Ron Bonk’s feature “Clay” constantly puts the viewer off-guard. Initially it plays like an artsy chiller-thriller, with a stalking sequence assembled in a montage of split-screen imagery that calls to mind “The Boston Strangler.” Then it appears to be a riff of the “Frankenstein” territory, with a monstrous “son” vainly begging for love from a detached and possibly deranged “father.” Then it seems like a blood-curdling psychological drama as the “father” begins a friendship with the lonely little girl who lives next door. And then it seems like a tragedy as the “son” finds himself being viewed as the surrogate child of a woman who never recovered from the loss of her son in Vietnam.
Needless to say, the storytelling approach is both invigorating and exhausting, as it is impossible to determine where “Clay” is going to wind up. The film’s bravura editing and intelligent camera work helps to build a sense of gnawing dread that becomes so overwhelming that the inevitable descent into violence almost seems cathartic. Indeed, the film’s most disturbing element is also its most simple: Clay’s toy world of tiny clay figures, which includes a fairly substantial graveyard devoted to the figures who fell under this wrath.
Kudos are in order to Wes Reid as the eponymous serial killer whose mix of pathetic emotional longing and vicious anti-social loathing offers a memorable presentation of a warped soul on a one-way express trip to hell.