Wrinkles the Clown Oct 7, 2019 22:52:48 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Oct 7, 2019 22:52:48 GMT -5
Wrinkles the Clown (2019)
Directed by: Michael Beach Nichols
Directed by: Michael Beach Nichols
The perpetually scary-looking Wrinkles the Clown.
Between both chapters of It, American Horror Story, Joker, and now the documentary Wrinkles the Clown, American cinema seems hellbent on assuring we don't sleep too soundly this Halloween. Clowns must now have a lower approval rating than President Donald Trump.
Wrinkles the Clown tackles the viral phenomenon of its titular character: a terrifying street-clown for hire by parents with ill-behaved children who will show up and scare the daylights out of the miscreants for a price. What started as a timely bit to capitalize on the late-2016 national uproar over clowns hitting the streets and "terrorizing" the public ostensibly became an overnight sensation that director Michael Beach Nichols profiles in what is ultimately a messy and underwhelming documentary which, at times, is more justifiably classifiable as a mockumentary.
Wrinkles the Clown is located in the southwestern Florida area, and gained popularity by his placement of stickers on everything from stop signs to park benches, which boast a frightening sad clown face as well as his phone number. When called, once in a blue moon you'll get Wrinkles to answer, but mostly you'll be sent straight to his voicemail. Parents phone Wrinkles when their children are acting up, and if he accepts their offer to pay them a visit, he'll don his red jumpsuit, mask, and maybe a red balloon or two. He's never harmed anyone, contrary to what many toddlers have come to believe, but he's amassed a cult-like following of kids who give themselves a good fright by either making reaction videos to the many clips of Wrinkles online or by giving the phone number a call.
Who exactly is Wrinkles the Clown? A 65-year-old, gravely voiced, pudgy old man who operates out of a van and spends his off-hours eating TV dinners and sucking down Natural Ice. Throughout the documentary, his face remains unseen, until Nichols decides to pull off an ill-advised twist that makes the authenticity of the documentary questionable. The immediate problem lies in Nichols' hesitance to make the film his own. What Wrinkles the Clown amounts to is a compilation of news reports and amateur clips without much external commentary from experts. It's admittedly difficult to try to distill the essence of what is a regionally viral character, but the end result is not very engaging, aimless in structure, and sometimes frustratingly insufficient when it comes to addressing larger ideas of when scare tactics become child abuse.
There are some unsettling moments, however, as you might expect. When listening to the hundreds of thousands of voicemails left on Wrinkles' phone by parents desperate for their children to behave, hearing the blood-curdling screams of young boys and girls in the background of these messages is, quite frankly, unnerving. Whatever parent thinks this is a reasonable alternative to conventional discipline (i.e. timeouts, taking away electronics, etc) would be better off phoning Jo Frost of all people. I'm reminded of a close friend of mine, who uses a tactic on his girlfriend's young boy whenever he misbehaves. He pulls out his iPhone and threatens to call "the Wolf-Man," a fictitious boogeyman he himself conjured up. All he has to do is motion for his phone and say the three dastardly words and the four-year-old goes from misbehaving to pleading him not to call. It's a trick that, when used in moderation, can indeed work and get children to calm down. Do it too much, however, as I've warned him, and the novelty wears off and the kid becomes aware he's not in any danger. Requesting a clown to appear in your backyard or home is quite another offense that deserves some counseling (for the parents).
Wrinkles the Clown is very much an impressionistic documentary that captures Florida like Harmony Korine would, profiling random denizens and a litany of quirky individuals, from kids to their parents. This is fine, but Nichols' production is about on the level of a fan-made documentary since it's so comprised of pre-existing material. Far too infrequently do we get opinions from local law enforcement and child psychologists trying to cogently surmise about the ramifications of an event like this taking on a life of its own. All of this makes Nichols' aforementioned plot-twist murky in terms of clarity; he undermines his and his film's credibility by shoehorning it in, and thus takes away the legitimacy of what he was initially positing as factual.
There's a good point from Wrinkles late in the film about how the voicemails he gets and the backlash his side-hustle has caused is worse than anything he himself has ever claimed he'd do when given the go-ahead from parents. Some messages are from kids vulgarly detailing what they'd do to Wrinkles if they ever saw him in public or near their home. Wrinkles doesn't harm anyone. He doesn't even lay a hand on your child. He simply puts a face and a presence to the fabled idea of a boogeyman. It's a shame that in trying to demystify a fascinating eccentric, Nichols doesn't appear to have had a clear plan on how he wanted to present the information. This leaves a short, 78 minute documentary feeling overlong and ultimately under-researched.
Directed by: Michael Beach Nichols.