by Ray Schillaci
The movie guys
The horrors come fast and furious on streaming networks and starring zombies, vampires, werewolves and possessed children. Is there anything else that can really scare us? Yes, clowns. You know, those guys with oversized shoes, bulbous red noses, and colorful hair?
Clowns may not always be the center of attention, but whenever a clown appears on a horror show, they are no laughing matter. If anything, they are the epitome of evil, as evidenced by so many clown sightings in the news. For your uncomfortable viewing pleasure, allow me to share with you ten beautiful examples of unfunny madness that will bring you hours of insomnia with the promise of one of these colorful creatures hiding under your bed with a horn and a hacksaw.
Killer clowns from space
As far as I’m concerned, this is the granddaddy of all crazy clown movies. It’s goofy, weird, scary and very creative. The Chiodo brothers have come up with some of the best makeup effects for the hilariously funny men, delivering a story that harks back to 1950’s sci-fi creatures. The production design (for a low budget) is very impressive, and the acting (although sometimes bad) kinda suits all the outrageous antics. This is a great Halloween party film.
RELATED: Horror With a Side of Cheese: Killer Klowns From Outer Space
American Horror Story: Freak Show
Yes, it’s television, and the show is a mix of thrills that sometimes doesn’t always deliver. But the introduction of Twisty the Clown has to go down as one of the most macabre weirdos to ever bring a giant slipper to the big or small screen. Twisty’s design is the stuff of nightmares, and every time he appears, the scare factor increases tenfold. The show had its share of freaks, but no less human and terrifying than the hideous Twisty, the Clown from Hell.
Stephen King’s It
Another little scream example, but what sets this one apart from the rest is Stephen King’s legendary Pennywise, performed with chilling glee by none other than Tim Curry. In fact, Mr. Curry highlights the production as a whole, which doesn’t hold up as you’d hope. For me he is very close behind Twisty AHSout of sheer terror. Twisty’s makeup effects are far superior, but it was also produced years later It. But Curry brings more personality to his role, which is likely to continue after the release of the new feature film starring young Bill Skarsgard (Hemlock Grove) as the new Pennywise.
House of 1000 Corpses
The clown everyone loves to hate, the fried chicken that redneck peckerwood loves, Captain Spaulding. Rob Zombie’s first film is a mix of spooky goodies harking back to the grindhouse movies of the ’70s and owes a lot of credit to Tobe Hoopers. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sid Haig plays the titular villain with a dark and darkly comic twist that catches us off guard. With 143 credits to his name, Haig’s portrayal of Spaulding puts him on the short list of infamy alongside Freddy, Jason, Michael and Chucky.
Mind you, the clown isn’t even a human or a main character, but this damn doll drew a lot of kids thanks to nice guy Steven Spielberg. Sure, the credits credit Tobe Hooper as the director, but far too many people know otherwise. The proof is in the production as a whole if you look at all of Hooper’s other productions (TCM, eaten alive, The fun house). This damn doll had to be one of the scariest toys to ever sit on a shelf, and later just finding this horrible thing under the bed is enough to keep anyone up all night with the lights on.
It’s the shortest appearance, but what an impression – only a clown is worse than a zombie. Worse when someone greets you in a bathroom stall! God, the sight still haunts me.
RELATED: Zombieland: Double Tap Review
Okay, this one, along with the rest of the Ravagers, is mistaken for a zombie. But neither these people nor Tony Rago’s “The Clown” are brain dead. In fact, they don’t discriminate, they eat everyone, even their own. Especially when you think of some of the antics in Alex Drummonds killer party always get scary when walking “The Clown”. At first he’s creepy and annoying, and that’s just his makeup! Rago enjoys getting under our skin, playing his clown persona to the max, all for murderous laughs and his own amusement, which in itself is terrifying.
The houses built in October
This disturbing first-person film follows the exploits of guerrilla-style filmmakers in their quest for the ultimate haunted Halloween attraction. Sometimes all it takes is someone to just stand there like Michael Meyers Halloween or the woman who stands over her man and rocks back and forth Paranormal Activity. Just the sightings in this movie are enough to make you jump. It’s an eerie affair that will have you leaving the lights on, turning down the funhouse music, and grabbing something to protect yourself.
Here’s a ghastly little treat. This movie is anything but wrong. Director Jon Watts (Police Car, Spider-Man: Homecoming) surprises us with what clowns are really about…eating kids! The story of a father who dons a clown costume to save his child’s birthday only to find out the costume is cursed sounds like it was straight out of Stephen King’s head. Believe me, it offers all the meanness you can come up with. Interestingly, director Watts isn’t satisfied with the graphic possibilities. Much of the violence takes place off-screen, making this macabre tale truly chilling. The really cool part is that Watts pays homage to the suffering of Larry Talbot (The wolf man). No messing around with this one.
The last circus
if killer clowns (as first mentioned) is the grandfather of all crazy clown movies The last circus is a very close runner-up. Where KK can beat it in sheer quantity of clowns and their design, TLC far surpasses this film in quality. Spanish prodigy writer/director Alex de la Iglesia brings us his most ambitious film about the love triangle between a stunning trapeze artist and the two circus clowns she is torn between. Her lust for the happy clown clouds his abuse of her, and the woman’s surprising affection for the sad clown makes her question her judgement.
But this is far more than a crazy love story. The setting encompasses Spain from the Spanish Civil War to 1973 and how time has affected the country and one victim in particular, our sad clown. The film is a beautifully shot tragic parable that draws on numerous influences including Fellini (satyricon), Ken Russell (The Devils, Altered States), Hitchcock (From north to northwest), Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, sacred mountain) and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger Black Narcissus.
The writer/director introduces us to a circus troupe who are forced to fight alongside the Republican militia. One of the clowns is eventually captured after their loss and repeats to his son the word that can turn a sad clown into a happy clown: “revenge”. This word eventually becomes the motive that drives our sad clown insane. With its powerful visuals, driving musical score, and downright menacing clowns, this is a clown movie powerhouse. Just one of my favorite lines sums it up: A clown with a machete. You will scare her to death. This is clowning on a grand scale with the horrors of war, love and madness.
A special mention for the 1997 film, Spawn with great attention to detail to John Leguizamo’s clown/violator. The makeup effects are great, along with Leguizamo’s performance, which apart from Spawn’s cape is perhaps the best part of the film. The actor is both repulsive, funny and scary. We can only hope that a reboot is imminent and that Clown will make another appearance.
Visit Ray’s blog at themonsterinmyhead.com
This article was originally published in 2016.
Crimes committed by men – did we have to see that?