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Apocalypse Clown (2023)

-Written by John Cajio. 


Apocalypse Clown is a film that mostly does not suck. Good direction and fine performances are hampered by humor that tends to land flat and a story that suffers from a lack of directed focus.


A struggling Irish journalist, Jenny Malone (Amy De Bhrún), is sent to cover the funeral of a master clown educator instead of the story she really wants to cover about a massive solar flare that’s going to hit any day now with devastating consequences for Ireland, if not the whole world. In the meantime, Bobo the clown (David Earl) was just fired from a gig entertaining sick children at a local clinic. He decides to forsake the clown life and seek out his one true love, Jenny, with whom he once had a one night stand at a party. Also in the meantime, Funzo (Natalie Palamides), a homeless rogue clown, attempts to lure a child into her tent but is called out by nearby statue entertainers The Statue of Liberty (James Walmsley) and James Joyce (Shane O’Brien). Funzo bites off Lady Liberty’s ear Mike Tyson-style before running off, the two statues in hot pursuit. All parties, including the clowns Pepe (Fionn Foley) and The Great Alphonso (Ivan Kaye), converge at the aforementioned clown funeral. A fight breaks out and everyone is arrested. The solar flare happens while they all spend the night in jail, disabling all modern electronics, including the electronic locks to their cells. In the aftermath of the solar flare, Ireland at least, has quickly reduced itself to a wasteland Mad Max-style (more akin to the complete fall of society seen in Mad Max: Road Warrior or Mad Max: Fury Road as opposed to the partial collapse seen in the original Mad Max). Hijinx ensues as everyone travels together in the pursuit of their own goals. 


If that summary seems like a lot, that’s because there is a lot packed into the film's 102-minute runtime. Jenny Malone wants an award-winning story to live up to her mother’s journalistic legacy, if not exceed it. Bobo wants to rekindle a one night stand and make it much more while forsaking the clown life. Pepe suffers from delusions of grandeur while feeling wholly inadequate at the same time. The Great Alphonso is a prototypical malignant narcissist with a dark past. And Funzo is simply psychotic. 


I really wanted to like Apocalypse Clown more than I did. It could have been a fun and entertaining B movie—the kind where you kick back with a couple of beers and laugh at the sheer absurdity on the screen. The fundamental premise certainly allows for it. The writers (Damien Fox, George Kane, O’Brien, and Walmsley) could have leaned much more into those really wacky and absurd moments, but I felt like the film pulled back at the last second in most instances in an attempt to give us something “real.”  


On the other hand, there’s enough legitimate drama simmering on and underneath the surface that the filmmakers could have leaned into that more instead to give us a real examination of the human experience as this unlikely clown troop (and one journalist) traverses a growing hellscape in search of purpose and acceptance. 


But Apocalypse Clown does neither of those things. Instead, it seems to give us a little from Column A and a little from Column B, leaving this viewer, at least, ultimately unsatisfied. 


Kane’s direction of the provided script is solid, however, along with David Grennan’s cinematography. There are a lot of gorgeously framed shots in this film. The performances are also quite good overall. Palamides’ Funzo and Kaye’s The Great Alphonso stand out. Natalie played Funzo as a completely unhinged clown that left one wondering what insane thing she would say or do next. She easily generated the most laughs, when a lot of the overt jokes fell flat. Ivan played malignant narcissism to a tee. The Great Alphonso will stop at nothing to achieve (or perhaps re-achieve) his goal of being the most famous clown in Ireland. 


Apocalypse Clown is a film that I ultimately liked more than I disliked thanks to strong performances, good direction, and beautiful cinematography. An unfocused story, however, holds it back fairly significantly.


Directed by George Kane. Written by Damien Fox, George Kane, Shane O’Brien, and James Walmsley. 


Starring David Earl, Natalie Palamides, Amy De Bhrún, Fionn Foley, Ivan Kaye, etc. 


5.5/10 = WORTH WATCHING, BUT YOU’VE BEEN WARNED (IT MOSTLY DOES NOT SUCK)


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