Director: Victor Salva
Screenwriters: Victor Salva

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


Clownhouse is the first feature form Commercial Pictures, a new production company committed to the making of genre-modeled film s with a twist: intelligence. Firmly in the tradition of Stephen King, Clownhouse is a spooky, scary thriller.

Three young brothers, left alone on a Friday night, attend the circus. The youngest, Casey (Nathan Forrest Winters), dreads the gaudy creepiness of the clowns. The oldest, Randy (Sam Rockwell), bullies him incessantly, playing upon his fears in a dangerously overconfident manner. Randy soon discovers, however, that Casey’s fear of clowns—these clowns—is in order.

Clownhouse succeeds in evoking a feeling of intensifying fear, of evil lurking in the shadows of suburban calm. Victor Salva’s direction is crisp, and Robin Mortarotti’s cinematography precise. The score, written and performed by Michael Becker and Thomas Richardson, with its circus-echoing leitmotif, is especially on the mark. On its own terms, Clownhouse is a smart, well-crafted genre film. But perhaps more importantly, it serves to expand the existing definitions of independent filmmaking, an endeavor supported in the past by the Festival.

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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