Fear of Clowns (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Given its less than impressive provenance as a no-budget straight-to-vid garage band film made by some buddies in Baltimore who issued a general casting call for actors, you might assume that Fear of Clowns is a complete waste of your time. You'd be wrong (as I was). It is actually a fairly cool movie. It has a script that could be made into a terrific genre movie with some tightening and some money; and it has some memorable iconography - an evil clown who kills with a large medieval axe.

The story centers around a painter who suffers from coulrophobia (fear of clowns). Her self-medication for clown-filled nightmares is to paint her visions, and she's reached the status of "up-and-coming artist" because of the sheer power and perversity of her imagination. She is now being stalked by a murderous clown who resembles one of her paintings.

The script's greatest weakness is that it has too many things going on. It has several red herrings. Could the murderer be (1) a vengeful ex-husband who seems to be stalking her (2) a new boyfriend whose story doesn't check out (3) a strange gallery customer who pays her a phenomenal amount of money to do a painting of his own father, who was a clown (4) a cop who always seems to be on the scene too fast (5) a mysterious private detective who watches her constantly? Or perhaps there is no murderer. As the cop says, it is very convenient that she reports being stalked by an evil clown on the opening day for her new exhibition of evil clown paintings. Making the film even longer, the solution is that more than one of the suspects are trying to kill her, so the film has several endings, and when all of the murders are eradicated, the film adds one of those "is it a dream or is it real?" endings. Altogether, Fear of Clowns runs nearly two hours, and it would work much better if pared to 90 minutes with some of the sub-plots, minor characters, and red herrings removed, but even as it is, it's not so bad. It has some scares, and a few of the wisecracks broke me up.

Cop: "A clown? Can you describe the suspect?"

Witness: "He was a fucking clown ... painted face, ruffly collar."


Of course, there are films which are made to make money, and then there are films which are made just to demonstrate that the filmmaker has the capability to make better movies, and this is in the latter category.

It really has some rough edges.

  • The largely inexperienced actors have some good moments, but they have some very bad ones as well.
  • There was no budget for CGI, so the special effects had to be done the old-fashioned way, and are not always effective. (See the decapitation to the right.)

Even the dialogue that I praised above had some confusing and illogical exchanges in the same conversation.

Cop: "Was he black or white?"

Witness: "He was a clown!"

I suppose that exchange was written and filmed before the designers came up with the final clown costume, because the witness's testimony indicates that she could not identify the race of the clown. As it turns out, the filmmakers decided to make the clown shirtless, and it is immediately obvious to everyone in the audience that he is a white man (see picture on the bottom right), so the dialogue makes no sense in context.

And then again, one thinks that the evil clown presentation still needs some work. For example:

Don't they drum you out of clown school if you show up in sensible shoes? Whoa! They really need to add a gym to Killer Klown Kollege.

I didn't really enjoy the film very much because of its length and some of the amateurish moments, but I did enjoy the "making of" featurette on the DVD, and I'd recommend the entire package for people interested in independent filmmaking. Instead of simply showing random "behind the scenes" activities, as these things so often do, the filmmakers put a lot of thought into this feature, which is really an entire extra film assembled in chronological order, showing exactly how the film progressed from talk to reality, admitting the problems as well as demonstrating the elements that they were satisfied with.



  • Filmmaker's commentary
  • Featurette "No Clowning Around: The Making of Fear of Clowns
  • Outtakes
  • widescreen letterboxed transfer



Lauren Pellegrino shows the Full Monty as a victim of the killer klown

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C-. The combination of the film and the "making of" featurette make this an interesting package that should be enjoyed by genre fans and people interested in how indie films get made.

Return to the Movie House home page