This a movie that does exactly what it says on the tin: a small troupe of clowns travel across a post-apocalyptical Ireland. A technology blackout has plunged the world into darkness and anarchy, and three reluctant comedians are seeking to savage their own identity. Bobo (David Earl) is a depressed child entertainer desperately in need of affection, while Pepe (Fionn Foley) is a performer very insecure about his show skills, and “street clown” Funzo (Amy De Bhrún) is an aggressive and scary creature (vaguely reminiscent of Pennywise, a comparison that’s indeed made in the film).
The opening scene sets the tone of this 102-minute movie. A furious Bobo tells the children and the staff at the local hospital to “fuck themselves”, before accidentally mistaking a shot of methadone for jelly and passing out. Meanwhile, a sadistic clown called The Great Alphonso (Ivan Kaye) lands a television gig, and reporter Jenny Malone (Amy De Bhrún) is commissioned to report on the funeral of veteran French clown. They all end up in jail, alongside with Funzo and Pepe. This is where our three protagonists bond, and embark on a mission to destroy Alphonso, and to savage Bobo’s love life (it turns out that he’s in love with the beautiful, tall and blonde Jenny).
Destruction strikes, and our three blundering protagonists are left to pick up the pieces from society, while also doing some profound soul-searching. They have to connect with their non-clown selves before they can achieve anything they want. In Bobo’s case that’s love, for Pepe it’s the ability to perform confidently and for Funko… well, that’s never entirely clear. What is obvious is that she’s bloodthirsty, and always prepared to use her knife (she terrifies a children’s audience by asking “are you ready to die…”, while wielding her blade; she finishes off her sentence only by the time most children have left: “… die of laughter”). This is a movie where the motives of the characters is secondary. The focus is on milking some facetiousness and absurdity from the barely physical and emotional congruous journey.
The characters of George Kane’s first theatrical feature (his previous films were made for television) are constantly trying to be funny, and failing miserably at their attempts. The message seems to be: If you try too hard to be funny, you will just come across as creepy. The humour is somewhere between crude and puerile (it feels almost like the jokes were made for children, except that the topics of drug-taking, Serbian porn, and “f**king a clown” aren’t suitable for one little ones). Naturally, all of this is intentional. After all, this ia a clownish affair. And clowns are indeed a dying breed. They are no longer funny. They have morphed into something menacing, sinister and even murderous.
Credit must go to the vibrant and exuberant cinematography (the vast countryside of Ireland is a constant feature) and effective make-up. This is a movie with high production values (in other words: a sizeable budget).
The biggest problem with Apocalypse Clown is the muddled script, which is signed by four people: Demian Fox, Shane O’Brien and James Walmsley (a trio of writers aka the the Dead Cat Bounce), and the director George Kane. Too many cooks, perhaps? The apocalyptical device is very confusing, with a daily countdown that doesn’t seem to fulfil a purpose, and then strangely disappears. And the jokes are trivial. By incessantly attempting to be funny, this Irish comedy wilfully throws itself in the trappings it set out to avoid. It eventually succumbs to the self-inflicted wounds of conceited humour. The outcome is that some of the acting is rather stilted (particularly the children). This is a comedy as clumsy as its characters.
Apocalypse Clown is in cinemas on Friday, September 1st.