Who doesn’t love clowns? Well according to a recent study, 12% of American adults suffer from coulrophobia, and that’s only including grownups that are actually scared of the rascals – bare in mind the percentage is probably higher with kids. And that’s just one country. Then of course there are people who aren’t afraid of clowns, but just flat out hate them and wish they were dead. Well maybe that’s an exaggeration, but if you search Google you’ll find a few sites dedicated to clown resentment. Clowns have always fascinated me, and the universal fear of them has made them great criteria for horror movie villainy; but the art of clowning has provided much entertainment across multiple genres. Here are some of my favourites. Enjoy.
10) Drive Thru (2007)
Drive Thru is by no means a good movie: it borrows heavily from A Nightmare On Elm Street in terms of plot, litters itself with references to other 80’s slashers and presents itself as a tame, lame horror comedy for the MTV generation; yet there’s something oddly charming and mildly entertaining about it that it makes for a fun watch on a relaxing week night. The characters are delightfully obnoxious brats, led by a pre-Gossip Girl Leighton Meester looking as cute as ever. The killer clowns name is Horny and he’s so entertainingly dumb it’s hard not to find a soft spot for him in your little black heart. We know exactly where it’s going, but it’s fun to watch it get there.
With some more on-screen deaths and a surplus amount of added gore, Drive Thru could have been a classic. The production values are surprisingly high and Horny’s costume is one of the best you’re likely to see in a clown horror flick. It might not pull the trigger, but it pistol whips us enough to appreciate it.
9) Little Big Top (2006)
Cult cinema icon Sid Haig plays Seymour, an unemployed clown who returns to his hometown to spend the rest of his days in a drunken mess. After running out of money to buy booze, he accepts a job at the local circus teaching amateur clowns the craft; there begins a redemption story of a sad clown finding his smile once again.
Sid Haig might have found career rejuvenation playing a clown in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses, but Seymour is his peak clowning achievement, in my opinion. Here, he gets to play a career best character, in a movie which has unfortunately floated under the radar since its release. I strongly recommend checking this one out. You’ll be one of the few people who gave it a chance.
8) Shakes The Clown (1991)
Bobcat Goldthwait is an expert when it comes to crafting the perfect dark comedy. In recent years, his pitch black humour has earned him rave reviews with movies such as World’s Greatest Dad, starring the late great Robin Williams, and God Bless America, a scintillating, scathing attack on modern society if there ever was one. But way back in 1991 he brought us Shakes The Clown: an underrated cynical gem.
Described as the ‘’Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies’’, Shakes The Clown is the masterpiece of its criminally unexplored genre. With a cast comprising of Robin Williams, a back when he still gave a shit Adam Sandler and Bobcat himself, this is a star studded treat that deserves more appreciation.
7) 100 Tears (2007)
Marcus Koch might be known more for his F/X work than his directing, but with 100 Tears we get the best of both worlds in this mean spirited slasher, which boasts a higher body count than most civil wars. The plot is thin, providing only an excuse to showcase splatter at its most splendid.
After being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Gurdy The Clown sets out to exact revenge on those who condemned him – and everybody else who he comes into contact with. Along with his psychotic daughter, they embark on a take no prisoners killing spree fueled with hate, and armed with a big fucking cleaver.
Gorehounds rejoice: this is one entertaining trip to hack up heaven you don’t want to miss.
6) Clown (2015)
Clown was initially a faux trailer, disguised as the next feature from Eli Roth. After going viral and grabbing Roth’s attention, he was so in support of the concept he jumped on board as producer and helped turn Christopher. D Ford’s and Jon Watts’ prank into a reality; others would have sued them, but Eli is cool.
Clown has a fantastic concept: a father puts on a cursed clown suit for his son’s birthday party, only to gradually transform into a demon with an appetite for children. Clown is one of the better clown horror movies; although lacking in graphic on-screen child murder, which is disappointing, it makes up for it in story, atmosphere and the greatest failed suicide attempt ever put to celluloid.
