Apocalypse Clown


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Apocalypse Clown
"Ireland is consistently knocking it out of the park with this sort of work, and other countries must be looking on in clownish envy."

Are you a clown person? For some people, they’re a favourite part of childhood. Other people – even horror fans – find them deeply unsettling. If you’re part of the latter group, don’t worry – as it turns out, clowns hate clowns too.

Bobo (David Earl) hates being a clown. At any rate, he hates the bored, disappointed looks on children’s faces, the lack of opportunities which life offers to him, and the fact that he can never get a girlfriend. The last woman with whom he had a one night stand, struggling journalist Jennifer (Amy De Bhrún), is referred to as ‘the clown fucker’ by people in her office, and shows no interest in his continued romantic overtures. They are thrown together again at the funeral of legendary clown Du Coq, which she is covering for work, along with one of Du Coq’s less capable students, the blue-haired French traditionalist Pepe (Fionn Foley), wayward street clown Funzo (Natalie Palamides) and domineering ham The Great Alphonso (Ivan Kaye), who treats the event primarily as a promotional opportunity.

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When the funeral is invaded by human statues who are involved in a feud with Funzo, quickly descending into a brawl, the motley troupe find themselves spending a night behind bars. When they wake up in the morning, their cell doors are ajar and there’s no-one around. Outside, the streets are empty of people, cars scattered across them add angles. Some kind of event has happened. Jenny thinks that it might have been a solar flare. When it emerges that Bobo’s little yellow clown car, with its hand-cranked motor, it the only vehicle which will still work, the five of them squeeze into it together – along with the corpse of Du Coq, which Pepe is determined to provide with a decent burial – and set off in search of answers.

Every instant of this 102 minute film is packed with jokes and ideas, so even though they don’t all work, it does pretty well overall. At its core it’s a character piece, supported by well rounded performances, with a lot of heart. It embraces the close relationship between comedy and tragedy, and it never overindulges its characters. Bobo has to take responsibility for his own emotions and nobody’s arc plays out quite the way they might want it to, largely due to their own failings. As a rivalry develops between Bobo and Alphonso, Jenny is determined to cover the story of the end of the world – never stopping to wonder who will watch her report – whilst Pepe needs to set aside his illusions and develop some confidence, and Funzo needs to recognise the fact that she has turned scary. Which doesn’t mean that she will stop being scary. Funzo is a force of nature, and easily the most entertaining thing on screen.

Along the way, we encounter many of the familiar tropes of a collapsed society, including a lone muscular hero with a quest of his own to complete, feral children, and Polllyanna Macintosh as the glowering matriarch of a hastily established woodland tribe. The assorted clown antics which take place in and around these are more fun than you might expect, and the film went down well at Fantasia. For a country with a population barely over five million, Ireland is consistently knocking it out of the park with this sort of work, and other countries must be looking on in clownish envy. High spirited and anarchic but also deeply endearing, Apocalypse Clown is a natural crowd pleaser.

Reviewed on: 12 Aug 2023
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The tale of a troupe of failed clowns and an ambitious reporter who embark on a chaotic adventure of self-discovery after a mysterious solar event plunges the world into anarchy.
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Director: George Kane

Writer: Shane O’Brien, James Walmsley, Demian Fox

Starring: David Earl, Natalie Palamides, Amy De Bhrún, Fionn Foley, Tadhg Murphy, ivan Kaye

Year: 2023

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: Ireland


Fantasia 2023

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