Since the beginning of time, clowns have been an enigma of sorts. Something that was put on this earth to entertain and delight young children has become almost synonymous with terror. This truth is so evident that sometimes filmmakers will insert a clown into a scene or movie just for that reason alone. While it comes off as cheap in many scenarios, there are some notable clowns in cinema history which have chuckled their way into our nightmares forever. These 11 clowns are some of the scariest and most evil painted faces ever to grace the screen.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
For me personally, these guys were just goofy, and I think that is the way most people view them and this movie. Still, a lot of people have a clown phobia so deep that these guys genuinely terrified them. In a way, their goofiness makes them scarier because they seem so non-threatening until they engulf you in cotton candy to save you for a later snack. I placed the Killer Klowns at the top of the list because their terror factor is low for most of us, but the few people that did find them creepy are probably still paying for therapy to this day.
Captain Spaulding is just one of the many freaks that make up the murderous Firefly family in House of 1000 Corpses. The weird thing is that this clown-faced killer is one of the most normal of the bunch. Anyone who watched this film and The Devil’s Rejects knows that Captain Spaulding is scarier than he initially seems. Also, if you ever fell asleep to the original DVD release you were treated to Captain Spaulding entering your dreams subliminally.
John Wayne Gacy is one of the scariest clowns there is because he was a real man. When Gacy wasn’t masquerading as Pogo the Clown he was raping and murdering teenage boys. The movie, aptly named Gacy, does an amazing job at telling the story of this demented serial killer. The fact that he was also a clown should give even the bravest of us coulrophobia.
The movie Clown is a terrifying tale of a man who puts on what he thinks is a clown suit, but it turns out to be something so much worse. I didn’t particularly like the execution of this film, but the idea behind it as well as the effects are undeniably good. Even if you are not afraid of clowns, the clown from this film is sure to haunt your dreams for at least a few nights.
Twisty The Clown
When I first saw Twisty the Clown in American Horror Story: Freakshow, I was sold on the fact that it would be the best season of the show. Unfortunately, that was not the case, but Twisty became a fan favorite even though they lazily wrote him out of the season only a few episodes in. The amazing Twisty makeup, his missing jaw, and the silent treatment make Twisty one of the scariest clowns to ever grace the screen.
Horny the Clown
The movie Drive Thru is a terrible film with a couple of actors who were above it. The entire movie is cheesy, dumb, and unbelievable. All of that didn’t stop Horny the Clown, a restaurant mascot turned serial killer, from being strangely terrifying. I hated this movie, but I do wish that Horny could be reused in a better script.
Michael Myers grew up to be a William Shatner mask-wearing psychopath, but he started out as a young clown murdering his sister. Young Michael is arguably scarier than older Michael because nobody suspects a 10-year-old of being a knife-wielding murderer. The iconic scene in Halloween (1978) where his mom rips his mask off and Michael has the 1,000-yard stare will forever remain in every horror fan’s mind.
“The Tale of Laughing in the Dark”
This early episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? made or broke a lot of could-be horror fans. This one stands the test of time and will still freak an adult out today. My kids love it as much as I do and I have grown a new respect for the episode now that I am older. What made Zeebo so terrifying was that you never actually saw the clown, but characters could smell when he was around. Add in a little magic and a funhouse legend, and you get a spooky kid’s story that will make you question your own bravery.
All Hallows’ Eve
All Hallows’ Eve could have been a much better movie if the film quality was a little better. That being said, it was still a decent little anthology movie with Art the Clown being the glue that tied it all together. What makes this clown so scary is his simplicity. Sure, he is wearing makeup, but it is a simple black and white, and there is no big red nose to be found here. Combined with a set of jacked up teeth and intent to kill, all of these factors make Art the Clown no joke.
The Poltergeist Clown Doll
There are a lot of 80’s and 90’s kids who were forever scarred by the movie Poltergeist. There were many scenes that stuck with us throughout our formative years, but few were more petrifying than the scene with the clown doll. The scene creates suspense and pays off with a jump scare for the ages. This scene could have worked with the cutest teddy bear, but the fact that it was a clown doll made it just a little creepier.
Then there is Pennywise. Pennywise, the Clown, is to clowns what Jaws is to sharks. Pennywise did and still does haunt the dreams of thousands of us, and with a new incarnation of IT around the corner, he has a whole new generation to terrorize. While there will never be another Tim Curry depiction Pennywise, is looks like Bill Skarsgard is going to do a great job in making the character his own.
No matter how big of a role they play and whether they are on the big or small screen, clowns will never stop creeping people out. Even if you don’t have a clown phobia, you have to admit that there is something inherently creepy about these painted people who are supposed to be children’s entertainers. Perhaps a lot of that negative interpretation comes from horror movies doing such a great job at making the clown scary. The reason doesn’t matter, what does matter is that as long as they keep making creepy clowns, we are going to keep watching them.