‘Clown’ co-writer Christopher Ford on how a fake trailer and ‘ALF’ led to the gonzo body horror flick – Syfy | Dauktion

Before Jon Watts got wrapped up in the MCUs Spidermanhe started with a clown demon craving human flesh. A little over a decade ago, the filmmaker and creative partner Christopher Ford were frustrated with their Hollywood careers and wanted to take matters into their own hands. The couple “decided to do a YouTube post that would make it look like we worked on a horror movie with Eli Roth,” Ford recalled on a recent Zoom call with SYFY WIRE. “It would be like a prank, but we wanted to make it seem as real as possible. We had this whole idea of ​​a body horror movie where a father turns into a clown demon. So we just did it.”

The fake trailer eventually caught the attention of Roth, who reached out to Watts and Ford and asked if they would be interested in turning the idea into a full-fledged feature. The answer was of course a resounding “YES!!!” and Roth signed on as producer. “I remember the first time I met him,” says Ford. “Obviously, there was all the talk about the creative part of the story — it was scary and funny and all that. But he could also, in a way, about that.” business that I, being some jerk, didn’t understand or know, and immediately realized, ‘Oh, these are successful people. They’re both creative and they understand how to get a project off the ground.'”

Production on the aptly titled clown opened in Canada in 2012, but the finished film didn’t reach American audiences until 2016. The film stars Andy Powers (“We cast the nicest guy we could find, the best father, and then we had to make him do such horrible things,” admits Ford) as a mild-mannered father and real estate agent whose life is thrown into chaos when he unknowingly dons the skin and hair of a fictional Norse demon named “Clöyne,” a malevolent winter spirit who once lured children to his lair to feast on their flesh .

“We really wanted to invent the mythology of the clown and make people believe it’s true,” explains Ford. “Not that there are actual monsters, but this, ‘Oh, don’t you know, that white-faced clown and the red nose actually comes from this Nordic monster tradition?'”

As skin and hair fuse with his body, the protagonist undergoes a grotesque metamorphosis and develops an insatiable hunger for children. While this may seem like a nod to Stephen King’s Pennywise, Ford insists he and Watts were hoping to channel David Cronenberg’s classic body horror together The fly.

“The idea of ​​it growing out of the suit and mutating in his body felt natural with the premise,” he explains. “The kind American werewolf that your bones will break and reform… The reason clowns have those big, long feet is that they become really wolf-like [limbs]. We’ve all tried to borrow the design from this original, spooky idea and it works [out] What would be realistic about this unrealistic transformation?

He continues: “We also took inspiration ALF. There’s this one classic ALF Episode where he goes through a phase of being starved to eat cats. And so he says, ‘Please put me in this cage and no matter what I do, don’t let me out for 24 hours.’ Then there’s this disturbing scene where the kid wakes up in the middle of the night and goes to get a glass of water and ALF is in the cage and says, “Let me out. I’m doing well. I’m better You don’t have to worry anymore.’ [The kid is] like ‘Really ALF?’ And he says, ‘I would never lie to you. Just let me out of the cage…'”

It’s a pretty gonzo setup, though clown — who certainly shares some cotton candy DNA Killer clowns from space – skillfully walks the line between visceral horror and unusual campiness. In other words, it’s a contemporary cult classic in the making.

“I think the trick with any tone is that you have to make sure everything is as real as possible to the character,” says Ford. “So we just tried to go through it, ‘What would you really do?’ kind of a filter, moment by moment so it’s not too crazy in the character logic and motivation, that part really could be real, and then you can throw rainbow colored blood in it as a reward for all your hard work, and then you can splash in it, but you have to earn… Honestly, I don’t get people who can just write a pure crime drama or something that doesn’t have a crazy premise to fight against.

Roth encouraged the duo to push the concept as far as possible, allowing Watts and Ford to do something rarely, if ever, seen in modern horror: put children in grave (albeit simulated) danger. The third act in particular culminates with a gory sequence at (where else?) a Chuck E. Cheese where the innocent and inviting imagery of ball pits and tube-based playgrounds are suddenly transformed into a horrifying slaughterhouse.

“He was more willing to put children at risk than we were,” says Ford of her producer. “So that was a great partnership and it was burned into the premise from the start that the clown wants to eat children. So if you accept that, it’s not like the Chuck E. Cheese part is taking it too far. It’s already an extreme… I’d say the choice was to just keep it a bit mythological and he devours them rather than make it too gory on the kids’ side. There’s enough tension and anxiety without having to hit it too hard. And so if you’re doing something like playing with some iconic ball pit images, you can show those images instead of showing something that would cross a line.”

Manufactured with an estimated budget of $1.5 million, clown grossed just over $4 million worldwide. All in all, it was a modest box-office success, although despite the ripe opportunity to build this world, there was never any official talk of a follow-up. That could change now that the stars of Watts and Ford are making inroads in the entertainment world (more on that below).

“To this day, there are still talks in secret about a sequel,” says Ford. “We always wanted it to be some kind of saga, which was part of the fun of it. How can we make a mythology out of this? … There are so many possibilities. There are so many ways to follow the suit that could lead, who knows where? There’s also the option to go the other way and dip back into the mythology, the origins of this suit, these kinds of demons, or just this idea of ​​forgotten mythological seasonal spirits. Like if this is a winter spirit, what is the twisted spring spirit? Is that where we get our Easter Bunny story? What could you do there?”

Just a year after the widespread release of clown in the United States, Watts and Ford helped make the leap into blockbuster filmmaking Spider-Man: Homecoming (the duo received screenwriters). Peter Parker’s first standalone adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe grossed nearly $900 million worldwide, opening the door for Watts to direct two more episodes – Far away from home and No way home – both grossed over $1 billion at the global box office.

“It’s been quite a journey. It happened relatively quickly, which is kind of great,” says Ford of their move (pun intended) to the big leagues. “For me, just from the writing side – whether the genre is superhero or horror, it’s this idea of ​​taking a pretty crazy premise; whether it’s a boy who can climb walls or a father who turns into a clown monster – and then trying to find a cinematic but real story to tell with it [concept].”

Due to his critical and box-office success with the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, Watts felt tapped to direct the upcoming film Fantastic Four reboot. However, he ultimately left the project earlier this year to focus on a war of stars-inspired TV series, Skeleton Crew, for Disney+. Previously described as a nod to classic Amblin films, the show stars Jude Law and revolves around a group of kids having all sorts of fun in a galaxy far, far away.

“I would just say we’re trying to follow the same playbook: ‘Regardless of the incredible premise, just try to get it right from the characters’ perspective,'” teases Ford, who serves as writer Skeleton Crew. “Children lost in the war of stars Galaxy. What would they actually do? What would you do? Find out step by step from there.”

clown is now streaming on Peacock.

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