Now in theaters, Terrifier 2 promises the return of Art the Clown for another night of gratuitous carnage and bloodshed. Of course, Art is scarier than the average clown, even without the acts of ultraviolence he commits on his mission of murder and mayhem, but he’s not the only grinning ghoul out there this time of year.
Clowns are a bit of an easy target when it comes to horror movie villains, but the industry has produced more than its fair share over the decades. From mild-painted pranksters to bloodthirsty beasts with big red noses, Halloween is the perfect time of year to unleash creepy clowns of all kinds onto the screen.
From the mind who brought fans Jeepers Creepers, Clownhouse brings this unbelievably frightening trip to a circus of fear. Though it has very little in the way of guts and gore, viewers are in for a night of twisted carnie carnage, as a trio of escaped patients murder a troupe of clowns, steal their costumes, and stalk three brothers staying home alone.
The suspense of this movie is positively palpable, and at times, it can be outright uncomfortable to watch. In a case of less is more, the film certainly has notes of John Carpenter’s Halloween, albeit with a much more flamboyant exterior.
From Creepshow to Trick r’ Treat, anthology horror movies are a time-honored tradition for the spooky season, and 2008’s slasher Amusement concerns a trio of young women who are stalked by a cackling creep who favors a very creepy clown costume. The use of traditional slasher tropes and themes from urban legends further sells the extremely eerie atmosphere, and it pays off in spades.
What makes this clown particularly unsettling, apart from his fiendish laugh, is how he deliberately takes his time. The killer has a habit of waiting somewhere in the shadows or off-screen, building the suspense almost constantly. Eventually, it becomes a waiting game as the viewer waits for the killer to strike.
Gingerclown is strange, and that’s the basic description of it. The plot is all over the place, the protagonists are bland at best, and it’s really unclear just what kind of movie it’s trying to be. That said, monster movies are a Halloween staple, and the creatures and titular clown that inhabit this freaky amusement park are the reason to watch.
The cast is filled with horror alumni, including Lance Hendricksen, Brad Dourif, and Tim Curry, as the latter returns to his clownish roots as the titular Gingerclown. The movie is a mess, and that’s undeniable, but to say it isn’t entertaining would certainly be untrue.
The Clown At Midnight (1999)
Plot-wise, The Clown at Midnight takes much more inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera than most killer clown movies, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad movie. Mirroring the plot of Pagliacci, a murderous clown begins to pick off members of an opera company one by one. The fusion of murder mystery and creepy slasher film lends it a different sort of flow than most horror fans might be used to, but the creep factor is still there.
Like so many common slasher movies seen around Halloween, The Clown at Midnight follows the villain’s skulking style akin to Friday the 13th but with an artistic setting. Simply put, it’s an eccentric alternative from the standard masked-murderer fare many have probably seen before.
One clown wielding a sharp instrument in a dark environment is the setup for various creepy clown stories told around Halloween, but a whole host of made-up monsters with a variety of traps and torture devices at hand is far more fearsome. From the legendary Rob Zombie comes 31, a grisly, gory, grindhouse-type flick that absolutely drips with the director’s patented style of slaughter.
On Halloween night, a group of carnival workers is kidnapped and thrown into a deadly game hosted by a cult of ultraviolent aristocrats, led by Malcolm McDowell and his team of killer clowns. They only have to survive the night in order to be set free, a task not easily accomplished with chainsaw-wielding clowns lurking around the grounds.
Horror films about becoming a monster are usually horrific or tragic and can be very difficult to watch. Eli Roth’s Clown delivers on exactly that premise when a loving father puts on a cursed clown costume and slowly starts turning into a child-eating monster. Needless to say, it’s a healthy helping of body horror with a colorful twist.
There is a litany of psychological and biological implications with this terrifying transformation tale, but the visuals and kills bring in the unwavering shock factor. A special mention has to go to Andy Powers and his gripping portrayal of Kent and how he turns from a doting father and husband to a monstrous killer clown in an absolutely grueling way.
Of course, there could be no clown movies without being at least a little funny. Stitches is a British horror comedy that truly understands what the slasher genre is all about, and it has a delightfully eerie sense of humor as well. To say the movie is way over-the-top in terms of kills and comedy is an understatement, but that’s precisely the point.
Stitches isn’t a horror movie viewers should take seriously at all. Much like Happy Death Day or Scream, this is perfect for viewers wanting laughs as well as screams this Halloween. With the ridiculous antics of the zombie clowns, all seriousness flows right down the tubes.
The Jack In The Box (2019)
For a more frightening British killer clown movie, fans only have to look to The Jack in the Box for their dose of jumpscares. Viewers shouldn’t be misled by the occasional crummy CGI when the plot itself brings the ominous tone and terror. In particular, this sinister slasher movie has a creepy toy with a deadly secret. Since scares in slasher movies function like the titular toy, viewers should definitely consider adding this film to their Halloween binge-fests.
The Jack in the box in question is actually an ancient demon locked away in a mechanical prison. Similar to Clive Barker’s Cenobites, but with a much more voracious appetite, Jack is far more monstrous than any deep-voiced member of the Gash. Needless to say, this hellish harlequin is an under-watched gem.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
Some clowns are demons, and some turn out to be murderers with a lot of makeup. And then, there are the times when they’re a race of evil aliens who turn their human victims into cotton candy for later consumption. If that description wasn’t ludicrous enough, their big top tent spaceship and cartoony weapons certainly are.
The ’80s were a great time for creature features, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space is undoubtedly one of the most bombastic films of the era, and that’s certainly no easy feat. With a new videogame in the works, the Klownz might be making a comeback for a new era.
It Chapters 1 & 2 (2017/2019)
When it comes to creepy clowns on the silver screen, no colorful killer captures the audiences’ shock and fear better than Pennywise the Dancing Clown in Stephen King’s It. Tim Curry originated the role with an immortal performance, but if it’s a debate on who is the scarier portrayal, Bill Skarsgard comes out swinging with his performance in the feature film adaptation and its sequels.
The modern Pennywise is a clown that goes all out in terms of scares. A shapeshifting demon from another dimension, he’s easily one of the most powerful and destructive forces in horror. Whether he’s on the pages of a novel or on the silver screen, this clown is no laughing matter. With creatures, haunted houses, and bloodthirsty clowns, it’s one of the quintessential movies to watch this Halloween.
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