WHAT is it with clowns? They are supposed to be amusing characters who bring joy and laughter to people’s lives. But for some they do anything but. In fact there will be some people who will not even want to look at this post – and not just because it’s been compiled by yours truly – but because they are actually terrified by the images.
According to some phobia studies (via wisegeek.com), about 20 to 30 percent of the population find clowns scary, or at least a little unsettling. “A certain segment of that group find clowns scary enough to trigger panic attacks, anxiety and other phobic reactions,” the website says.
A fear of clowns is called coulrophobia and there are a number of theories why it exists.
“One involves a connection between the presence of clownsand a personal trauma suffered during early childhood,” wisegeek writes. “For a young child, a circus can create a sensory overload with all of its unusual sights, sounds and smells. When professional clowns begin their routines, a child can easily become overwhelmed by the surreality of it all. Heavy makeup, colorful costumes and over sized prosthetics all help to mask the true emotions and intentions of the performers, which can become very unnerving to a child.”
Sufferers of coulrophobia would do well to steer clear of these below movies then …
9. CLOWNHOUSE (1989)
LUNATIC CHEEZO (Michael Jerome West); LUNATIC BIPPO (Byron Weible); LUNATIC DIPPO (David C. Reinecker).
In his first feature film, Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile, Ironman 2) plays one of three brothers, who, alone in their big family house for the night, are terrorised by three escaped mental patients – who happen to be dressed as circus clowns. Having killed the real face-painters, these lunatics take the form of Cheezo, Bippo and Dippo and decide to have a little fun. Much more disturbing than anything portrayed on screen though was what was happening off it. While making this, his second movie, writer-director Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers) molested one of the young stars, Winters, then just 12, and was eventually sentenced to three years jail, serving 15-months. Now that’s creepy.
“The clowns… the clowns Randy they’re here …” – Casey.
8. SHAKES THE CLOWN (1992)
SHAKES (Bobcat Goldthwaite); DINK (Adam Sandler); BINKY (Tom Kenny) and others.
Not a horror, but if anytime you see Bobcat you get a little scared, I guess it is. Here the guy with the speech impediment from the Police Academy movies stars as a clown who specialises in birthday parties – and getting absolutely shit-faced. He’s an alcoholic. Dealing with all those kids can do that to you. Bobcat wrote and directed the film, a black comedy, and satire of the stand-up comedy circuit, featuring an array of unusual characters who share a common torment – they are forced to paint their faces white. It also featured Robin Williams in a minor part as a mime teacher, and a young Adam Sandler as one of the down-on-their-luck clowns. The movie begins with Shakes waking up from a one-night stand with … Mrs Brady.
“You didn’t see nothing old man. We’re just five happy party clowns, sitting down to a plate of beef. White- powdery- beef …”- Binky.
7. DEAD SILENCE (2007)
THE CLOWN (voiced by Fred Tatasciore).
He doesn’t get much screen time, but the little wooden guy with the crazy red hair certainly makes it count. In what is a ho-hum kinda of scare flick from the Aussie writing-directing team of James Wan and Leigh Wannell, the Clown dummy rocking in its chair was a pretty hair-raising moment – for him and the viewer. And then it talks. The story revolves around a widower, Jamie (played by another Aussie in Ryan Kwantan), who, with the help of a cop (New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg) is trying to get to the bottom of the murder of his wife, which may or may not involve the ghost of an evil ventriloquist. Odds are it does. The Clown spills the beans … but really wants to spill some blood. Whoa!
“Can you help me with a missing persons case? I’m looking for a male … ’bout this tall. Sometimes seen with a hand up his ass”- Det Lipton.
6. KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)
KLOWNZILLA THE KLOWN KING (Charles Chiodo) and THE KLOWN ARMY.
Aliens bearing an eerie likeness to Earth clowns and who fly around in circus tent-like spacecrafts (who woulda thought?) terrorise the residents of a little hick town before an attempt to take over the entire world. Certainly not to be taken seriously, but still, the clowns, ah, I mean klowns, really are quite creepy in a totally ridiculous 1980s kind of way. The movie was written and directed by the Chiodo Brothers, Stephen, Charles and Edward, who, apart from this oddball offering, have really only been involved in the special effects side of the movie-making business.
