While not officially recognized by the World Health Organization, coulrophobia is a very real condition. Coulrophobia is the irrational fear of clowns, and it exists in people of all ages. A study asked 250 children aged 4 to 16 if they felt scared by clown decorations inside of a hospital. Every single one of the children surveyed said that they disliked the clown decorations, and several of them specifically said that they had a fear of clowns. We can’t be sure where our fear of clowns comes from, but it probably has something to do with their face paint and all of the movies that involve killer clowns.
The recent remake of Stephen King‘s classic novel It has sparked a new generation of coulrophobes. When the film was first announced, a number of people across the world started reported sightings of creepy clowns walking around late at night or hiding in the woods trying to lure them in. For a while, people thought that the sightings were part of a grassroots marketing campaign for the movie that eventually escalated. There’s no proof of that, however, but as the release date for It approached, the sightings stopped.
While It is a great movie and everyone should see it, it’s not exactly scary. When compared to the original, the remake of It seems like it could only make the biggest chickens hide behind their hands. It’s a great movie, but it just isn’t as scary as the trailers would make you believe. On this list, you’ll find a number of horror movies based on clowns that are way scarier than It. Read with caution.
15. Amusement (2008)
Amusement was a direct-to-video anthology horror film that left coulrophobes feeling uneasy. Like so many anthology horror movies, Amusement follows three seemingly unrelated stories. It isn’t until the final act that the movie ties the stories together, embedding fear in the toughest horror fans. The laugh of the clown in Amusement is bound to bounce in your head every time you find yourself home alone. It’s seriously creepy.
Despite a disastrous production, Amusement will manage to freak you out for days if you’re a wuss like me. Ignore Amusement‘s reviews and try to go into it with an open mind. One of the freakiest scenes in the movie is when a woman calls about something she sees in her hotel room. It’s an adaption of a very famous campfire story that, although predictable, will send chills up your spine when you watch it for the first time. This scene alone makes the movie worth watching.
14. Gacy (2003)
Gacy is a biographical film that revolves around the life of John Wayne Gacy — the original killer clown. Seriously. Gacy, who was convicted of murdering 33 people, would dress up as “Pogo the Clown” and perform at fundraising events, parades, and even children’s parties. For many people, Gacy is the reason that they don’t trust clowns. He was a seemingly charitable man who was living a double life. He would lure victims to his home to r*pe and murder them. Following their death, Gacy would either store their bodies in the crawlspace of his home or bury them on his property. 26 victims were found in his crawl space at the time of his arrest.
One of the only reasons Gacy was captured by police was due to their determination to prove that Gacy was a killer. After a series of clues pointed police in the direction of Gacy, Des Plaines police began following Gacy everywhere he went. At first, Gacy seemed unphased by the police presence and often invited them to share a meal with him. In one of these instances, Gacy remarked, “You know… clowns can get away with murder.”
After being followed by police for months, Gacy broke down in his lawyer’s office and confessed to a number of murders. The next day, police obtained a warrant to search Gacy’s home, where they found the bodies of most of Gacy’s victims.
13. House Of 1,000 Corpses (2003)
This is another film directed by Rob Zombie, and due to the incredibly graphic nature of the film, House of 1,000 Corpses was given an NC-17 rating, which is a death sentence for movies. An NC-17 rating means that anyone under the age of 18 isn’t allowed to watch them at the theater, parental consent or not. While the actors were praised for their performances in the movie, a number of the side-lots of the film were scrutinized by critics. Despite the remarks by critics, House of 1,000 Corpses pulled nearly $17 million at the box office on a budget of $7 million.
Without giving too much away, House of 1,000 Corpses is based around a group of teenagers driving across the country to write a book about unusual roadside attractions. On their journey, the group meets Captain Spaulding, the owner of a gas station and “The Museum of Monsters & Madmen.” It’s at the museum that the group learns about the local legend, “Dr. Satan.” Even for Rob Zombie, the movie is incredibly graphic and isn’t for the faint of heart — especially if you hate clown makeup.
12. 31 (2016)
Rob Zombie has a gift when it comes to making horror movies — especially ones involving clowns. The former White Zombie front man impressed horror fans when he took over the Halloween franchise and provided some of the most graphic scenes found in modern horror movies. Most recently, Zombie impressed his fans with 31, a film about five carnies who are kidnapped by a gang of clowns that forces them to play a survival game.
The survival game revolves around the clown of gangs chasing the carnies through a maze of rooms for 12 hours. If the carnies are caught, they’re tortured and murdered, while bets are placed on who’ll survive the longest. If you’re a fan of gory movies, ignore the reviews, and give this one a chance. The premise alone is enough to give you nightmares. What’s scarier than getting lost in a maze while you’re chased by a gang of serial killing clowns?
