Michael Beach Nichols’ documentary Wrinkles The Clown sets out (in part) to explore modern folklore and the way that information and urban legends are circulated in the digital era. Unfortunately, it spends very little time offering a thorough and balanced analysis and instead opts for cheap gags and misdirection.
One of the first problems I had with the flick is that the collection of footage is haphazard, random, and often pertains only tangentially to the topic at hand. The film’s 78-minute runtime is padded with clips from film, television, and YouTube. Some of the excerpts further the story that is being told but a lot of the content is way off topic or simply overkill. In one such instance, we spend what feels like eons with a young boy explaining just how he would take down the titular clown.
Another issue I had is that the story bounces around to the point where the film feels almost directionless. Making matters worse, there are a startling lack of subject matter experts weighing in. Where we should see talking heads pontificating on why our society is so terrified of clowns, we instead have endless clips of YouTubers calling Wrinkles to prove that he really exists and or showing their friends how brave they are.
All else aside, my biggest gripe with Wrinkles The Clown is that it features an incredibly frustrating reveal at the 50-minute mark. There’s really no call for misdirection in a documentary. A good doc should present the viewer with all of the information, provide commentary on both sides of the issue at hand, and allow the audience to draw their own conclusion from there. Wrinkles The Clown utilizes deliberate and intentional misdirection, which calls into question everything else being reported in the ‘documentary’. I will refrain from saying any more about that to avoid giving too much away for anyone still interested in checking out the film.
The footage that follows the ‘twist’ (for lack of a better descriptive word) more closely adheres to the template of a documentary film, but there are fewer than 30-minutes remaining in the picture’s runtime at that point. I strongly suspect that director Michael Beach Nichols knew he didn’t have enough material to make a full length doc, so he tried to get creative. Often, creativity is a good thing but it’s rarely, if ever called for in fact-based accounts such as this.
The most terrifying aspect of Wrinkles The Clown (and perhaps unintentionally so) is that it suggests that parents voluntarily enlist Wrinkles’ ‘services’ for the sole purpose of scaring the living s**t out of their children. Said parents do so in the hopes that their hellion(s) will thereafter be better behaved. But what does it say about our society when parents will knowingly and willingly terrify their children. If your child is so unruly that you are willing to hire someone to scare them, maybe it’s time to pick up a parenting book.
The most compelling aspect of the doc is that we are given the opportunity to see the impact Wrinkles has had on young children. Some of them are so frightened by the masked man that they are unable to fall asleep. If this documentary does one thing, I hope it makes parents more aware of the fragile nature of their child’s psyche.
Wrinkles The Clown is now available on DVD from Magnet Releasing.
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Michael Beach Nichols
Writer(s): Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker
Release: 01/07/20 (Home Video)
Studio: Magnet Releasing