Whenever unimaginative people reach for clichés about Canadians to make jokes, somewhere amid the gags related to hockey and maple syrup is the old stereotype that Canadians are too polite for their own good. Buried within some stereotypes, however, are grains of truth—and that might explain why the Canadian-made horror flick The Clown Murders doesn’t even try to be frightening until nearly 30 minutes into the movie’s 90-minute running time. Perhaps the filmmakers thought that startling viewers too quickly would be rude. Anyway, The Clown Murders is barely a horror movie—it’s more of a kidnapping thriller with horrific elements during the finale. The story concerns four average guys who terrorize an acquaintance in order to pressure the man into signing a business deal. Since most of the movie takes place on Halloween, the dudes dress in clown costumes and kidnap their victim’s wife, then stash in a farmhouse. However, an escaped killer is prowling the area—dressed as a clown—so as relations among the four would-be criminals disintegrate, some of them fall victim to a psycho with an axe. Suffice to say, this is a highly misguided project. The first 30 minutes of the picture comprise gentle character development, which would be admirable in any other context, but which seems interminable here. Later, things get strange because the woman whom the friends kidnap turns out to be twisted; she plays mind games on her captors and even, inexplicably, seduces the quartet’s lone grossly overweight member. (Playing that character is Canadian comedian John Candy, in one of his earliest roles, but Candy isn’t given much room to be funny.) Once the movie finally gets around to actual murders, it’s very much a case of too little, too late. Plus, owing to the picture’s low budget, some of the nighttime scenes are so poorly photographed that it’s difficult to discern what’s happening onscreen. Had the filmmakers simply made a thriller about a doomed kidnapping, this could have been interesting—but the attempt to shift the material into full-on fright is a bust.
The Clown Murders: LAME