Killer Clown Flicks to Check out This Halloween
What’s scarier than a hockey mask and a machete? A bright red bulbous nose and thick coats of face paint. Clowns are unsettling creations, so it’s no surprise to find they’ve worked their way into the horror genre. In fact, these oddball figures have dug themselves a deep canal in the landscape of horror. There are some riveting killer clown films to be unearthed. Some can already be rightfully labeled classics. Some are foreign shiners. Some are micro-budget movies with more passion than refinement invested. From the dated but amiable IT, to the visually engrossing, The Last Circus, there are a solid handful of pics featuring maniacal creations coated in white and red out there. Finding all of them isn’t necessarily going to be an easy task, but most of these are readily available, and come highly recommended from us goons over here at BHM!
Vulgar: Vulgar went completely ignored by the majority of genre followers, and that’s rather unfortunate. It’s low budget as all hell, but it’s got a lot of charm and plays out a bit like a killer clown version of Mallrats. Hell, the team behind Mallrats is behind this one, so that’s not necessarily a surprise. You can even anticipate appearances from Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes and Brian O'Halloran, the good old Clerks trio. It takes some time for the brutality of the film to kick into overdrive, but it’s worth the wait, as Vulgar builds to a mean climax.
Drive-Thru: It’s trashy, cheap and completely exploitative, and it all makes for a grand time! Drive-Thru isn’t for a single second supposed to be taken serious, and writers/directors Brendan Cowles and Shane Kuhn understand and embrace that. There’re plenty of laughs in store, some genuinely wild death scenes and a clown that probably shouldn’t look creepy, but does... in a kids’ birthday party gone awry kind of way. Drive-Thru is another indie with big heart that further proves clowns are one of the finer, albeit neglected subgenres.
Amusement: The coolest anthology you haven’t seen, Amusement deviates from the recurring theme you’ll spot on this list. Unlike most of the entrants in this lineup, Amusement puts the terror in front of the laughs, and actually succeeds in sending shivers down the spine on more than one occasion. There isn’t a weak segment in the film, but if you’re after magnificent atmosphere and palpable dread, you can’t miss Tabitha’s story. You’ll never look at clown dolls the same way after this flick, and that’s a guarantee. For my money, Amusement is the most underrated horror anthology to ever see release.
The Last Circus: Hands down the weirdest film on the list, The Last Circus is about a love triangle that spirals out of control and subsequent revenge... more or less. There are some other interesting plot points in the film (which boasts a surprising amount of depth), but the truth is this one’s really focused on love and hate. It’s profoundly strange at times, but visually it’s nothing short of marvelous, and it’s admittedly well-acted. There are some killer practical effects to absorb here and enough violence to satiate the appetite of an absolute lunatic. Do yourself a favor: watch it!
Stitches: A fairly straight forward comedic revenge pic, Stitches earned plenty of attention upon arrival earlier this year. There’s good reason for that, as the flick hammers home a very, very important message for young parents: Don’t hire clowns to amuse your children for parties. Mistakes happen, sometimes clowns end up dead. And sometimes they return, with murder on the mind. Stitches is well-shot and equally well-written. It isn’t a brain buster of a film, but it is unforgiving, and it is highly entertaining.
IT: Anyone who opts to be honest will probably admit that this Stephen King adaptation hasn’t aged all too well. Today it looks a little silly, a little wooden and unfortunately, a little cheap. But the thing is, if you had the chance to view this one when it first hit tubes back in 1990, you likely remember it as a paralyzing addition to the horror genre. 20-plus years ago, It was a marvel to behold, an expansive visual extravaganza anchored by a perplexingly frightening showing from Tim Curry, who donned face-paint and sharp chompers to portray the iconic Pennywise the Clown. That’s how I prefer to remember this one, with a heavy dash of nostalgic charm. It’s best that way.
The Devil’s Carnival: If you’re not a huge fan of musicals, you might save yourself an hour by steering clear of The Devil’s Carnival. Of course, if you steer clear of the picture, you might miss a rare musical piece that impresses. Ironically, this musical wins most in the visual department, not the audio. Darren Lynn Bousman assembles a hypnotic piece of artwork that features some amazing sets, makeup work and atmosphere. Forget about The Reaper, don’t fear The Musical!
100 Tears: It’s been nearly a half-decade since I had the chance to check out 100 Tears, but there are a few memories of some ultra-violence and spirited gore that still linger. This picture is micro to the core, functioning on a shoestring budget, every penny of that budget seemingly invested in special effects work. Don’t look for this one if you’re in search of a highly refined film. In fact, seek this one out only if you aim to be repulsed by some insane nastiness.
Funnyman: Back when raves were still cool, an indie clown pic slipped into the masses of the public, and it was surprisingly entertaining... even if no one saw it. That film was Funnyman (or Funny Man), a morbid little picture that pits a demonic jester against... well, everybody. This one is fun in a Night of the Demons kind of way, in that it’s a highly entertaining piece of work, but clearly not a top notch production. Sometimes we just need to have a little fun, and Funnyman makes that possible. Track it down, if you can.
Clownhouse: Regardless of what anyone says or thinks of Victor Salva, the man understands what it takes to create a truly frightening film. He knows when to let a scene drag to create heavy mystery, he knows when to pull away, and precisely where to go to manufacture the optimum scare. It’s brilliant, even if you feel Salva is a despicable (I try to reserve judgment as I don’t know the man, though I do know a few of his associates who sing high praises of a redeemed individual) human being. The understanding of those maneuvers are all over this super creepy pic about escaped mental patients in clown getups. An easy favorite from this list, the feature will (sadly) never find its legs thanks to that nasty controversy Salva sparked.
Killer Klowns from Outerspace: The ultimate cult classic clown pic, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is over the top from the get go, and that, combined with a rapid no nonsense approach, is part of what makes the feature so endearing. Just suggesting the idea of aliens all incognito as... clowns, really hideous, large-domed clowns, is profoundly preposterous. Filmmaker Stephen Chiodo puts his cods on the line by offering up one of the most far out, least believable movies you’ll ever see, and it pays major dividends. KKFOS may be on the lame side, but it’s a kick all the same. Mandatory seasonal viewing, right here.
What You Should Be Watching Out For
The Eli Roth produced, Jon Watts directed, Clown is currently in production and we’re intrigued. When Roth puts his name on a project, it tends to be, at the least, a fair effort. Clown actually has a somewhat different premise than the typical clown movie, and we’re all about seeing just how that pans out. There’s something that sounds strangely magnetic about a clown costume that possesses its wearer, transforming them into murderous nut jobs. We’re buying into this one early, and the involvement of Peter Stormare didn’t hurt us in the decision to do so!
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