[ review by Jacob Helgren ]
As a cast of unknowns names appear upon the screen (with the exception of veterans Christopher Plummer and Margot Kidder) the camera pans its way through an opera house....by the looks of the people striding out of the building we see this is the film's monologue. This is the known cliché used to give the audience a clue as to how the slasher will play itself into the film. This brings the audience into an automatic decision....THE CLOWN AT MIDNIGHT is going to be a low budget time-waster, straight-to-video trash even, but in the end this movie deems itself worthy of a look.
But, of course, it made its promises over the course of the monologue: forbidden lovers merrymaking in a back dressing room, obviously the opera's stars; a poster of Pagliacci, the opera in current procession with a smiling clown on the front, a vision of the title's slasher soon to come. It also brings the first death: that of the opera's leading lady when she is left by her lover and brutally attacked by a convincingly scary clown. It wasn't even then that the movie made its turn: cut to the present, where the usual troubled brunette heroine Kate (Neve anyone?) sits in a library. She thinks about her past and manages to scream aloud, causing stares from her peers, and her best friend Monica (and only truly notable celebrity Tatyana Ali, pop singer) embarrassingly trotting up to her aide. They then begin to thin the plot out for the audience, expressing to the obvious fact that Kate just found out she was adopted, the murdered star her mother, and that it may be hard for her to go back to the opera house. Through the persuasion of her bud, besides, there'll be lots of cute guys there...., Kate decides to proceed on and soon the change in the film occurs.
This change comes within the cast of spunky teen unknowns as they gather at the opera house, each of which carries some resemblance to a Breakfast Club character. Introduced teens are Walnut, a big-mouthed goody-goody nerd-type; Marty, the flamboyantly gay actor; Ashley, the strawberry-blond cheerleader-prom queen and all around bitch; Taylor, Ashley's nonintellectual quarterback boyfriend; and George, the rebel without a cause, black leather-wearing, Hearst-driving underachiever. Also brought in are the film's adults and as-said veterans: Miss Gibby (Margot Kidder), the head of the theater department, and Mr. Caruthers (Christopher Plummer), the mysterious old fart who owns the opera house. Mr. Caruthers harrows the tale of the opera house (a scene with quite slick direction as the camera pans in and out of the students) and how it was shut down because the leading lady of a play was murdered by her leading man after being caught sleeping with someone else.
After a day without the teacher (who goes to get cleaning supplies), the teens kick back, eat pizza and drink beer (dont they know that is a big slasher movie no-no?). The students then decide to retire for the night, but not before taking a peek of where the famous opera singer (and Kate's Mother) was murdered. We also find out that her leading man (and supposed clown killer) is Kate's Father.
The following day the group gathers again for a full day of cleaning the opera house. Upon a disappearance of the supervising adults (as usual), the students actually take the initiation to clean, or at least most of them do: Marty is above menial labor and proceeds to suck a lollipop. Taylor and Ashley go off alone, which can best be described as Marty put it: "The first couple of Churchill High are in there shagging their brains out", or what little they have! The remaining teens go off into various places of the theater: Monica to rummage through old costumes, George to check out the old makeup room and Kate to run back and forth between jobs, not really doing anything at all besides looking traumatized about the death of her Mother.
Upon the teens splitting up, this gives our clown permission to begin the slashing and impaling. The death scenes aren't ultra-gory but the directing of Pellerin provides enough suspense, colorful atmosphere and jumps in them to make the gore take a back seat.
As far as plots go, THE CLOWN AT MIDNIGHT is a little thin.....lets just say without any spoilers that a plot can become quite muddled when multiple characters can don the clown's costume at any given time during the film. It also has the bad aroma of soap opera drama in its plot: however, through fun characters the film has the ability to win an audience. The teens make up the film, who make a change where it is the jock, not the usual nerd, who is getting made fun of in the film. There is almost a sense of sadness when a majority of the likable teens die.
There are also plenty of great one-liners and slasher references. In reference to the title, George appropriates the film title with a line famous film star Lon Chaney said: "A clown may be amusing in a circus ring, but what would be your reaction to opening you door and finding that same clown on your front step at midnight?" And, the jock, in reference to a fencing duo with the gay actor, says to his girlfriend, That bitch cut me. Of course, despite the great one-liners, the film lacks originality in plot, which could have been the deciding factor on why this Canadian film didn't get a US Theater release. On video, however, this film can be a very enjoyable evening of contemporary horror with the feeling of one of those post-FRIDAY THE 13TH early 80's slashers. Tatyana's character's great one-liner pretty much sums it all up, "I felt like a bimbo in some slasher movie screaming like that.".... Indeed, Tatyana, indeed.
female:5 / male:4
1) Female gets stabbed with knife
2) Female gets axed in forehead
3) Female teen gets strangled with necklace
4) Female teen is impaled onto spear
5) Male teen is electrocuted in metal chair
6) Male teen thrown off roof of opera house
7) Female teen decapitated with axe
8) Male thrown off catwalk above stage
9) Male dropped onto multiple spearheads