Why in the the world are clowns so scary and creepy? Why are the people who say they don't see clowns as creepy and scary... So creepy and scary themselves? The answers are endless but the result is always the same, more often than not, we see clowns as entities that we should avoid. And that is getting extremely impossible, as a rash of creepy clown sightings continue to haunt America.
And this is a shame, too. These merry pranksters are probably getting a bad rap. The problem is that so few of us know any clowns. That we can't really attest to what their good character traits might be, perhaps they are all fine fellows?
However, long before clowns had their recent 15 minutes of fame (literally), their was a host of movies that showed these guys and gals in a far more ghastly light. Whether it was a person dressed as a clown, a doll, or a human-clown hybrid, the majority of on screen portrayals were less than flattering.
At the same time, it was these portrayals that made us remember these movies. Take out the clown and you lose the heart and soul of the movie. How is this possible? How can we be creeped out yet need to experience the visceral thrill of this living, breathing (in most cases) frightfests?
With Halloween around the corner and the threat of a clown apocalypse now merely a whisper away, it seemed high time for some of these scary spectacles to have their day. So it is without further adieu that we present you with, "The Top 13 Scariest Clown Movies of All Time." You may argue that some of these movies aren't clown movies, but we say without the clown you may not have a movie!
Okay, you've got a book by Stephen King. Already this puts this film leagues above any other in the clown genre. One of the screenwriters is Tommy Lee Wallace. He directed a little film called Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Add to this that you have a tale of a killer clown called Pennywise (played by Dr. Frank-N-Furter himself, Tim Curry), that takes place over generations, and suddenly it becomes something akin to art. With the creep factor on high as Pennywise goes after a group of young kids, things kick into high gear 30 years later when Pennywise returns. The fact that Pennywise is a monster, a demon and just about every other incarnation of evil, adds both spectacle and gravitas to this clowniest of clown films. How else to explain why, in a performance so unapologetically spine tingling, off set Curry's co-stars avoided him?
The clown visuals in this movie are striking for their creepiness, their scariness and their composure. Honestly, if it didn't have the back story that it does there's a good chance that Victor Salva's epic clown opus would be number one. Overshadowing this film is the sad, sad, tragic fact of what went down on the set between Director Salva and one of the young stars of this film. These events would ultimately land Salva in prison. However, even without that (and we are in no way dismissing the gravity of just how AWFUL those events were for the young child involved), Clownhouse is one of the more jolting clown films. This is a story of 3 young kids who are stalked by 3 escaped mental patients. Oh, and the mental patients happen to dress like clowns. There are so many things that are disturbing about this film and that is why it ranks so highly on this list.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
The title pretty much tells you everything you need to know about this film. A small town finds themselves fighting for their lives as they are menaced by clowns who want to kill them. Okay, imagine that we did have space invaders and these people are dressed like clowns that want to kill us? What in the world would we do? How would we deal with this? That thought is enough to make this movie one of the craziest clown films EVER. How else to explain this idea of turning people into cotton candy? Or, the fact that just about everything about this film is bad except for the clown costumes? What about the Godzilla clown? So... are you with us, yet? Do you understand just how crazy and out of this world (no pun intended) this film is? Even amidst the humor the creepy factor, on a scale of 1-10 is probably a 90.
Okay, before you clownaholics start yelling that Poltergeist is not a "clown" movie, I'd like you to consider something. In the original Poltergeist what was one of the creepiest things that is in pretty much the whole movie? The toy clown. In this tale of a family menaced by supernatural spirits, what is one of the scariest, creepiest and totally bonkers scenes? How about when the young son is nearly strangled by said clown Or, how creepy is it that he can't even sleep with the crown across from him? The boy throws something on it every night before he goes to sleep! (Why not put it in a closet or get rid of the darn clown?) Also, you want further proof that Poltergeist is a clown movie? When they made the sequel, guess what character survived? If this clown wasn't iconic, scary, creepy and just plain weird, the powers that be would've certainly jettisoned it from both films.
House of 1000 Corpses
Owing a huge debt of gratitude to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Firefly family depicted in both of these films is about as gruesome as gruesome gets. I will also be the first to admit that these movies, indeed, are not clown films. However, the character Sid Haig inhabits of the infamous and iconic Captain Spaulding just happens to be one of those things. With a face covered in make-up that more often than not looks like it has been purposely half finished, Haig's portrayal of this clown Captain is nothing short of mortifying. This is really saying something considering the company he's keeping. The Firefly's are serial killers of the highest order and no victims ever seem like they stand a chance. However, whether we are seeing Captain Spaulding use fowl language, beat up a mom, or helping those less fortunate meet a sad end, he always keeps his clown sensibility and that makes this whole exercise that much more jarring.
Released four years after it was originally shot, Clown is a legitimately cringeworthy concept. A father gets a clown suit for his son's birthday. The only problem is that the suit possesses him and now the father of the year becomes a killer. This might seem hokey as a premise, but its execution is quite strong. Clowns are so unique because they are living, breathing manifestations of emotions. They can be happy, sad, excited, silly... and in the case of this film very, very evil. The fact that this clown film plays on the idea of cannibalism adds a really strong layer of creep. On top of that even with the super creepy Peter Stormare (we love him but the man just oozes creep) in the film, that does nothing to take away from the creepy clown costume that has been employed. Factor in that Eli Roth is a producer and actor in this film, and you know that you are going to see some pretty messed up stuff.
