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on 4 May 2011
Clownhouse is a 1989 horror movie directed by Victor Salva (who went on to make the Jeepers Creepers movies), but it is probably most notable as featuring the acting debut of Sam Rockwell. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 1989 Sundance Film Festival.

The story follows a young boy, Casey (Nathan Forrest Winters), who has an intense fear of clowns (coulrophobia, in case you didn't know). With his mother away for the weekend, he is left in the care of his two older brothers, Geoffrey (Brian McHugh) and Randy (Sam Rockwell). They want to go to the circus, and thinking that Casey's fear is just a bit childish, they drag him along. Casey, of course, has the crap scared out of him, but he gets through it unscathed. However, what the boys don't know is that after the show, three escaped inmates from the local mental institution kill the clowns, dress up in their costumes, and because their mental, follow the boys home to kill them (obviously).

What follows is, despite its R-Rating, essentially a horror movie for kids. If you are looking for gore, turn your blood-lusting eyes elsewhere; there is barely a drop spilt here. Clownhouse should be no more than PG-13. As for that Sundance Film Festival nomination, I don't know who was on that jury, but they must have been on some pretty awesome drugs when they saw this. Clownhouse isn't a bad movie, but it sure ain't award worthy.

While there is little on-screen gore, there is also little on-screen death. Clownhouse is considered to be a slasher movie, but very few of the swipes draw blood. The body count is low, though there is one particular fatality that is fantastically daft, and worth the price of admission alone! The intention here isn't to make you cringe, it is to provide some fun frights, and this it does quite effectively. There are some neat visual gags and on more than one occasion, I couldn't contain a guffaw of appreciation.

What works best about this movie is the interaction between the brothers. The dynamic is brilliantly captured, and even the patchy performances can't hamper its authenticity. You really believe that these guys grew up together. Each character is well defined, both in their personality, and their role in the brotherly hierarchy. They are well written, and had this material been performed by better talent, Clownhouse would have been a far superior movie. As it stands, the only one to deliver a solid performance is, unsurprisingly, Sam Rockwell.

But in a movie called Clownhouse, the main thing we wish to know is; how are the clowns? The clowns are good, but not great. They are mute throughout, so there is no real sense of character. They are just guys in clown costumes who terrorise the boys; nothing more. What makes them work isn't the acting, but the way the clowns are presented. The most effective moments come about by how the camera is framed to captures their actions, rather than through any actual performance. Basically, they look good, and on the day, the director told them where to stand, and this worked nicely. Beyond that, there is nothing memorable about them. Pennywise can float away contently knowing that he is still the boss clown!

Overall, Clownhouse is a perfectly good watch. As a horror movie, it is benign, and what jumps it does deliver are fun. It's the sort of thing that, had you discovered it on TV one night when you were fourteen, you would have had a ball with it. As it stands, I could only recommend it if you have a particular interest in the that limited genre that is killer clown movies.

