October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best killer clowns in horror movies is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Clowns have been joking around for hundreds of years. I’m not sure anyone is laughing, but that doesn’t stop clowns from doing their thing. And that’s what makes clowns so fascinating. Who are they for? What is their purpose? Presumably, they exist to provide entertainment for children. But do kids like them? I certainly didn’t when I was a kid.
I didn’t even want to do this list. I was coerced into it by fellow writers that don’t understand the idea of a joke submission. But that’s okay because clowns have seemingly found a pretty good home in the world of horror, and I do love to talk horror. With the help of FSR’s resident clowns — Rob Hunter, Anna Swanson, Meg Shields, Brad Gullickson, Jacob Trussell, and Valerie Ettenhofer — we’ve put together a list that no one wants but everyone needs. These are the ten best killer clowns from horror.
10. 31 (2016)
My theory on 31 is that after attempting for years to get two non-horror films made – one about a hockey team, the other about the latter years of Groucho Marx’s life – Rob Zombie said, “Fuck it. Y’all want more of the same? Well, here’s more of the fucking same.” So, in and of itself, I view 31 as a kind of protest film, where Zombie almost satirizes his own creative style by stretching it to its absolute extremes while still boiling down his own artistic sensibilities into their purest form. I don’t know about you, but I find that fascinating. What makes this piece of protest-horror work is that Zombie smartly chose to put Richard Brake at the center of his cadre of scary clowns. Even if you remember not liking this film, I recommend re-watching Brake’s opening monologue with an open mind. Take in his penetrating stare and gravelly voice that seamlessly instills a distinct sense of uneasy danger. Even in Zombie’s lesser work, it’s a sensation that flows through all of his films. (Jacob Trussell)
9. Clown (2014)
It’s a travesty and, quite frankly, an embarrassment that a film called Clown is ranked so low on a list of the best clowns in horror movies. The voting members that decided on this list, with the exception of Rob Hunter and myself, got it wrong. Meg Shields got it extra wrong. And in a few years, I hope this publication openly shames them for it. Why should they be shamed? Because Clown rules.
Kent wants to throw his son the perfect birthday party, but when the clown he hired is unable to make it, that plan is thrown in the jeopardy. Fortunately, Kent finds an old clown costume in the attic and throws it on. Crisis averted… or is it? Spoiler alert — crisis is not averted. Turns out the clown suit is actually the hair and skin of an Icelandic demon, and it’s now melding with Kent’s body turning him into a forever clown. Featuring rainbow clown blood, an outrageously funny buzz-saw death, and a child massacre at Chuck E. Cheese, Clown is the greatest show on Earth. (Chris Coffel)
8. Krampus (2015)
Clowns come in many different shapes and sizes. That’s part of what makes them so horrifying. One of the classic creepy clowns is the jack-in-the-box. These jackasses hide in a box, and when you wind it up they pop out without warning to scare the shit out of you. Der Klown in Krampus happens to be that sort of clown. He wears a red jester hat, has big ruffles around his neck, and loves to clap. He also has an expandable jaw and likes to eat children. Makes for a great Christmas present for the terrible neighbor kid that lives down the street. (Chris Coffel)
7. Spawn (1997)
Say what you will about 1997’s Spawn movie (it’s awesome), there’s no denying that John Leguizamo gives a remarkable performance as the demon clown Violator. Violator is crude as a clown, handing Spawn a pair of freshly skid-marked underwear and making jokes about humping and bumping. But as a demon, he’s the embodiment of evil, devising a plan to unleash a deadly biological weapon upon all of humanity. When that plan backfires, Violator sends Spawn to hell, and the two battle it out.
Leguizamo underwent a great ordeal to bring this iconic character to life. Suffering through makeup sessions lasting upwards of 8 hours, he became nearly unrecognizable under endless pounds of prosthetics. It must have been hell, but sometimes you must suffer to create great art. Don’t let that suffering go to waste. Re-visit Spawn. Enjoy Violator. (Chris Coffel)
6. Hell House LLC (2015)
Clowns are a rarity in the world of horror as, unlike zombies, werewolves, and carnivorous yogurt, they’re actually real. And real clowns are terrifying. Some filmmakers lean into that while others drop the ball, but the best to ever do it – yes, the best despite its landing in the middle of the pack in this rotten democracy of ours – is Stephen Cognetti’s Hell House LLC. A found footage chiller about a haunted house attraction leading to actual deaths, the film makes astoundingly great use of clown-like dummies placed around the building’s rooms and halls. They’re props meant to scare visitors, but once we start realizing they’re moving, it’s the viewers who start shitting their pants. The film also delivers an engaging story and other legitimately great scares, but it’s those damn clowns that steal the show. (Rob)
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