Carnival of Souls
This clown film is so perfect because it is not only incredibly well put together (beginning with it's groundbreaking opening credit sequence), but the clowns in the film still hold up today. It isn't that this movie, like the other films on this list, is just filled with vile and gross undertakings. It's the fact that the gothic nature of the clowns takes them from creepy and scary to disturbing. This film is moody, weird, deranged and just about everything we love in a solid horror film. And while it might not be an in your face clown film, it is a clown film of the highest order. What these beings represent in this film is something greater than the usual clown fair. There are no moments of silly laughs and camp. There's only doom, gloom and the impending knowledge that something really bad is in the offing.
This oddly original Clown film puts itself in the world of gangsters, drugs and black magic, to show us what happens when you mess with a truly evil clown. How else to explain how one of the bad guys is killed by a clown that can suck up bullets and spit them out? Then said clown takes control of the dead bad guys' souls and uses them for his own gain. If this movie sounds strange, weird and oddly creepy, it was brought to us by the off kilter folks at Full Moon Home Video. With titles like Gingerbread Man 3, Puppet Master and Killjoy's Revenge under their belt, it should come as no surprise that the original Killjoy originated there. In today's world of clown phobia, at least Killjoy attempts to explain why people are so darned petrified by these smiley people (most of the time!) in make-up.
What makes Gacy such a creepy clown and police procedural movie is a few things. First of all, this movie is based on the real life exploits of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Secondly, as if this diabolical mans exploits were not enough, he went by the nickname, The Killer Clown. And no, it wasn't because he was good looking and knocked the ladies dead in his clown outfits. Lastly, what gives this movie its true sense of menace is the fact that Gacy is portrayed by none other than Mark Holton. This guy was Pee Wee Herman's nemesis Francis in Pee-wee's Big Adventure. In all honesty, this movie is a pretty run of the mill procedural regarding how Gacy was ultimately upended and captured. At the same time, there is such a sense of oddball creepiness, that considering how many people Gacy killed (and where he kept the bodies), one doesn't know what is creepier: The crimes committed or the fact that they were done by a real life clown?
Carnies (aka carnival workers) always make for interesting movies and TV characters (Carnivale, anyone?). However, 31 takes thing to a whole other level by pitting the carnies against some crazy clowns in a game of survival. So daring and audacious is 31 that it gives a lot of better known films on this list a run for their money. Taking place in a secluded area called Murderworld, 31 is filled with the kind of blood and gore that horror fans crave. That this tale takes place on Halloween is the icing on the cake. Also, you gotta love the name of the diabolical clowns: Sick-Head, Schizo-Head, etc. When you factor in that cinema all-stars like Malcolm McDowell and Meg Foster are in this movie, it's hard not to have an appreciation for what Director Rob Zombie was attempting to achieve. This may not be a continuation of The Devil's Rejects, but it seems highly unlikely that the Prince of Darkness would reject the clown "Heads" involved here.
This story is fairly pedestrian compared to the others on this list. A mob family takes over an amusement park. As this happens they give their prized clown mascot a pink slip. Rather than joining the circus, the clown decides to take revenge on this family. The reality is that this clown film is not in the horror camp or the blood and gore camp. No, Funland is an oddball romp that features crude humor, cruder effects and the kind of story that makes some movie watchers wonder why they watched this film in the first place. In fact, this films biggest jokes come in the form of double-entendres that might take a second or third viewing to get. In that way, Funland becomes sort of an art film. It certainly has cult film status. Afterall, what other film on this list can boast Squiggy (David L. Lander) as the main clown (ie. attraction) of its film?
Now this is the kind of Clown film that fans of the genre love. The premise is simple, some people find themselves in a small town and are stalked by a band of psychotic clowns. Does it get any better than that? First off, it's cool that in certain scenes the killer can move slowly and still get the person that they are after. Also, considering that this film was probably made for a pittance, overall the effects and the suspense are very well done. Clowns are their own society. They are people who function in their own world and by their own rules. This is where the scary factor in a film like ClownTown should really be celebrated. These people who have happened into this nightmare are alive by the grace of these clowns. When you consider what the clowns want to do to them... the grace of clowns seems pretty darn scary in its own right.
Clocking in at a paltry 86 minutes, Stitches takes an event almost everyone has participated in and it turns it on its head. A clown dies during a party and comes back to reap vengeance on those who killed them. Director Conor McMahon has, thus far, made a career out of directing schlocky horror films. This isn't an insult. It is a salute to this man's pedigree that he can make an original film like Stitches. With an unflinching eye and a knack for hitting the true pulse of horror, this movie separates itself by being creepy, scary and downright dark. How you may ask? Well, the fear comes in the everyday things McMahon makes us feel. We understand Stitches the Clown on a cerebral level. He is us and we are him. That makes Stitches scarier than anything that can be put on screen.