Star Rating:

Apocalypse Clown

Director: George Kane

Actors: David Earl, Natalie Palamides, Amy De Bhrún, Fionn Foley, Tadhg Murphy, Ivan Kaye

Release Date: Friday 1st September 2023

Genre(s): Comedy

Running time: 102 minutes

Following the death of clowning legend Jean DuCoque (Barry McGovern), a group of clowns - talentless sad-sack Bobo (David Earl), effeté hipster mime Pepe (Fionn Foley), terrifying monster clown Funzo (Natalie Palamides), and joke-stealing hack The Great Alfonso (Ivan Kaye) - set off on an odyssey across Ireland in the middle of a seeming apocalypse where a solar flare has rendered all electrical items useless...

Even though comedies are decidedly rare in Irish movies, it's rarer still to have a comedy that so fully commits to its own ripe awfulness in the way that 'Apocalypse Clown' does. There are no moments of understanding or redemption, no sliver of tenderness and emotion, no easygoing humour, and no gleefully crowd-pleasing successes to top the whole thing off. In the end, 'Apocalypse Clown' is a mournful reminder that clowns are outcasts and even when they're getting over with a crowd, it's entirely at their own expense.

The cast of characters is led by David Earl, well-versed in playing sad sack creatures, such as the indie favourite 'Brian and Charles'. Yet, where that endeavour had a warm and fuzzy core to itself, his character - the imaginatively titled Bobo the Clown - is full of blunted rage and consistent failures. Indeed, all of the characters in 'Apocalypse Clown' are a sorry bunch of misanthropic losers. Bobo's unrequited love is an opportunistic journalist who buys in wholesale to a batshit conspiracy theory about the solar flare from a debilitated boyband member that operates out of a hovel somewhere in Kildare. Bobo's arch-nemesis is a revolting joke-stealing hack who doesn't even do the stolen jokes any better, while his boon companions are a flailing artiste and a psychotic monster-clown played with gusto by Natalie Palamides.

Out of the cast, it's Natalie Palamides that makes any kind of lasting impact. Her full-on gurning and physicality in the role, munching on anything that moves and gnashing anything that doesn't, gives 'Apocalypse Clown' some kind of a dart in its weaker moments. Here and there, Irish comedy staples like Tara Flynn and Tony Cantwell turn up for extended cameos attuned to their talents. Cantwell, for example, plays every crusty you see on a three-day bender at a music festival, while Flynn plays a damp squib of a morning TV presenter.

There's a madcap energy about 'Apocalypse Clown', in which it frequently goes off course and leaves debris of comedy and story in its wake. There's little sense of flow or pacing to it, but it still chuckles onward and finds a way. More than a few times, the funny runs out before the end of the scene and awkwardly tries to close things out. Still, there's a boldness to 'Apocalypse Clown' that sets it apart in the Irish comedy landscape, which is so often dominated by the most trite and banal ideas. Here, you have a comedy that is uneven, puerile, offbeat, disturbing, and proudly so.