Dir. Tommy Brunswick

The phobia of clowns - coulrophobia, according to my online research - seems remarkably commonplace, even clichéd, considering that very few of us can spend much time in circuses getting menaced with buckets of tinsel. Surely it must relate to the disproportionate number of clowns in cinema who also happen to be deranged killers, aliens, or demons: dangerous clowns have somehow become a tried-and-tested bunch of psychos, and as 'tried and tested' is the order of the day in Jingles the Clown (2009) it's no surprise to meet the psychotic 'Mr. Jingles' here.

By day Mr. Jingles, a.k.a. Henry Tanner (John Anton) is a children's TV performer, pratfalling all over the place for the edification of the kiddies. But by night, he's a child murderer, contentedly dispatching parents as well - but the police close in on Mr. Jingles and he's forced to run cackling into the night, heading into a sewer in his bid to escape.

It's now fifteen years later and we're in a TV executives' meeting, where a group of cast and crew are planning their new hit show - a Most Haunted-style schtick, taking place - have a guess - at the (presumed deceased) Henry 'Jingles' Tanner's house using the only Jingles escapee, Angie Nelson (April Canning) as a co-host! As if that wasn't enough, it seems that Jingles was never caught…then we're shown a giggling murderer attacking a young couple at the house...just before the crew themselves set off there.

The rest of the film plays out like some sort of familiar recurring dream, albeit a bloody one. You know the rest (although rather helpfully the film provides us with a 'psychic' to make helpful guesses!)The not-so-bright young things gradually realise Jingles is alive, well, and wants the one that got away, as well as anyone else who tries to intervene. Will they escape? Will they decide to make a stand? And will the final victim gain some sort of meaningful redemption in the end?

In many ways, Jingles the Clown feels like hackwork (!), just earnestly done. If you like slashers, and if you like your films to feel well-trodden and not too challenging, with traditional kills/quantities of blood, then you'll get along just fine with this. All the elements are there: naïve young people willing to rationalise all the 'shadowy figures' at windows and bloodstained clothes until it's too late; ominous string quartets, an omniscient killer (though to be fair it's not hard to seem like you know everything up against this lot) and of course a spot of car/phone trouble. It seems we're supposed to recline happily in this comfort zone, reveling in its disregard for character development and feeling an almost tangible nostalgia when people say 'I feel like something bad is going to happen'. Ah. Even the killer feels already familiar, being a recognisable Gacy/Dahmer hybrid (and this too is referenced for us, in case we miss it!)

In many ways, I have no problem with this. It harks back to a time in horror which wasn't overpopulated with sobbing (probably French) torture victims, and which even in its utter familiarity is a change from the new wave of overused motifs. On the other hand, and particularly if you're not a fan of slashers, feeling like you've seen this film many times before could make it feel like a redundant exercise. Postmodernist toss aside - I'm not suggesting that only Scream franchise-levels of pastiche can bring anything to this genre - perhaps you do need to do something more with your film if you expect people to feel motivated to watch it all the way through.

Jingles the Clown is a competent, harmless, but ultimately pointless revisiting of a well-known genre which nonetheless has good, clear sound levels, decent incidental music, and clear visuals - albeit with the pinkish caste common to this style of 'TV movie' format (with an abundance of actors who all over-pronounce their lines, also in the TV movie style!) I find it ultimately impossible to say whether the film is intentionally knowing, or just as naïve as its protagonists. I'd of course guess the former, but sadly there are no additional features or options on the Big Bite Entertainment screener to light my way…

Review by Keri O'Shea

Released by Big Bite
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review