It's almost universally agreed upon that clowns are super. F**king. Creepy. But said red-nosed abominations would be nothing without the cotton-candy-scented inspiration of their would-be home base: the carnival. This fact has not been lost on horror visionary Rob Zombie, whose new film 31 revolves around a group of carnival workers in the 1970s, who are kidnapped and forced to play a deadly game against a team of murderous clowns.
So, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, in celebration of 31's release, step right up, step right up and take a look back at some of the all-time spookiest horror flicks set in carnivals ... If you dare!
1. The Funhouse (1981)
Directed by the ever-inventive Tobe Hooper — the mind behind the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre — this wildly entertaining romp follows a gang of horny co-eds who visit a sleazy carnival, only to end up trapped in an abandoned dark ride, being stalked by a horribly deformed serial killer.
2. Carnival Of Souls (1962)
One of the first proper indie horror movies, this micro-budget chiller tracks a troubled young woman who, upon surviving a brutal car wreck, becomes inexplicably drawn to the abandoned site of an old carnival — and the pale-faced spirit of a man who lives therein.
3. Vampire Circus (1972)
One of the many unsung oddities created by the legendary Hammer Film Productions, Circus concerns a 19th century Austrian village that faces bedlam upon the arrival of a traveling circus of bloodsucking creatures, hellbent on resurrecting noted Dracula substitute Count Mitterhaus .
4. Final Destination 3 (2006)
Technically, the whole film might not be set in a carnival, but the show of bravura that was the opening sequence — which depicts a cadre of (you guessed it) rowdy teens being torn to shreds by an out-of-control rollercoaster — damn sure is.
5. Freaks (1932)
Perhaps the O.G. carnival horror, this macabre murder mystery was actually pulled from theaters following a public outcry over its grotesque depiction of real-life carnie freaks, such as a bearded woman, conjoined twins, and a so-called armless wonder.
6. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
Based on Ray Bradbury's iconic short story, Wicked concerns two mischievous young boys who sneak out for a night of fun at the Pandemonium Carnival as it passing through town, only to discover that the fair is actually a sinister ploy designed by the evil Mr. Dark to capture the souls of unsuspecting patrons.
7. 31 (2016)
And it all comes full circle as Rob Zombie's latest gore-soaked opus takes carnie horror to a whole new level. The film's hapless protagonists are trapped in a twisted underground compound called Murderworld by a trio of powder-wigged sickos. For 12 hours, our heroes must survive 31 — a vicious game that pits them against a ceaseless onslaught of deranged, costumed killers nicknamed the Heads.
Will the circus folk make it out alive? If you want to find out, be sure to check out Rob Zombie's 31, now available on VOD.