5. Poltergeist (1982)
What’s the deal with the toy clown poor little Robbie has in his bedroom in Poltergeist? His room is decked out in Star Wars memorabilia, and yet this clown is sitting on a rocking chair at the foot of his bed? A stuffed Chewie would make a lot more sense. I don’t understand what his parents were thinking. Robbie clearly didn’t like it as he tried to hide from it every night. Poltergeist or not, that clown was attacking Robbie at some point. When the clown does finally attack, I wasn’t surprised, but I was angry. Angry at Robbie’s parents for getting him that dumb scary clown and leaving it in his room every night. Someone call child protective services! (Chris Coffel)
4. It (1990)
What criteria goes into judging a scary clown? Is it his makeup? His tone of voice? His creepy party tricks? Regardless of how you slice the killer clown conversation, Tim Curry’s version of Pennywise is always going to end up near the top of the heap. After all, the powerful otherworldly being otherwise known as “IT” is pretty much the most recognizable clown in the world outside of Ronald McDonald.
The 1990 miniseries version of Stephen King’s doorstop of a book has aged since its release in a lot of ways, with hit-or-miss practical effects and some members of the Loser’s Club who are clearly more well-defined by the script than others. Yet Curry’s sewer-dwelling menace isn’t among its retrospective shortcomings: he’s still scary, campy, and delightfully ridiculous. With sharp-edged teeth, pencil-thin eyebrows, and a bulbous red nose, he’s much closer to the look of a genuine circus clown than the clearly monstrous version of Pennywise we see in the recent adaptation. His ability to traumatize viewers despite his deeply goofy exterior proves that Curry’s Pennywise is among the best horror clowns out there. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
3. It (2017)
Lean in close because I’m going to let you peek behind the curtain. I am not a fan of the 2017 motion picture It. And the powers that be knew this when they tasked me with singing neo-Pennywise’s praises. But the joke’s on them. Because even though I’m not down to clown with the film I am down to clown with Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise.
Forgive me, father (Tim Curry), for I have sinned. I prefer the 2017 portrayal of Stephen King’s trans-dimensional, shape-shifting circus entertainer to the one in the 1990 TV Movie. I think it boils down to the fact that I’m pretty sure I could (maybe) beat up Tim Curry’s Pennywise. Skarsgård’s Pennywise is a different story. He’s way more chaotic, alien, and unpredictable, an elemental and genuinely dangerous presence that makes me want to shed my skin and run for the hills. Where is his mouth? Why is his forehead that big? Why are my pants wet? Thanks, I hate it. (Meg Shields)
2. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Leave it to Rob Zombie to do a riff on Texas Chain Saw Massacre that features an even more demented family of killers. And though House of 1000 Corpses packs a killer punch all with an abundance of villains, it’s Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding that we all remember best. From the jump, we can all guess that he is not a benevolent clown (if you went into a Zombie movie expecting a benevolent clown, I am so sorry), but even with that expectation, the film still takes us by surprise with how truly deranged it, and Captain Spaulding, can be. (Anna Swanson)
1. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is the logical conclusion of the clown as a horror movie figure. These white-faced, wide-mouthed, red-lipped monsters couldn’t possibly be a human creation. They could only come from somewhere else. They could only come from space.
When you read the synopsis on Wikipedia or on the back of a VHS box, Killer Klowns from Outer Space sounds like a very silly endeavor. And it’s not not silly. It’s very silly. However, underneath that silliness is a really creepy and uncomfortable experience. The only film written, produced, and directed by the Chiodo Brothers (Stephen Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, and Charles Chiodo), Killer Klowns from Outer Space delights in its violent perversion. We’ve got cotton candy guns, human ventriloquist dummies, and ravenous jack-in-the-boxes. The film is designed to terrorize its younger viewers, but even the adults in the crowd will stumble away from their watch, looking for clown cars in their closets and under their beds. (Brad Gullickson)
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