5) Vulgar (2000)
Vulgar is the debut feature from Kevin Smith alumni Bryan Johnson, and to this day it remains his only one. It stars Kevin Smith regular Brian O’Halloran as a down on his luck party clown who gets gang raped by a father and his 2 sons. Months after the rape, the clown becomes finds some good fortune as a children’s television personality; but this only leads to blackmail from his attackers, who threaten to claim to have a videotape of his assault and will make it public unless he pays them.
Vulgar was met with critical scorn upon its release and still isn’t regarded too highly to this day. While retaining many of the traits of Smith’s other View Askew productions – cameos from the same actors, losers characters and similar dialogue – it has a darker, mean spirited edge which many will find tasteless. Furthermore, it offers nothing in the way of resolution. To me, that’s what makes it such a perfect dark comedy. Be warned though: my love for this is in the minority opinion. Most hate this movie, but if you find the thought of a clown being gang raped and blackmailed to have potential for comedy gold then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
4) Stitches (2012)
Stitches is a British-Irish horror comedy starring stand-up comic Ross Noble as the title character; a clown who returns from the dead to exact revenge on the kids responsible for his death six years previous. What ensues is a mixture of hilarity and creative kills, along with a wonderful spooky atmosphere, to create a horror comedy that finds an acceptable balance between laughs and scares.
Stitches is a gory delight, making wonderful gags out of the grue, including balloon animals made with human intestines. This is a must see.
3) The Last Circus (2010)
Alex de la Iglesia is one of the best directors working in cult cinema today, whose body of work consists of an array of masterfully done oddities which have to be seen to be believed. The Last Circus, in my opinion, is his masterpiece; a surreal, violent black comedy about 2 disfigured clowns competing for the love and affection of a beautiful trapeze performer.
The film opens with a clown being recruited for battle during the Spanish Civil War by a militia. After slaughtering an enemy squadron with a machete, the clown is taken captive to die in prison. However, he has one final visit from his son, where he encourages him to join the circus and become a sad clown, because all he has known in his life is death. He also tells him to find his happiness through murder and revenge. Years later, his son has followed through with his advice and now competes for the love of the promiscuous trapeze artist – and he’s willing to kill those who get in the way.
The Last Circus is a deranged movie; imagine Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre and Tod Brownings Freaks, spliced with the gore and carnage of modern horror and action movies. Even then it doesn’t do this movie justice. It’s truly a one of a kind twisted masterpiece.
2) Clownhouse (1989)
Unfortunately for Clownhouse, it will always be tainted by director Victor Salva’s unforgivable sex crimes committed against one of the leading cast members, who was only 12 years old at the time. It’s difficult not to mention it when discussing this movie, which is appropriate considering it should never be forgotten. However, judging it solely as a movie; a work of art from a director, who despite his transgressions, has a talent for making quality horror pictures, then Clownhouse is a gem.
It’s about 3 escaped lunatics from a mental asylum who murder 3 clowns, steal their costumes, and proceed to enter a house where 3 minors are staying for the night without parental supervision. The premise is simple; the execution perfect and harrowing.
There are moments in Clownhouse which remind us of what went on; crotch shots of young boys in their underwear remind us of the sick human being behind the camera. It makes it even more unsettling than it already is. Other than that, it’s an impressive horror movie which would be considered a classic if it wasn’t for that horrible incident.
1) Killer Kiowns From Outer Space (1988)
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a quintessential B movie classic that’s regarded as a universal cult classic, outside the community of its target audience. Everyone and their grandmothers appreciate this movie, and if they say otherwise they’re either lying or dead inside.
An homage to the alien invasion flicks from the 1950’s, presented in the form of the camp ludicrousness of 1980’s horror comedy, Killer Klowns is about a small town that is terrorized by extraterrestrial clowns, who traveled to Earth in a big top spaceship to unleash hilarious havoc. There isn’t a circus gag that isn’t incorporated into the madness; these range from people eating shadow puppets, popcorn guns and much more I’d hate to spoil, because I want all of you who haven’t seen it to appreciate its splendour first hand.
To summarise: this is one of the very best things to ever happen to humanity.