In 2014, the eerie
surveillance footage of a demented looking clown known as Wrinkles appearing
from beneath a sleeping child’s bed had spread across the internet faster than
you could say Bloody Mary three times.
The terrifying footage, which has accumulated just shy of one million views, reveals society’s odd fascination with fear. The resulting popularity of Wrinkles would go on to influence not only a series of follow-up videos, including candid footage of Wrinkles out on the streets and terrorising other families, but influencing an era of pop-culture-obsessed with disturbed clowns. (2019 alone having a sequel to It (2017) and a Scorcessian inspired take on the Joker).
Wrinkles actuality sets him apart from other digital folklore, with viral sensations including Salad Fingers, Slenderman and Jeffree Star (okay, maybe not him) looking cuddly in comparison to this petrifying figure.
The crux of Wrinkle’s
existence, depicted in director Michael Beach Nichols subversive doco Wrinkles
the Clown, offers more than the mere unmasking of an anonymous figure who
has built a career on scaring children. As enticing as that sounds, Nichols
instead uses the dais to investigate deeper questions on news legitimacy and
the virality of fear. The end product culminating in a satisfying piece of
timely documentary filmmaking.
From the mundane to
the erotic, the filmmakers are granted access to follow an after-hours Wrinkles
as he navigates his day-to-day happenings in Southwest Florida. The
unwillingness of Wrinkles to reveal his identity depicts the figure as a blurry
outline with a disguised raspy voice resemblant of a pack-a-day smoker.
Wrinkles discusses the ethicality of his work through the lens of religion,
comparing the threat of ‘going to hell’ with his unconventional fear-inducing
methods, and the use of this predatory practises as being a contemporary
example of a belting. For every answer supplied by Wrinkles, there begs two
more questions asked.
Interviews with a
series of subjects – including children, parents, law enforcement, medical
experts, clowns, and folklorist – grants Wrinkles the Clown with a
deeper understanding of society’s fascination with figureheads. It is an
initially dawdling move, as though one too many ideas were being crammed into a
miniature car, that Nichols manages to compensate for in a provocative second
half that unearths broader issues concerning the power of broadcasting
misinformation and the radioactivity of fear.
himself a director capable of using the medium of film to empower the subtext.
He utilizes surprise and mystery to the betterment of the film; opting to
abstain from being shocking for the sake of easy thrills.
With Wrinkles the
Clown, Nichols unpacks what a figure like Wrinkles represents in a time in
American history brimming with fear. The excessive time taken to set Wrinkles
the Clown up, however tedious, eventually becomes worthwhile, with Nichols
providing the film a stirring treatment that allows it to exist outside of the
surface (or sewer) level.
Director: Michael Beach Nichols
Writers: Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker
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