Published on December 22nd, 2019 | by Harris Dang
Wrinkles the Clown – Film Review
Reviewed by Harris Dang on the 18th of December 2019
Netflix presents a film by Michael Beach Nichols
Produced by Jennie Bedusa, Mike Dill, Jon Lullo, Lowell Shapiro, and Brendan Walter
Written by Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker
Starring Wrinkles the Clown
Edited by Christopher K. Walker
Running Time: 75 minutes
Release Date: the 13th of December 2019 (available on Netflix)
The concept of the clown is a mystifying affair. In its very innocuous nature, the concept is meant to be joyful and to provoke laughter. Consider circus acts, marketing mascots, and jesters in ancient history. The best example cherished by adults and children alike though was ‘Bozo the Clown’. The concept took a sharp turn following the release of Cecil B. Demille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). Jimmy Stewart played a clown whose gradual backstory involved accidental homicide and tragedy.
In the last thirty years, the concept has been warped to the fearful figure we know today. Some standouts include the clown doll in Tobe Hooper’s superlative film Poltergeist (1982), the fantastically titled films Killer Klowns in Outer Space (1988) and Clownhouse (1989), and then finally, the release of Stephen King’s novel It (1990), which introduced the world to a haunting, terrifying figure known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
Then there’s the most famous clown of all, the Joker. He remains the true nemesis of the caped crusader, Batman, and is known for his sardonic wit, reprehensibly sadistic actions, and macabre sense of humour. He is an iconic figure who combines what we fear and what we expect of clowns. Now we have a horror documentary on the subject, appropriately titled Wrinkles the Clown. On a first glimpse it shares the same conceit of having the image of scary clowns. Will the film be more than meets the eye?
‘Wrinkles the Clown’ is the alias of a Southwest Florida man whose real identity is unknown to this day. He started out offering his services, which included scaring children to dissuade them from doing something ‘naughty’. One major example was parents hiring him to make a surprise appearance under their children’s bed.
The first half of Wrinkles is a character study that unveils his mysterious presence and day-to-day workings, including his occupation and personal life while under the scrutiny of social media. It is entertaining seeing the interview subjects provide their insights and fears of him; their remarks are terrifying and very funny. However, the film over-emphasises the impact the titular role has on the rambunctious children, which detracts from opportunities to examine Wrinkles’ story in depth.
As the film approaches the halfway point, the storytelling takes an interesting 180-degree turn that spins our perception of Wrinkles on its head. Without spoilers, the twist provides the audience with more food-for-thought about how fear and paranoia leads to irrational actions and provides an outlook in ourselves in how one scrutinises. It also feels like a cheat as it upends our expectations in a way that may deter audiences.
It is a shame because the film’s subject matter could have been explored in a various ways. Instead, Wrinkles forgoes what it initially had with another agenda that feels misplaced. It is possible that a second watch may offer a whole new perspective. Unfortunately, the surprise factor is absent. Boo.
Summary: The film over-emphasises the impact the titular role has on the rambunctious children, which detracts from opportunities to examine Wrinkles’ story in depth.