The dedicated clown hound must be prepared to trawl through many unwatchables in the name of seeking out the creepiest painted killers. Clown horrors tend toward the DIY end of the movie making spectrum, and with the best will in the world, they tend to fall flat on quality even if they muster up a horrifying clown face, as in Scary or Die or the manic Troma Klown Kamp Massacre.
Several movies feature a completely terrifying clown, but no decent movie to back it up, such as 2007's good-for-the-first-five-minutes 100 Tears and the toxically boring House of Fears. Some of the freakiest are found in the most unlikely of places...
I could rave about how much I love such masterstrokes of Coulrophobia as IT, Clown House, Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse and my personal fave, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, but I think it's generally more interesting to read about less famous movies. With this in mind, here's a top 5 list of more obscure clown movies.
5. Vulgar (2000)
More of a Rape-Revenge movie than a horror flick per se, Vulgar is definitely worth a watch. The little known indie comes from View Askew Productions and features the man himself as well as his trademark alternative humor. Similar to (but much darker than) Shakes the Clown (1992), Vulgar is a blacker than black comedy about the tears of a clown.
Carlson is a kids' clown who gets the idea to bolster his trade by appearing as a joke strippergram for bachelor parties. Unfortunately, his very first customers are a psychotic bunch of slavering rapists. The trailer below is unrepresentative of the dark, serious side of the movie, which culminates with a remarkable scene in which Vulgar gets his revenge, all delivered with a straight (albeit painted) face.
4. Drive-Thru (2007)
This burger joint comedy-horror has a pre-Gossip Girl Leighton Meester among more perishable knife-fodder, sending toned teens along the stalk-and-slash disassembly line. The script is preposterous, with meat-fisted puns readily doled out by a murderous fast food mascot who offers to put his corn dog in Leighton Meester's buns.
This is a really silly, fun movie to enjoy with friends as you laugh at how bad it is. The Drive-Thru drinking games write themselves: if you chugged some beer every time there was a pun, a killing or a full-on WTF moment (psychic messages from an etch-a-sketch, for example) you would have a very merry evening indeed.
3. Amusement (2008)
Amusement is actually really scary, which is always a bonus. Three intertwining stories see three different girls horrifically terrorized before the action concludes in an unexpected meeting. The clown segment is very well done, with an unsuspecting babysitter stumbling across a room full of disturbing clown toys, including the Krusty-haired life sized monster above.
The way that Amusement is put together is a little confusing and the startling denouement carries a bit of puzzlement with its scares, but it's an interesting take on horror. Amusement is reminiscent of gritty, twisty-turny movies like the excellent Identity, so seek it out if you like a bit of unconventional plot structure with your freaky clowns.
2. The Last Circus (2010)
The Last Circus is one of those movies like The Happiness of the Katakuris or Alucarda: total, balls-to-the-wall derangement. It also follows the pattern of 'guy having total shuddering mental collapse,' like Taxi Driver or Falling Down, with the added craziness of circus skills and clown costumes to liven up the mayhem.
The director, Álex de la Iglesia, merits a lot more acclaim for The Last Circus, which only showed at select art house cinemas and has never gained a huge amount of attention. The Last Circus richly deserves status as bizarro classic, which it possibly would have garnered quicker with a more outlandish, B-movie title. Killer Klowns from Outer Spain, perhaps? Regardless, you could rest happy if Iglesia's masterpiece was The Last Circus you ever saw.
1. Stitches (2012)
Geordie comedian Ross Noble really brings this clever little comedy-horror alive, delivering the disgruntled, sweary Stitches' lines with barely contained glee. A very competent (and rarer still, likable) young cast get manically gored to pieces during a party by the clown they accidentally killed when they were 11. Naturally, the events leading to Stitches' death at the hands of a bunch of unruly children are as funny as they sound.
The crisply thought out plot of Stitches makes for a tightly assembled and confidently hilarious movie, with the grotesque kill scenes standing out as truly inspired. It would be very easy to feel like familiar ground was being trodden, but Stitches galumphs over the 80s slasher tropes with such deadpan flair that it never feels derivative. I cannot recommend this little Irish gem highly enough.
What's the scariest horror movie clown you've ever seen?