The film opens with Sophie attending the funeral of her eccentric Uncle Charlie. Going through his belongings, she discovers an old clown costume complete with white face makeup and a colorful wig. Although clowns creep her out, Sophie’s friends convince her to try on the costume as a prank. Initially she feels silly, but then has a disturbing vision of a young boy being terrorized by a clown.
Shaken, Sophie takes off the costume and throws it away. But the visions and nightmares continue to haunt her. She starts seeing the clown’s creepy face everywhere, both while awake and in her dreams. Sophie also begins acting strangely, with violent mood swings and uncontrollable laughter.
Her friends grow concerned about her increasingly erratic behavior. Sophie insists it started when she put on her uncle’s old clown costume. Further research indicates the costume originally belonged to a Victorian-era clown named Mr. Jingles. Legend has it that Mr. Jingles was a child killer who would entertain his victims with tricks and jokes before murdering them.
Sophie comes to believe she is being possessed by the evil spirit of Mr. Jingles. She attempts to destroy the costume to stop the visions, but it reappears no matter what she does. The visions and violent urges continue to get worse, until Sophie starts seeing ghostly images of Mr. Jingles’ child victims, pleading with her to help them.
In a terrifying climax, Sophie transforms into Mr. Jingles completely. Stalking a children’s birthday party, she plots to reenact the clown’s heinous crimes. At the last moment, Sophie appears to regain control, ripping off the costume and setting it ablaze. The visions finally cease, but she is left profoundly shaken by her ordeal.
Anya Taylor-Joy as Sophie
Matt Smith as Uncle Charlie
Thomasin McKenzie as Jenny
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Dylan
Willem Dafoe provides the voice of Mr. Jingles
Horror Clown Costume is directed by James Wan, known for his work on previous horror films like The Conjuring and Insidious. It was shot in Los Angeles, with elaborate clown costume and makeup effects done by veteran designer Robert Kurtzman. The film features ominous lighting and surreal dream sequences created to deeply unsettle viewers.
Wan cited classic horror films like The Shining and creepy clown characters from fiction as influences. He also studied real cases of people supposedly taking on malevolent spirits or energies through costumes and objects.
The film mixes psychological horror with ghostly supernatural elements. Wan wanted to explore primal fears like coulrophobia – fear of clowns – and blurring identity. He also set out to create a protagonist dealing with complex emotional trauma and descent into madness.
Horror Clown Costume premiered at the South by Southwest film festival to strong reviews praising its scary clown imagery and themes of losing one’s sense of self. Anya Taylor-Joy’s unhinged performance was singled out as capturing Sophie’s chilling transformation.
The film was a sleeper box office hit, earning over $100 million against a modest $17 million budget. Critics highlighted Wan’s ominous directing style and nightmarish dream sequences. Horror fans responded strongly to the film’s frightening clown antagonist. The character of Mr. Jingles became an instant horror icon.
Overall, Horror Clown Costume was considered a thrilling, cerebral addition to the horror genre. It launched a planned franchise about cursed objects creating mayhem. The sequel will feature a new haunted artifact and cast.