“Whats the worst thing about having sex with a 12 year old? – Getting the blood out of your clown suit.”
For many, the sight of a clown skipping towards them will induce feelings of fear and terror – certainly true for the likes of Nathan Forrest Winters. And let’s face it, what child wouldn’t be scarred by the sight of a grown man (or woman) in a gaudy baggy suit with twisted features seemingly performing acts of black magic. Not only creating a dog from a balloon, but one with a voice no less.
Originally from Egypt, clowns have advanced across the globe like a bad rash and, given the events currently unravelling in Tripoli, one could be forgiven for associating them with such acts of violence and terror.
The clown has now become an iconic figure across the world, from Chaplin to Pennywise, you can’t go too far without catching a glimpse of one of these ghastly fiends and in 1990 Stephen King sealed their place in film history with the two part TV horror “IT”.
Here we look at 5 classic horror films featuring clowns and countdown to, in my opinion, the best on offer.
5. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
In at number five we have Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Many years ago, Morgan told me of a film where clowns came down from the heavens and went on a rampage, sealing people in cocoons of candy floss ready to be digested and drank through a novelty straw. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is classic 80’s. With a cast of weak acting capability – including the recognisable John Vernon, Killer Klowns is billed as a horror comedy. To be honest, it’s not really funny, a little absurd and you might crack a smile at a scene or too, but I wouldn’t go as far to call it a comedy. Shot on a noticeably low budget of $2,000,000 the sets are like something from Land of the Giants(1968). The clowns themselves are fairly well designed and certainly a lot of effort had been put into making them look abnormal. Well, as abnormal as a man in a clown suit can look.
4. Clownhouse (1989)
Featuring a young Sam Rockwell and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 1989 Sundance Film Festival, Clownhouse tells the story of Casey, a young boy whose inane fear of clowns is the bane of his life. Unfortunately for Casey, on a dark night just before Halloween, Victor Salva comes knocking at his door – no I jest – Just before Halloween, Casey and his two brothers, Geoffrey and Randy, are left alone in their suburban home. Meanwhile, 3 mental patients have escaped from a nearby institution and, after murdering a posse of clowns, have acquired new outfits and are on their way to boost their kill rate.
Given a notable mention as it’s one of Morgans all time favourite films, Clownhouse is scary for one reason and one reason alone. Director Victor Salva was more concerned with recording himself sexually abusing a 12 year old Nathan Forrest Winters than he was with making the film itself. After serving 15 months of a 3 year sentence, Salva was awarded a certificate from the Sex Offenders Register and allowed back into the public domain where he went on to create notable works such as Powder (1995) and Jeepers Creepers (2001)
3. IT (1990)
I’m afraid I’m not really a fan of Stephen King, still, there is no denying the impact of his novel IT on the perception of clowns in the world of film. Split into two parts, IT (1990) tells the story of a group of friends over two timelines, being called upon to battle against an ethereal demon, dubbed “IT”, during their childhood the friends are reunited some 30 years later to battle the demon once more.
Being a demon of outer-universal origin, “IT” takes the form of various characters and devices throughout the film, the most notable being “Pennywise” the dancing clown and really the central figure of the series. There is something strangely twisted about an all-powerful demon who, whilst being able to change into any horrific form it likes, chooses to imitate a children’s entertainer.
Possibly the most iconic of movie-land clowns, IT is worth a watch just to say you have.
2. Demonic Toys (1992)
Starring Babylon5’s Tracy Scoggins as a policewoman whom, with her detainee and a deliver boy, get trapped inside a haunted toy warehouse, Demonic Toys (1992) is certainly one of more scary killer toy films of the past 50 years.
What makes Demonic Toys so enjoyable is that the toys actually look demonic, they aren’t your standard toys that have merely come to life and fancy a kill, no, these toys mean business. With features that would inspire Jackie Stallone and Mickey Rourke, Baby Oopsie Daisy, Grizzly Teddy and Mr Static tour their warehouse stalking their human victims. But wait! This isn’t about toys, it’s about clowns, killer clowns. That’s right, and Demonic Toys features one of cinemas best – “Jack Attack”, a clown faced jack in the box. The tension builds as Jack Attacks handle winds and pops before he forcibly springs out of his container ready to chew the face off his prey.
Watch Demonic Toys, you’ll regret it if you don’t.
1. Poltergeist (1982)
Tobe Hoopers cult classic. This is one of the defining films of the horror genre and spawned the iconic phrase “They’re Here”. As a normal family, plagued by eerie events as a consequence of their new home being built upon an ancient burial site, lose their young daughter to the ghostly “TV people”, a battle ensues between man and demon as the family fight to get her back from the unseen land of the dead.
Unlike many horror films involving clowns, Poltergeist (1982) doesn’t try to be comical or tongue in cheek, this film is out to scare you and it does a great job at it. Hooper taps into your uttermost fears and keeps you awake throughout the night, keeping you questioning – what if something IS there. It plays on our innate fears of the unknown and the historical obsession with ghosts and the afterlife.
The clown in Poltergeist represents the one toy in every child’s room, the thrown jeans on every adult’s bedroom floor that just doesn’t quite look right. The quick glance that makes you think it’s something else, that it’s moved or that there’s a face there, staring back at you. In his dark room, 11 year old Robbie anxiously and fearfully covers the clown at the end of his bed with a blanket before settling down to go to sleep. Peering from the covers, the clown has gone. Unsure of where the haunting jester has gone, Robbie leans over to investigate under the bed before the clown reappears, spiralling its now unusually long arms around his body and throat.
Poltergeists clown is terrifying because of its realism. It’s not abnormal, it doesn’t have sharp teeth or red eyes. It’s just a clown. It could be your clown.