REVIEW: A CLOWN'S RECOVERY / DIRECTOR: MATTHEW BROOMFIELD / STARRING: ALBERT CADABRA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (R1 ONLY)
Not, as one might imagine, given Chemical Burn Entertainment's usual output, a horror film about killer clowns. No, A Clown's Recovery is in fact a documentary which follows circus entertainer 'Jelly Boy' the clown in his recovery from serious (non-circus) burn-related injuries. Like Jackass crossed with a Panorama news report, it's as real as it gets.
So, yes, a documentary, but bear with it. As low-budget and dirty as anything Chemical Burn have ever found and put out (even their documentaries look off-puttingly cheap), A Clown's Recovery tells a fascinating, enlightening and even feel-good story that is well worth hearing out. Granted, the fact that there's a grammatical error before the credits have even rolled doesn't bode well, but that only adds to the film's odd charm.
Jelly Boy's shocking injuries (burns covering 15% of his body, plus smoke inhalation) and subsequent recovery (not a spoiler, it's in the title) are all covered in this biopic, which uses talking head interviews, dramatisations, archive footage and animation to tell its tale. It's all very rough and ready (the animation looks as though it could have been done on Microsoft Paint) but the humanity of the story negates such quibbles. The description of the initial fire and Jelly Boy's injuries speak for themselves – the film does perfectly well without a high-budget dramatisation.
Director and narrator Matthew Broomfield – Jelly's own brother – does a good job of keeping the story anchored, garnering sympathy and interest without feeling self-indulgent or too personal. What follows is the tale of Jelly's almost miraculous recovery, assisted by his circus family. It's weirdly uplifting, in its own very punk way.
From Pennywise the Dancing Clown to the Killer Klowns From Outer Space, horror cinema has gathered quite the collection of famous funnymen over the year. So very real and painful, Eric Bloomfield and his miraculous Clown's Recovery deserves to be one of them – if only for the sheer perseverance that makes this documentary such fascinating viewing.