However Clownhouse will forever live in the shadow of the true horror story that happened behind the scenes. In 1988 director Victor Salva, then twenty-nine, was convicted of sexually abusing the lead actor, Nathan Forrest Winters, then twelve. Salva confessed to the crime, and went on to serve fifteen months of a three year sentence. I was unaware of this when I saw the film. It would have made for a far more uncomfortable viewing experience if I had known.
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on 22 August 2007
Have you ever walked down an alley late at night and felt allright naturally you will feel abit nervous but sure that you will be safe.
if afterwards you were told someone was murdered there a few months or years ago, would you walk through that alley in the night on your own again?
the mind is a weired thing.
When I first saw this film i Thought it was a good film, the acting was allright the story was good and though there are many other better thrillers out there this one held its ground real well.
It was only afterwards that i heared the director of this film victor salva known for the Jeepers Creepers films both 1 and 2 on which he served as writer and director, had molested the then 12 year old actor from Clownhouse.
He was to serve 5 years after the video tape emerged of him and the star of his film clownhouse Nathen Forrest Winters 12 years old at the time engaging in sexual activities Mr Salva in his 30's was giving Mr Winters oral sex however he only seved 15 months and was then released.
After learning of what he done to the poor 12 year old child. i could not watch the film with the same ease i had when i first saw it.
it still remains a good film and the scenes i saw of the kids partially naked i saw as innocence now seems some what disturbing to me.
come to think of it in jeepers creepers2 the child who is the 1st victim looks like he is about 12 too.
the creature could of gone for the father or the older son but yet he goes straight after the little boy Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
all in all, Clownhouse does deliver, not all the way but enougth to say its worth the watch.
If you can get your hands on this film then take a look at it.
KevDaKitten
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 25 October 2014
Clownhouse mainly arouses interest as Sam Rockwell's first screen role, back in 1988. He is extremely good in it as the eldest of three brothers, set against a trio of madmen dressed as clowns who break into their house when they have to fend for themselves. However it goes well beyond the genre trappings you might expect, and is really something of interest to film-lovers. Not only is it a superbly designed and shot film, where every frame has been worked out with attention to aesthetic effect, degree of coloration, and pacing in the overall scheme, but it also subverts the horror genre to some extent by not showing you anything very horrific, yet still being quite scary. It is the kind of film to give horror a good name, it is so imaginatively made and so little about depraved goings-on. The emphasis is displaced onto the psychology of the brothers, which is subtly delineated throughout, and makes it quite a humanist film! It is a distant relative of Louis Malle's Le Souffle au coeur in the way it has its finger on the pulse of adolescent interactions. It also benefits from an outstanding score, which enhances it at all key points. In fact it is not hard to see why it nearly won a major prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Victor Salva is clearly a filmmaker of talent, and it is unfortunate that the film was blighted by a criminal case where he went to prison for sexually abusing the 12-year-old lead actor, Nathan Forrest Winters. The latter gives a very good performance as the youngest of the trio, and the director is no doubt attuned to the universe of boys of that age, however it may put many people off seeing the film. It was apparently dropped by MGM on DVD, no doubt in connection with this; however the issue of this German disc, with soundtracks in both German and English, is cause for celebration in that the film is outstanding, Rockwell is brilliant as he has been ever since, and it certainly deserves a place in film history.
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on 28 November 2007
this is the best clown film ever! i love this film and if you like horror then this is for you. great film
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on 13 April 2014
It's poorly made and scripted, but there's something about this film, which completely scares me, and it's not just because you have 3 mental patients dressed up as clowns. Scary! The climax keeps getting me!
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on 27 March 2015
This is a Decent and atmospheric horror flick made on a Very low Budget,and if you can get beyond the truly awful real life story behind the making of this film ( I'm not gonna go into it so google it) you will be entertained.
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on 30 June 2009
I know this film is not as popular following the scandal.It's low budget but a fantastic film and very realistic.It's about three brothers,home alone who are stalked by three psychopaths dressed as clowns.

People who have a phobia of clowns should avoid this.This is so much more than just a horror.This will stay with you.
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on 1 April 2006
CLOWNHOUSE is probably the scariest clown movie made so far, simply because of the premise. This is far greater, in terms of suspense, than Stephen King's IT. Although the tension drops for a while towards the end, it recovers the intensity very fast at the end.
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on 13 February 2014
The basic premise is this, three mental patients escape at night (when else), kill three clowns and don their disguises and go on a killing spree.

Meanwhile, Sam Rockwell and his two brothers stay at home on their own and get stalked by the clowns.

Because they would rather stay around than escape somewhere.....

This is one of those movies that was really popular in the eighties, and is fondly remembered by lots of people, but sadly, I never saw this movie until yesterday, and seeing it as a 34 year old rather than a twelve year old really makes the film mundane and pretty uneventful.

One of the boys has a phobia of clowns, so they take him to the circus, great idea.

After the token outburst, they all go home and get stalked, for the rest of the film. But it's not stalking, it's a bunch of people in clown suits, standing in the dark and having a torch shone in their face.

Maybe if i saw the film when I were younger I would have appreciated he cheapness and relate do the children, but now, I just see a young Sam Rockwell and two other kids not doing much else but hide and be horrible to one another.

Not scary, and I doubt it's not that bad for people with a real phobia of clowns.

They should watch IT instead...
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on 13 June 2010
From victor Salva director of Jeepers Creepers 1 & 2, this effective clown based slasher film was actually pretty chilling and competently made, if unoriginal tale and now infamous as the movie director Salva was accused of molesting a young cast member. There is actual suspense, and a feeling of dread throughout. The boys manage to generate some sympathy, even if they don't always act 100% sensibly. Rockwell the breakout star of this picture (it was his first film) succeeds very well at making the eldest brother a stereotypical obnoxious jerk (although some parts he seemed to be overacting and a bit goofy) with nothing but contempt for his younger siblings. You'll also notice that there's hardly any gore at all. The film was also based somewhat on real life serial killer John Wayne Gacey who also liked dressing as a clown which makes this film even more interesting. The storyline is very simple. 3 brothers (one of which hates clowns) go to the circus one night. We get a little bit of character development on how the brothers interact with each other. After they leave the circus we see a scene of three psychopaths (who have escaped from a madhouse) run into a tent and kill three guys dressed as clowns. They steal the outfits and decided they are going to terrify the 3 brothers for the rest of the night. Throughout the movie, you will also see a funny side to the 3 main characters. There is great character development between all 3 of them, and you will see a familiar face in the movie.. Sam Rockwell who was 20 years old, and funnier back then. If you ignore the controversy (try not to let the actions of the sick director put you off), Clownhouse is a creepy little horror flick and succeeds in its intent as it was quite effective and atmospheric slasher flick, I highly recommend this to slasher fans.
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