Monday, October 22, 2012

Coulrophobia - Clowns in horror movies

What my intentions were when I started this little essay on my blog was first of all to recommend you some good slasher and horror flicks with a clown appearance but secondly writing some words about the phenomenon of fear of clowns - or as the title of this post says Coulrophobia. The most famous example has to be Pennywise, the clown that appears in Stephen King's It. (picture on the left) This film alone is a good reason why you should be afraid of clowns. If you dig deeper though you'll find a whole lot of other pearls of horror movies with clowns, mostly throughout the late 70's and 80's.

If we take the clown-subject at first there are plenty of very scary and well made slasher and horror movies from the past days. The first example here is Clownhouse, a slasher-film from 1989 that works similar as Halloween, means most kills or scenes are off-screen and subliminal but nonetheless very effective. It is about a carnival where three clowns get murdered by three escaped mental patients. They then break into the house of Casey and his two older brothers, first of them has an intense fear of clowns. There are so many little gimmicks in Clownhouse of which some you may not see until you rewind and watch the scene again. It was nominated in the dramatic category at Sundance film Festival '89, genereally liked by the audience, Victor Salva though was convicted for molesting the lead actor between 1996 and 2001, leaving kind of a bad light on the film as a whole.

A second example, which is a load of fun has to be Killer Klowns from Outta Space. Definitely more in the trash and comedy style the plot of this flick is about aliens which look just like clowns and are here to kill people in the most bizarre and weird ways. Another nice example is Out Of The Dark from 1989 in which a clown-masked killer stalk and kill girls who work for a phone-sex company. The funny thing about this one is that in the trailer the actual clown-mask never appears. The award definitely goes to Poltergeist though. For those who don't know the film yet t's a classic from 1982, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg. There is a unbelievably scary clown-scene in it, a must-see.

The actual reason or definition of Coulrophobia is unclear and extensive though there had been surveys at a hospital asking children for their opinion on a new redesign. Most of the children did not like the clown-pictures in the rooms, were frightened by them. According to Northridge University, CA, children react negatively to a 'familiar body with an unfamiliar face'.

The reason why there is such a common appearance of Clowns in horror- and slasher-movies could be the conviction of John Wayne Gacy in 1980. He was a serial killer who was charged with 33 murders he did between 1972 and 1978. All of them were teenage boys or young men, some of them prostitutes, he picked up at Greyhound bus station or off the road, raped and later killed them. He buried them in his basement and around his house. He was known as Pogo, the Clown on children's birthday-parties or parades. (picture on the right) Before the investigations beginning in 1978 nobody could suspect Gacy for being the person he really was. He in fact was well liked in his neighborhood, especially for regularly organising BBQ's and grill parties. In the end of 1978 the parents of his last victim Robert Piest called the police of Des Plaines because of the disappearance of Piest. Gacy denied halving talked to Piest, later the police discover in the his file that he was imprisoned for sodomy in Iowa. They later found Piests's jacket in Gacy's home and then began with the investigations in and around his house, able to identify 22 of the total 33 corpses. He then was sentenced 14 years death row at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois, executed on May 10, 1994. 'You know... Clowns can get away with murder', Gacy used to say.

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