“Wrinkles the Clown” is a wild ride through the “evil clown” phenomenon publicized in the news in the mid-2010s.
The documentary, directed by Michael Beach Nichols, features the eponymous clown and the hysteria surrounding the performer. Wrinkles, based in Florida, offers parents of naughty children his phone number to call when children are being bad and even in-person scare service for unspecified amounts of money. The filmmakers initially blur out the identity of Wrinkles, but through the course of the documentary, the true identity of Wrinkles is slowly revealed.
At the beginning of the film, it is actually unclear if this film is a documentary or a “mockumentary,” a film format that is entirely fictional but appears to be real with actors portraying supposed real-life scenarios and filmed with interviews in the style of documentary films. Anyone watching should know that Wrinkles the Clown is entirely real. A simple Google search will reveal this, but the film’s Hulu audience should not be frightened. It is quickly revealed in the film why Wrinkles is not actually something to be afraid of.
One of the film’s hallmarks is how it actually diverts attention from the clown momentarily and begins to talk about the history of clowns in the popular consciousness. They even have experts (which created the initial doubt to the film’s mockumentary format) that talk about the clown’s origins. Most people think of the clown as a fearful creature is a modern phenomenon, but one expert points out clowns at their core have always been mysterious and even violent. He talks about how the clown originated from the circus and they would almost never talk and make exaggerated actions. As a result of this silence, the expert says that this is the true mystery of the clown. Even though they might seem friendly on the outside, the fact that they don’t talk and never let their thoughts known creates this air of uncertainty. Any clown you see in media harkens back to the idea of the “silent clown” and the documentary shows that Wrinkles is initially perceived in this way. However, there is one major difference that the folklorist who works on the film points out.
Wrinkles the Clown is actually a folkloric figure much like Bloody Mary or Slenderman. The actual acts that make him scary are only formed from the imagination of people partaking in the “ritual” of Wrinkles the Clown: calling the number provided by Wrinkles and listening to the voicemail, instructing them to leave a message. It is later revealed that Wrinkles the Clown is actually just an elaborate performance art project created by an anonymous artist looking to examine how people attach themselves to these folkloric figures when they can directly interact with them. The identity of the artist is kept entirely confidential throughout the film.
Ultimately, the clown’s escapades inform people that most of the hysteria on clowns was completely unusual and one shouldn’t expect a resurgence in “killer clowns” even though the status of 2020 would totally warrant such fear. “Wrinkles the Clown” receives a B rating.