With a title like Apocalypse Clown, cinephiles would be forgiven for thinking the George Kane-directed feature was about clowns being the harbingers of the end times. But no, the film, written by Kane, Shane O’Brien, Demian Fox, and James Walmsley, is about a small clan of would-be clowns. These washed-up and despondent souls are seemingly the last remnants of humanity after the apocalypse occurred.
At the funeral for Ireland’s last true clown, a fight breaks out between the clowns and the living statue performers. This gets Bobo (David Earl), Funzo (Natalie Palamides), Pepe (Fionn Foley), the Great Alphonso (Tadhg Murphy), and the journalist covering the funeral, Jenny (Amy De Bhrún) thrown into the slammer. However, they are able to escape, only to discover the electricity has been knocked out and everyone has vanished.
In a fit of madness and wanting to remain famous, even as the world’s ending, Alphonso kidnaps Jenny and runs off to become the only entertainer broadcasting. Bobo is obsessed with the journalist and wants to rescue her. Unfortunately, he’s a sad sack who can barely be a clown, much less a hero. Funzo is literally crazy, often unintentionally terrifying her perspective audience, which drives the other clowns up the wall. Pepe is the worst mime ever and doesn’t understand even the most basic principles of set up and pay off. Can this motley crew survive this new harsh world and save Bobo’s love from a delusional has-been?
“…a small clan of would-be clowns…are seemingly the last remnants of humanity after the apocalypse…”
Apocalypse Clown isn’t quite as madcap as it promises to be. Jokes are present, but the depressing nature of the clowns’ lives rubs right up against the absurd nature of the story. Kane doesn’t finesse the tone to accurately balance both. This means some scenes are hilarious, such as the “clown off” involving a literal spiked pied. Other moments are played deadly straight; for instance, the discussion of clowns “needing something to live for.” But these moments seemingly come from two incomplete scripts smashed together (the whole Alphonsoland bit is especially awkward).
However, that does not mean the film is devoid of entertainment or artistic merit. For starters, the cast is great. Earl performs as heart out as the lovelorn, aimless clown. De Bhrún has incredible comedic timing, highlighted at the end in her report on what’s been happening in Ireland this whole time. Murphy plays egotistical and maniacal well, making for a credible baddie. But it is Palamides who steals the film from beneath everyone else. Her deadpan delivery of “laughter fluid” is the tone the script should be pitched at for its entire runtime. Palamides’ delivery of “clown-pedo… like a torpedo of clowns” or pulling out a knife and claiming “this was meant to be a flower” are standout moments both for the performer and the film overall.
Plus, the filmmakers pay off just about everything set up. The living statue performers continue to make appearances. The BuzzFeed-esque place Jenny works for gets an excellent scene at the end. If it was brought up or shown earlier it gets neatly wrapped up at the end without feeling forced. Yes, this includes the Garth Brooks concert.
Apocalypse Clown is a little too serious to work as a comedy, and a bit too comedic to work as drama. But the writers have paid attention to their narrative and have ensured that every plot strand comes together at the end. Plus, the cast, especially Palamides, is really terrific. Overall, this is an uneven but enjoyable experience.
"…Palamides...steals the film..."