Clown Motel (2023) Review
Clown Motel, formerly titled Curse of the Clown Motel, opens with a woman’s voice talking about The Chindi (James Chalke, No Name and Dynamite, Dead Trigger), an unstoppable Navajo avenger who strikes from beyond the grave. Then we go back in time to see it in action, interrupting Cranston (Randy Couture, The Bell Keeper, Phoenix) and his men as they drink a saloon dry while celebrating massacring the entire Greenwood Tribe.
With a cavalry sabre that looks like a malfunction lightsabre and can cast lightning bolts as well as a weird glow in his mouth that also produces multicoloured lightning, he quickly disposes of them before walking back into the night. If that sounds like an exciting start to the film, bad CGI and acting makes it a more fitting opening for a comedy.
In the present, Alma (Juliana Destefano, Blood Pageant, Haunted by My Stalker) has returned to where she grew up to write her graduate thesis on that massacre. She starts by talking to Mr. Wilson (Tobin Bell, Belzebuth, Saw X) who owns The Clown Motel which was built on the spot that where that saloon once stood and has a stash of documents she needs in the basement., something Wilson and Alma’s grandmother (Doreen Calderon, Riverdale, No Such Thing) are opposed to her getting her hands on.
Clown Motel is the work of two directors Asif Akbar (Astro, Ace & the Christmas Miracle) and Lance Kawas (Project Legion, Demon Pit) as well as two writers, Christopher Malone and James Tamburino (Witsec Mafia). At times, it seems like they were working on two separate short films and at some point they just combined them. Because apart from Alma’s story, there’s almost as much time devoted to a separate story about a group of sleazy bankers partying at a casino near the motel.
They might as well have “VICTIM” tattooed on their foreheads, it’s so obvious that’s the only reason they’re in the movie. Their story has almost no crossover with the main thread beyond a throwaway line. And apart from Alma seeing the remains of one of them, face hidden of course, they share no scenes with the main cast. They do provide a bit of a distraction as they meet their fate in ways ranging from an off-screen disembowelment to an off-screen scalping with decent looking results.
There’s also a poor scene of The Chindi clawing its way out of the body of the groom to be. That gives Clown Motel another minor celebrity cameo as he’s played by Romeo Miller (Little Dead Rotting Hood, The Pig People) who some of you might remember for his musical career under the name Lil Romeo. For comparison, he gets more screen time than Couture and about as much as Richard Grieco (Whack the Don, Art of the Dead). If the waitress he takes to his room looks familiar, she’s played by Playboy/OnlyFans model Lindsey Pelas (Alone at Night, Extraction). She may be hard to recognize though as she keeps her clothes on here.
For all of that, Clown Motel is missing one important thing, clowns. Despite the title and the setting, there are no killer clowns in this movie. There is a clown doll that moves its head a couple of times and scurries around the basement in another scene accomplishing nothing. But this is The Chindi’s movie and he does the killing. Possibly, his Jokeresque face paint was deemed clownish enough by the producers to justify the title.
What saves the film is the bizarre ending that ironically would actually have made sense if the film had been about clowns. That and a laughable final shot that looks almost as if it was tacked on as an afterthought that push Clown Motel into the watchable range, although it’s for their unintentional entertainment value.
VMI Worldwide is handling sales for Clown Motel, and it was released last December in Germany and is available on Blu-ray and Digital Platforms there. I assume other countries will follow.