“It was a space ship. And there was these things, these killer clowns, and they shot popcorn at us! We barely got away!” – Mike Tobacco.
5. THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)
CAPTAIN SPAULDING (Sid Haig).
The Captain first appeared in Rob Zombie’s directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses (2003), an out-and-out freakshow homage to those great 1970s horrors, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left. He runs the road-side attraction Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen. But little do visitors know that the Captain (whose real name is Johnny Lee Johns) is a little bit of a madman himself, and actually part of a family of homicidal nutjobs who enjoy carving up passers-by. While the big menacing bald guy doesn’t mind a bit of paint on his face, he also doesn’t mind getting some blood on his hands, especially when he’s on the run from the law in this much more impressive, realistic and brutal sequel.
“If you’re gonna start the killing, you best start it right here. Make sure I’m all the way dead, because I’ll come back and make you my bitch!”- Captain Spaulding.
4. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
THE JOKER (Heath Ledger).
With or without the clown mask we see during the brilliant opening sequence to the record-breaking Batman film, The Joker is one creepy dude. Plenty of Jokers have come and gone over the years – Cesar Romero in the campy 1960s TV show, Jack Nicholson in the 1989 feature film from Tim Burton and even Mark ‘Luke Skywalker’ Hamill in the animated series of the 1990s (well, his voice anyway) - but Ledger’s sadistic creation takes the cake, with the jagged scars on his face, and the various stories he tells about how he got them, a nice touch. He even performs magic tricks swith pencils. Ledger’s interpretation of the character was said to be primarily based on disheveled look of punk rocker Sid Vicious combined with the psychotic mannerisms of Malcolm McDowell’s Alex De Large from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
“See, I’m a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite, and gunpowder…” – The Joker.
3. AMUSEMENT (2008)
THE LAUGH (Keir O’Donnell).
The DVD cover for this film can be very misleading. Featuring a grotesque clown figure you think ‘oh, movie about a grotesque clown figure. Cool’. But, the movie is not necessarily about a grotesque clown figure, but a psychopathic killer who likes to play games with his victims, such as dressing up in a grotesque clown figure costume. It does make for the clear stand-out scene in what is a very mediocre film, a genuine chilling moment that rivals anything seen in any recently released horror movie.
“Ahh, we don’t own anything like that (a big scary life-size clown)” – The Aunt.
2. POLTERGEIST (1982)
ROBBIE’S CLOWN DOLL
Stacking chairs is one thing. Possessing clown dolls is another. A family gets more than they bargain for they move into a house already populated by a nasty group of evil spirits – and we viewers get more than we bargain for when the seemingly harmless doll decides to get all uppety one dark night. Certainly made you look twice at those dolls that might’ve been laying around the house. Not quite up there with the whole Regan The Exorcist possession thing, but still pretty damn freaky. Apparently both of the terrors that plague the young Robbie, the son, came from writer-producer Steven Spielberg’s own fears as a child - clowns and a tree outside his window. The latter is for another list, Most Terrifying Movie Trees.
“It lies to her. It tells her things only a child can understand. It’s been using her to restrain the others. To her, it simply is another child. To us, it is The Beast.”-Tangina.
1. IT (1990)
PENNYWISE (Tim Curry).
In one of the better Stephen King novel adaptations, not to mention one of the better made-for-TV horror mini-series, Tim Curry steals the show as the tormenting Pennywise the Clown. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, this clown is really a monster that enjoys terrifying – and feeding on – little kids every 30 years. It takes a band of ‘losers’ – including John Boy from The Walton (Richard Thomas) – to stop ‘It’. The book is said to be in the early stages of getting the big-screen movie treatment, with producers eyeing a 2011 release. But, really, how can anyone top Curry’s effort? On the DVD commentary track to the 1990 mini-series, the actors note that Curry’s characterization of Pennywise was so creepy and realistic that everyone avoided him during the filming.
“Oh you are priceless Brat! I am eternal, child. I am the eater of worlds, and of children. And you are next!” – Pennywise.
And worth a mention …
SCARY MOVIE 2 (2001)