then once it was over and Scott regained control, it ended abruptly. I wanted more.

Lola- Yeah, I didn’t think it was going to be over so soon.

Chris- Also, if the act of us joining hands to was to form a barrier, I think more things should have been happening behind us.  Like a feather across the elbows, or breath on the back of my neck.

Andy- I agree, Chris.  Or someone being grabbed.

Lola- Someone did breathe on my neck. Plus, that one girl got hit by something when things were breaking.

Andy- It would have been a great opportunity to have one of the attendees be a plant in the audience, so to speak. Have one of them being possessed or disappear during the blackout.

Lola- Yeah, that would’ve been wonderful.

Chris- Yes, especially with two empty seats! They could have a plant that was with us in the lobby.

Lola- Again, we don’t know what they did during the midnight one.

Andy- There were a few missed opportunities.

Adam- Well, regardless, was what we saw worth it?

Lola- I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if I $45 enjoyed it.

Chris- I’d say so. I think it would be a great thing to take a date on.

Adam- Definitely good date night. I had a good time. Left with a souvenir. I’m excited to see the next step in the evolution of the Séance.

Andy- I think it was a lot of fun and I had a good time, but $45 is just a little high for what we got.

Chris- I do wish there was more in the gift shop too. Maybe more books?

Lola- More books would be wonderful!

Adam- It’s new. It’ll grow. It seems like Séance has been popular.

Lola- I’ll agree with that. I just would’ve like $25-$30 tickets better.

Andy- But compared to the much higher prices of some of the other haunts, it’s definitely not horrible.

Adam- No, it’s not completely out of line.

Andy- Anybody have anything else they want to add?

Lola- I liked how that guy called me Alice Cooper and said I was very darkness at the beginning.

Andy- Ultimately, I think it was a great event that I can see only getting better and better. I think for the first time doing an event like this, they did a great job. I’m excited to see what they do with it next! I highly recommend them and I’d gladly go again! I feel that they earned the AHH Seal of Approval!

 

Overall, we had a good time and really enjoyed it. We didn’t think it was perfect, but it was still fun and original. We are highly excited for what the future holds for Séance and we hope it continues to grow. We are also excited for the next project to come out of the mind of Sinister Pointe Productions!

There is only one weekend left for Séance and only a few tickets are still available. Visit their website at http://www.sinisterpointe.com to buy tickets and to get more information on Séance and other Sinister Pointe events!

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WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND SÉANCE!

“Clown” Review

Contributed by Lola Tarantula

Lon Chaney once said, “There’s nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.” For their 2014 film, Clown, Director Jon Watts and producer Eli Roth have taken this old adage to heart. Clown takes society’s fear of clowns to a whole new level. The old trope is repackaged and transformed into what is essentially a werewolf/transformation film. It’s a fresh concept that almost reaches its potential.

Clown stars television actor Andy Powers as mild mannered realtor, Kent. Kent is a typical suburban man until he puts on an antique clown costume he discovered in a house he is selling. It’s all fun and games until Kent realizes that the suit won’t come off. In one particularly comical scene he attempts to cut the suit off with a handsaw and the saw breaks. The wig morphs into his own hair, his skin takes on the bleached appearance of the clown makeup. Desperate, he’s finally able to track down help. He meets with a man named Karlsson who sells vintage costumes. Karlsson explains that the modern clown is derived from a demon called a Cloyne. The cloyne lived up in the mountains. The cold temperatures made its nose red and its skin pale. It would consume five children during the winter season before hibernating. Karlsson reveals that the costume Kent is wearing is made from the skin of a cloyne, and that by putting it on Kent will become possessed by the cloyne. From there on it’s a descent into complete mayhem as Kent struggles to control his urges to feast on the flesh of children.

The best part of Clown is that it manages to be quite comedic without decaying into silliness. Jon Watts manages to walk the tightrope and maintain a perfect balance. Despite the film’s looney plot, it’s still a horror film and it’s still creepy at a genuine “Are there clowns in my bedroom?” level. While there is a bit of Eli Roth’s wacky influence present, Watts makes it clear that Clown is his film. By eschewing Roth level gore, he prevents the film from being reduced to a parody. None of the children are ever shown being eaten. His restraint is admirable, because the film could’ve easily gone in a campier direction. That’s not to say there isn’t any gore. In one gruesome scene, Kent’s wife attempts to remove his clown nose and ends up taking a large chunk of skin with her.

The performances are all compelling. Laura Allen adds a certain spark to her role as Andy’s wife, Meg. Her character is rather flat, but she manages with what she’s given. Peter Stormare is quirky and amusing as Karlsson, but his acting never seems excessive. However, Andy Powers is the one who steals the show. Powers is likeable and seems like your everyday Joe. It’s easy to feel for him. He brings a vulnerability to the character that seems effortless. Even when he’s on the verge of chomping down an unsuspecting child he still manages to convey a dose of humanity.

While Clown is solid, it’s easy to see the missed opportunities. With its unique premise, Clown seems like it should be more. The film requires an extra layer of depth. There is so much potential for Kafka-esque surrealism. Every acclaimed transformation story is ripe with metaphor. In this aspect the film is lacking. The audience is left feeling like they’re riding a rollercoaster without any high drops or loops. It’s still fun, but something feels like it’s missing.

Despite, a couple gaffs, Clown is more than worthy of a watch. It clips along at a good pace and never becomes dull. The uncanny image of a clown in suburbia is a treat for audiences who have been bombarded by too many ghosts, zombies, and vampires. (Not that I don’t love those too!) Most critics panned the film, but it has a lot going for it. With a solid cast, tight script, and delightful creature effects is a superb flick to watch in bed on a Friday night.

Note: Clown is currently unavailable in the United States. Viewers with Hola can find it on Mexico’s Netflix.