Fear of Clowns is going to show us two very critical points of the entire concept of direct to video.

One, you can have original and truly well designed storylines that'll make you cringe from the suspense and leave you guessing up until the last few minutes.

Two, you've got to be really, really careful. Chances are you do NOT have the budget to do anything really funky with your special effects, and so anyone who's paying any kind of attention--coughTHECRITICALCOMMUNITYcough--is going to spot the wires real easily and that's going to hurt your credibility in the long run.

That having been said, let's take a look at what's under this particular big top. Lynn Blodgett is a professional artist who specializes in clowns. And in a horror movie, you know that's going to end poorly. Indeed it does, too, as Lynn finds herself, her friends, and her family terrorized by a clown. The one on the box art too--a real winner named "Shivers the Clown". Lynn's also going through a rather messy divorce from her insufferable prick of a hubby and a custody fight over her son Nicky.

The really big plus about Fear of Clowns is its fantastic plotting. There are a panoply of options open to us, and it's nigh impossible to tell just where the plot is going. You've got a clown stalking a woman. Is this a serial killer getting started? Is hubby out for payback? Is hubby just trying to discredit mom for the sake of the child custody? Is this possibly even demons from hell out for Halloween fun?

That's right. Halloween. This all takes place right around Halloween.

The first five minutes is stacked high and deep with creepy moments. Thirty seven minutes in will give you an excellent suspense building sequence with a good payoff, and more of these can be found throughout.

Which brings me to the one problem with Fear of Clowns--an overambitious special effects department.

Oh, where do I begin?

The beginning, I suppose. Like three minutes and forty four seconds. Way to ruin a perfectly creepy sequence with lousy special effects, guys! That clown was plenty scary on his own WITHOUT the poorly done tearaway face effect!

And then, we segue into this truly godawful sequence featuring a cop at the one hour and forty eight second mark. If you watch the way the arms are positioned as the "cop" gets his head taken off, you can tell that they've just swapped out for a mannequin.

Plus, a human head probably shouldn't CLATTER when it hits a windshield, nor should a corpse's leg bend at almost a right angle upward like that (one hour one minute twenty eight seconds), nor should the eyes on the head close of their own volition (one hour two minutes thirty three seconds).

Unless of course I've misinterpreted my limited medical training again, which is always possible.

The ending, shot in a movie theatre, was a fantastic touch, plus there's an excellent twist somewhat involving this gruesome clown lamp at one hour ten minutes thirty seconds.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, English closed captioning, audio options, and a collection of trailers that I can't seem to find on this promo DVD I got.

So all in all, Fear of Clowns was a solidly put together movie. Not all of the bells and whistles work the way they should, but that's not to say that the underlying movie isn't at least fairly well done. Closer attention and a bigger effects budget probably would have solved most problems, so rent with confidence.