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Review: Joseph P. Kelly’s “Clown Motel”

They’ve been around since the dawn of entertainment, but creepy clowns are still nightmarish figures, especially if they’re old school jugglers and face painters like the original Pennywise design. With a DVD cover like the one featured above and a plot that transcends the typical killer clown stereotype, I jumped at the chance to watch and review Joseph P. Kelly’s Clown Motel; the newest horror film from the Blood Island creator, released to DVD and VOD by ITN Distribution on June 4th 2019. Written and directed by Joseph, Clown Motel finds a rowdy group of ghost hunters and an even zanier bachelorette party as they cross paths in the desert while on their way home from Las Vegas. What should be one more wind night for the unrelated friend circles turns into a battle for survival when they enter the Clown Motel, a seemingly abandoned structure haunted by the souls of the dead clowns who once lived there. And the funny ghouls are determined to make them do a lot more than laugh – they’ll make them die! Produced by Alyssa Leonard, Bob Perchetti and Joel Damian, Clown Motel stars Elinor Price, Amanda Kott, Angeline Mirenda, Alyssa Leonard, Steven Vogel, Eric Prochnau, Donald Schell, Bob Oliver, Johnny Perotti, Denys Ramons Jr., David W. Bailey and Julie Anne Prescott with appearances by Ari Lehman (Friday the 13th ’80), Tony Moran (Halloween ’78) and Martin Klebba (Feast 2 & 3).

A Shadow in the Dark Production filmed in association with Hazelwood Hollow, Rusty Nail Productions and Land of Nod Productions, Clown Motel is successful in its storytelling largely due to whoever booked the locations. The motel used in the movie is a real place, and it provides the perfect, spacious backdrop for a silly bloodbath of epic proportions. There’s another building that contains a room filled with tiny clown statues, a graveyard that looks like it could exist in any Stephen King movie, a dark and dirty cave, and other really impressive spots that go far beyond the reach of independent cinema. Another one of the movie’s strengths is the amount of undead clowns used in this narrative. I wager that twenty clowns were used throughout the movie, but they were featured to capacity and each one had a unique appearance and character flaw. At first, I chalked this up to bad acting, but as Clown Motel progressed I realized each killer is a little touched in the head in their own demented sort of way. When you throw in a lot of partying, a lot of gore, and the cat and mouse games that keep you on the edge of your seat, Clown Motel ended up being a lot better than I first expected. If you’re a fan of killer clowns or independent horror titles in general, this one’s currently available on DVD and VOD courtesy of ITN Distribution.

Clown Motel has cinematography by Joe Lujan and editing by David W. Bailey, who were integral in bringing this weird, sweaty, bizarre story to life. I can acknowledge their efforts here, while also chastising whoever decided to shoot the opening flashback with that camera quality. It’s far under the bracket that the rest of this movie was filmed in and it comes off as more amateur than some of the bad acting from the supporting cast. Sorry, guys. I’m very happy to say the rest of the camera quality vastly improved after the opening credits, but the opening flash back is a little dicey. It serves to establish the killer clowns’ backstory, but it was filmed so horribly that it might make the casual viewer turn away in support of another title in its category. Clown Motel contains a bit of hokeyness, too. The one really old gun, the girl reading in the middle of the massacre, and the stereotypical line of “i’d rather go down fighting with my friends than hiding!” This, however, should be expected in a movie about undead circus folk killing a bachelorette party invaded by a ghost hunting crew. All things considered, Clown Motel is passable even with these errors because the rest of it is… just so out there. I don’t think you’re going to root for any of the characters, so your viewing will become a “what will they do next” kind of experience.

By this point in this generation, any person who buys or streams a horror film is doing it just for entertainment value and not to be scared out of their wits. It’s hard to scare an audience nowadays, but Clown Motel has one genuine scene that sent chills up my body. It comes at night when one of the girls in the motel awakens to find a horde of clowns circling her open window, having been watching her as she slept. Imagine if this was you in real life. Absolutely terrifying! Clown Motel is far from perfect, but it’s still better than you’ll expect. Watch it with a group of friends while enjoying a few beers – and you’re golden. Check in or have your ticket punched, either way you’re never going to survive a night stranded and hunted at the Clown Motel! Final Score: 6.5 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)