Wrinkles The Clown
Wrinkles The Clown
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Wrinkles The Clown is an intelligent, thought provoking deep dive into a profoundly contemporary type of terror.
It all started with a viral video. A creepy, black-and-white CCTV grab of a very scary clown emerging from beneath the bed of a sleeping child. It was followed by stickers plastered across Florida emblazoned with the horrific visage of the masked Wrinkles The Clown, along with a phone number. From there, it turned into a bizarre social phenomenon, with Wrinkles receiving millions of phone calls and creepy clowns appearing everywhere. There were more eerie videos of Wrinkles, who eventually appeared to be providing a demented form of public service, allegedly taking cash from frustrated parents to scare their naughty children into submission. One of the weirdest internet sensations in the short history of this art form (if that’s the right term), the story of Wrinkles The Clown is a truly fascinating one.
It’s perfect fodder for a documentary, and director Michael Beach Nichols (who helmed 2015’s Welcome To Leith, another tale of communal fear and reaction, this time tracking a small town fighting off a newly arrived white supremacist) delivers something truly special here. Wrinkles The Clown is an intelligent, thought provoking deep dive into a profoundly contemporary type of terror. Boasting a striking visual palette somewhere between Harmony Korine’s Gummo and a Matt Mahurin music video, Nichols wades into the murky mythology of Wrinkles The Clown in sneaky and inventive ways, taking informed comment from folklorists, child psychologists and various other pundits, but striking hard-shining gold in the form of the many children who would become obsessed with Wrinkles. An unlikely modern bogeyman, Nichols punches up Wrinkles’ skin-crawling cache in a series of inventive re-creations; they give the film its ghoulish panache, but the real interest lies in Nichols’ examination of everything that the Wrinkles phenomenon stirred up.
With economic clarity, he cuts into it all: the clown as a figure of terror; the ease with which something so simple as a viral video can whip up nothing short of mass hysteria; our seeming need to believe in bogeymen; society’s shocking propensity for violence, and its desperation to demonise that which it doesn’t understand; and the potential for wild flights of imagination existing in all children. It’s a potent mix, and when spiked with Nichols’ own audacious narrative dares, it makes Wrinkles The Clown something that will really keep you up at night…both in fear and studied rumination.