Who hasn't been scared by a clown at some point? For me, it was at age 4, when some well-meaning family friend took me to a parade in Fredonia, N.Y. As I sat on the curb noshing on popcorn, I was treated to a dose of pants-wetting terror by the grisly, grease-painted visage of a clown who had stopped to "entertain" me.
I love circus clowns, as long as I'm several rows back. Their acrobatics and antics are hilarious, from a safe distance. No front-row seats for me, thanks.
Savvy horror movie makers have known for years that evil clowns make for boffo viewership. Put an ax in the hand of a guy with an Emmett Kelley makeup job and you're guaranteed to fill seats.
In this article, we'll look at five of the most bloodthirsty, terrifying and nightmare-inducing clowns in movie history. Coulrophobics, advance at your own risk!
Our first suspects aren't just any clowns: they're out of this world ...
No. 5: Alien Klowns from "Killer Klowns From Outer Space"
"Killer Klowns From Outer Space" is nobody's idea of great cinema. The special effects are laughable, the monsters painfully obvious and the heroes and victims of the tale so clueless that you find yourself believing they almost deserve their fates.
But those fates, my friends, are the stuff of many sleepless nights. Ever wondered what it might be like to be cocooned in cotton candy? What if that cotton candy slowly dissolved your flesh? How about a circus tent containing horrors beyond earthly ken?
The heroes of our tale mount their counterattack using an ice cream truck, which is one of the only vehicles scarier than a clown if you lived in the right neighborhood.
I can safely guarantee that you will never, ever laugh when you see someone get nailed in the face with a cream pie in quite the same way again after you've seen this movie.
Next up on our grease-paint smeared countdown? An inanimate clown that comes to life with real spirit ...
No. 4: Clown Doll from "Poltergeist"
Was there ever a scarier haunted house movie than "Poltergeist?" If you grew up in the '80s, the answer is very likely a head-under-the-covers "No."
Face it, this is movie that gave an entire generation sleepless nights.
You just have to wonder how many parents threw out their kids' clown dolls after watching the scenes in which the creepy movie doll, possessed by the house's evil spirits, tries to feed Carol Ann and her brother to the boogeymen.
Steven Spielberg needs to get back to horror. In case you forgot, he's the guy who wrote "Poltergeist," turning his soft, fuzzy understanding of family dynamics into a harrowing trip the dark side. In this twisted world, that thing under the bed just might wear a clown suit and be trying to drag you to hell.
Our next clown may be less familiar, but far more bloody ...
No. 3: Captain Spaulding
You kind of have to wonder what studio head in his or her right mind would finance a movie made by someone named Rob Zombie. Some of you might even watch his two tours de force, "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects," and still wonder.
But Captain Spaulding, evil clown and patriarch of the Firefly family, whose twisted, perverted, homicidal denizens populate both movies, is worth the DVD rental fee by himself. He's an evil clown who gets stabby when people disrespect clowns, giving him a bizarre "defender of the faith" vibe that somehow makes him even creepier.
"House of 1000 Corpses" is really the good captain's best show, with his Museum of Monsters and Madness tourist attraction proving the drawing card for a pack of victims, er, tourists whose readiness for slaughter is exceeded only by their ability to scream for what sounds like minutes on end without pausing for breath.
It's not great filmmaking by any stretch, but Captain Spaulding is a great evil clown.