Friday, October 11, 2019

Movie Review: Wrinkles the Clown

Wrinkles the Clown *** / *****
Directed by: Michael Beach Nichols.
The slim 75-minute documentary Wrinkles the Clown tries to pull back the mask a little on the creepy Florida clown who became an internet sensation back in 2014 – and was the start of those creepy clown sightings that seem to become an obsession in America in the years that follow. Perhaps you aren’t familiar with Wrinkles himself – but you undoubtedly heard about those creepy clowns who were everywhere. Well Wrinkles is based in South Florida (of course, it’s Florida) and the first time he was ever seen was in YouTube video, purported to be CCTV, that showed him climbing out from under a trundle bed of a sleeping little girl – and then turning off the camera, so who knows what happened next? He became an internet fixture – stickers with his picture and phone number – were stuck all over the place, and apparently word got around that Wrinkles could be hired by parents to scare misbehaving children. We hear some of those phone calls – Wrinkles gets hundreds per day – and meet some of those children, who have been threatened with Wrinkles. Does it work? Is it child abuse? You decide.
For the first half of the movie, we get the backstory of what happened – how Wrinkles became famous – and follow around the retiree who is the real Wrinkles. He wears a mask that is deliberately made to be a creepy clown mask – the man playing Wrinkles describes it as Michael Myers meets a clown. Wrinkles doesn’t want his face shown – he doesn’t want people to know who he really is. He gets enough grief on the phone, he doesn’t want it in real life as well. And the children we meet in the film really do seem terrified – both the ones who simply get threatened with a phone call to Wrinkles, and those who discovered him online,
But about half way through the film, the film twists itself, to reveal perhaps its true intentions – and let us in one the joke as it were. The question about whether or not calling Wrinkles to scare your kids – terrifying them in essence – is child abuse or not is pretty much dropped at that point, and the film becomes a kind of story of the internet age. The kids who got to know Wrinkles online really were scared of him – but not everyone is. There is an entire subculture around calling Wrinkles phone number to scare yourself and your friends (not unlike saying Bloody Mary into the mirror three times) – and some of those kids who were at first terrified of Wrinkles, end up tapping into their own creativity – funneling that fear into their own videos that show some skill. Is Wrinkles any different than say Slenderman? Then again, as we know, there is a dark side of Slenderman that has given way to real world violence – that the film never really addresses.
That is part of the problem with Wrinkles the Clown – the documentary. It is a rather slim film, and is at least somewhat afraid of getting things too messy. It seemingly wants to capitalize on the notoriety of Wrinkles – and come out in the same fall of It: Chapters II and Joker – but not really deal with all the issues it raises. So it touches on a lot – even including poor Funky the Clown, a birthday party clown in the classical mode, who has watched as his business has dried up because so many kids are scared of clowns now. There is probably something more substantive here – somewhere- but the filmmakers don’t seem to really want to pursue it. Still, on the surface level, the film is certainly interesting.

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