11. Clown (2014)
Clown, directed by Jon Watts (director of Spider-Man: Homecoming) and produced by Eli Roth, is one of the scariest clown movies of all time. After the clown he hired for his son’s birthday party bails, Kent McCoy discovers an old clown costume in his basement. He puts on the suit to entertain his son and the other party guests, but when he wakes up the next morning, he realizes he can’t take the suit off. It was starting to morph into his skin. After many failed attempts to take the suit off (including his wife forcibly removing his nose and sending him to the emergency room), Kent starts having insane hunger cravings. Without giving too much away, a supernatural discovery forces Kent to hunt children so that he can eat them to satisfy his cravings.
The movie was officially released in Italy in 2014, which is strange considering that it’s American-made. Two years later, Clown was released in the United States. Despite only earning $2.1 million on a budget of $1.5 million, Clown is a must-watch for any horror fan. Despite having a few horror movie tropes, many critics praised the film and hoped that this was just the start of a new horror franchise.
10. All Hallows’ Eve (2013)
All Hallows’ Eve (an old name for Halloween) was a direct-to-video movie that’s developed somewhat of a cult following. The movie is about a group of trick or treaters that find a VHS tape in one of their bags. Similar to a number of horror movies before it, the tape found in the bag contains a number of shorts, but in All Hallows’ Eve, the shorts follow around a killer clown that tortures its victims. The tape is supernatural in nature but contains a number of graphic scenes. For example, there are depictions of r*pe, sadistic torture, and, in one instance, a woman witnesses Art The Clown chopping a body into pieces with a hacksaw. If you’re squeamish, easily triggered, or can’t stand the look of murderous clowns, stay away from All Hallows’ Eve. Then again, the point of a horror movie is to go to bed scared.
9. Stitches (2012)
Though it was made on a budget of $1.5 million and completely bombed at the box office, Stitches is a must-watch for anyone looking for clown-infused horror movies. This European horror movie follows the clown Stitches, who has a pretty unsuccessful career as a clown. While performing at ten-year-old Tommy’s birthday party, Tommy’s best friend, Vinnie, ties Stitches’ shoelaces together. Stitches trips after Tommy throws a football at him, and lands face first on a kitchen knife. In typical horror fashion, on Tommy’s 16th birthday, Stitches rises from his grave and looks to hunt down the people responsible for his death. It might be funnier than it is scary, but it’s still scarier than the remake of It.
Due to the low-budget production, Stitches was unable to find success on an international level. With that in mind, though, Stitches is loved by everyone who’s seen it. Critics praised the movie and made note that it was destined to become a cult classic, which it has!
8. Killjoy (2000)
Killjoy is a horror franchise that pays homage to the classics that came before it. The franchise focuses on Killjoy, a demonic clown who is brought to life with the purpose of seeking revenge for those that call for him. Much like a tricky genie, the characters that call for Killjoy’s help are soon overwhelmed with how mischievous he is.
Due to how cost-effective it is to make horror movies, some of the best (or most famous) ones are made on an astonishingly low budget. For example, Paranormal Activity was made for a lowly $15,000 but made over $193 million at the box office, making it the most profitable film ever made based on return investment. Killjoy was made on a slightly higher budget but didn’t manage to stretch their dollar as far as Paranormal Activity. Nonetheless, it’s a must watch for any longtime horror fan.
7. The Clown At Midnight (1998)
The Clown at Midnight is filled with horror movie tropes but is still a pretty decent flick. For example, the movie starts with opera singer Lorraine Sedgewick being murdered in her dressing room by one of the lead actors in a performance of Pagliacci — that super famous play about a clown. The story picks up years later, when Lorraine’s teenage daughter, Kate, starts having dreams about how her mother had been murdered. While being haunted by her past, Kate agrees to help restore the opera house that her mother was murdered in with a group of teachers and students. One by one, the group gets picked off by a clown that looks like the clown that killed Lorraine. I won’t say much more than that, but the movie is filled with twists and turns — like any horror movie released in the ’90s.
The Clown At Midnight is surprisingly scary if you manage to look past some of the tropes and general cheesiness that comes with ’90s horror movies. It’s a great movie to just throw on one night with a group of horror fans. Don’t expect to be haunted by the movie, but it’s still scarier than the most recent release of It.
6. It (1990)
If you ask anyone that saw this movie when it was first released, they’ll tell you that it haunted them for weeks. Pennywise is the scariest clown of all time and was brought to life by Tim Curry‘s brilliant acting ability. Curry created such an iconic character that just about everyone can recognize Pennywise. Even today, the original It will scare you and give you nightmares for weeks. The movie single-handedly created a generation of people who have a phobia of clowns.
