March 25, 2020  (Web Review)

Wrinkles the Clown

(2019) 78 min. DVD: $26.99. Magnolia Home Entertainment (avail. from most distributors). Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

In southwest Florida, a cranky 65-year-old guy dressed in an ugly clown suit and mask calls himself “Wrinkles” and sells his services to parents who want him to terrorize misbehaving children. Michael Beach Nichols’s quirky documentary opens with a decidedly creepy scene as a bedroom cam captures footage of a little girl sleeping while the full-length drawer under her bed slowly opens to reveal Wrinkles, who climbs out, stares at the girl, places a weird stuffed figure on her bed, and then puts his hand over the cam (fade to black). The camera follows Wrinkles (who won’t let his face be filmed and won’t reveal his true name) on his daily odyssey, slapping up “Wrinkles” stickers (with his phone number), and fielding tons of calls from parents and kids that range from disturbing (parents enlisting Wrinkles aid) to deeply disturbing (kids telling Wrinkles in profanity-laden language how they are going to dismember him). In somewhat scattershot segments, the film also interviews kids who have seen weird videos of Wrinkles sightings on the Internet and have in turn created their own YouTube homages, as well as others (folklorist, psychologist) who weigh in on the Wrinkles craze that has not only been covered in local news but also by NPR. And interwoven throughout the first half of the documentary are staged and discomfiting scenes of Wrinkles carrying an unconscious little girl in his arms. But then everything shifts, as the film reveals that much of the preceding is literally fake news and that someone else with different aims lies behind the Wrinkles project. An oddball doc that almost wears out its welcome in repetitious scenes before the big turnaround, Wrinkles the Clown does ultimately make some interesting points about digital folklore, viral videos, the 2016 killer clown scare, and cultural phenomena. Extras include deleted scenes. A strong optional purchase. Aud: C, P. (R. Pitman)