The horror of the original It can never be recreated, despite Hollywood’s attempts to do so. With that in mind, the original It is nothing like the Stephen King novel and was criticized for this. The cult classic miniseries managed to impress King, who thought that the four-hour adaptation of his 1,000-page book would be terrible. Similar to other book adaptions, you have to think of It the miniseries as separate from It the book. If you’re looking for something that follows the book a little closer (and is a little less scary), try to catch the newest version of It while it’s still in theaters.
5. Clownhouse (1989)
Clownhouse is a slasher-style horror movie directed by Victor Salva. Clownhouse is scary for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the movie is about a boy named “Casey,” who’s forced to face his fear of clowns when a group of mental patients dressed as clowns break into his house, trying to kill him and his brothers. Casey’s brothers, aware of his phobia, don’t believe that there are clowns in the house trying to kill them. And, well, you can probably figure out how that ends.
The second reason that Clownhouse is so disturbing is what was happening off screen. A year before the film was released, director Victor Salva was convicted of sexually abusing Nathan Forrest Winters, the 12-year-old boy that played Casey. The abuse happened during production, and one of the instances was videotaped. When police raided Salva’s home, they found videotapes and magazines containing child pornography. Despite serving 15 months of a 3-year prison term, Salva was welcomed back to Hollywood’s Horror scene when he directed Jeepers Creepers.
4. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
With such a ridiculous name, Killer Klowns From Outer Space was destined to be an instant cult classic. The film is about a group of aliens that look disturbingly similar to circus clowns and their attempt to capture and kill as many humans as they possibly can. Despite the absurdity of the plot, the film was praised by critics for making such a ridiculous concept believable. If you’re a fan of retro horror movies or science fiction, Killer Klowns From Outer Space is an absolute must-watch.
Due to the cult status of the film, director Stephen Chiodo has been trying to make a sequel since the film was first released. Sadly, the project has been stuck in development hell, but Chiodo is pressing on. In a perfect world, Chiodo says that he would be able to make four Killer Klowns From Outer Space movies but said he would settle for a television series based on the first film.
3. Blood Harvest (1987)
Blood Harvest is a slasher film starring the late musician Tiny Tim. The otherwise generic horror film is kept together by Tiny Tim’s brilliant performance as Marvelous Mervo, who invades a small town with the hopes of killing them all. Even for a slasher movie, Blood Harvest has a number of graphic murders that’ll leave you with an uneasy feeling in your stomach. The simple presence of Mervo, who’s singing throughout a good chunk of the movie, is enough to make you afraid of clowns. Tiny Tim’s voice, combined with clown makeup, is creepy on so many levels.
Blood Harvest had very limited exposure when it was first released, and as a result, director Bill Rebane is looking to re-release the movie on DVD and electronically. As the first movie made by Rebane that was intended for an adult audience, I think it’s safe to say that this mostly forgotten slasher flick is his pride and joy.
2. Poltergeist (1982)
Yes, I know that Poltergeist isn’t exactly about clowns; it’s about supernatural entities that haunt a family. It’s one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. Poltergeist spawned two sequels (much more forgetful than the original) and even inspired a remake in 2015. By no means am I pretending that Poltergeist is a movie about clowns, but you have to admit that the movie has one of the scariest scenes involving a clown in any movie.
As part of the movie, the ghosts possess the clown doll of one of the main characters. The doll attacks the boy (Robbie) while his sister is attacked by an unseen force that moves her around her bedroom. While the climax of the scene involves Robbie’s sister, the part of the movie involving the clown doll is hands-down the scariest in the movie. There have been a number of references to this scene in other horror movies and stories and was such an iconic scene that it was recreated in the 2015 version of Poltergeist.
1. He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not good. Film critics, horror fans, and pretty much everyone who’s seen He Who Gets Slapped will tell you that it’s absolutely terrifying. The silent film is based on a Russian play of the same name and was the first movie to enter production for the studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — the company that uses the lion as their introduction.
The movie follows Paul Beaumont, a scientist who dedicated his career trying to prove radical theories about the origin of mankind. A man named “Baron Regnard” allows Paul to live in his home and conduct his research. Eventually, Paul tells the Baron that he’s finally proven his theories and is ready to present them at the Academy of Sciences. Sadly, the Baron steals Paul’s research and presents them as his own theories, causing Paul to be rejected from the Academic community. This leads Paul to become a circus clown, where his act is to let a large group of clowns slap him in front of an audience. And I won’t spoil the rest for you. The movie was intended to be a drama, but watching it now, it’s insanely creepy. The music, the clown makeup, and the idea of having your life stolen from you by a rich Baron make me sick to my stomach. It’s truly terrifying!
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