Ginger Nuts of Horror
Clown Wars: Blood and Aspic is a fantastic read. Jeremy Drysdale and Joseph D'Lacey have created a unique book; that is scary, thrilling, thoughtful, intelligent and rather funny. It is the perfect onion book in that it has loads of layers. Over this weekend, the authors are discounting the price of it on Amazon. To celebrate, and as a way of a thank you, especially to Joseph, as he has always been a great supporter of the site, we have put together a list of some of the biggest and scariest clowns from film, TV books and music. And yes before you go
"OH IT CAN'T BE A PROPER LIST WITHOUT PENNYWISE"
do you think that Ginger Nuts of Horror would be so obtuse and obvious? If you did shame on you for thinking that. So read on to find out which clowns, jesters, fools, mimes and all other breeds of clowns have scared and impacted on Joe Young, Duncan Ralston, Kit Power and myself. Can you guess which clown belongs to who?
Most parents want to do what is right for their children; Kent McCoy is one such parent who has booked a clown for his son’s birthday party. The clown winds up attending the wrong party, but all is not lost when Kent discovers an old clown costume and decides to do the job of entertaining at Jack’s party. The party ends and Kent falls asleep while still in costume, discovering when awake that he cannot take the costume off. This is a tale of demonic possession which has enough about it to make it original with poor Mr McCoy trying desperately to fight the creature which is taking over his body before he fulfils the daemon ‘Cloyne’s’ desire to feast on enough local children to satisfy the Cloyne’s needs.
With an exceptional back-story and a character in McCoy that the audience can have sympathy for, this is one of the more satisfying of the killer clown tales. The fact that he spends a considerable part of the movie attempting suicide several times to prevent himself from killing others is a great spin on the more usual psychopathic clown fare, making for a very intelligent story.
There are films that depict clowns other than being a figure of fun. It could be argued that there is an oversaturation, especially since Pennywise came up from the sewers. However, there are films that take the evil clown and do something original with it. One such film is ‘Stitches’, in which stand-up comedian Ross Noble plays a somewhat lacklustre children’s entertainer who meets his maker in a gruesome accident. He returns from the dead to exact his revenge in a variety of fun ways.
As it is a comedy horror, it would be safe to assume that there is gore involved, Stitches delivers that in abundance, whilst at the same time being extremely funny. Horror movie clowns are in general just some nutter in a costume, Stitches is different, he has a much more understandable logic and an originality sorely lacking in so many of the other clown-based offerings. In particular, his nose is a real hoot (pun intended), and I believe that Stitches does not get the love it deserves as it is still arguably in the shadow of Stephen King’s creation, which is a shame as Stitches is just as deadly and a lot more fun.
Heath Ledger’s Joker
The Tim Burton movie was fine. Hell, Nicholson was fine. But, you know, in some fundamental way he was - he is - Nicholson. It was fun to watch, but I still hadn’t found what I was looking for.
Not until 2008. Not until The Dark Knight.
Not until Heath Ledger.
There’s two moments in one scene that cemented it, for me. The first is scripted - it’s the ‘disappearing pencil’ trick. It’s smart, vicious, low tech, intimidating, and not-funny funny. In a lethally efficient 30 seconds, the measure and depth of the man is revealed. It’s gloriously disturbing stuff.
The second moment is not scripted. It’s either brilliant direction, or utterly inspired acting. In the comics, there’s a thousand panels where The Joker enters the room surrounded by his own laughter - HA HA HA or HEH HEH HEH. It’s utterly iconic.It’s also impossible to recreate in film.
When The Joker walks into the room full of crooks in The Dark Knight to deliver his ultimatum, the first thing we hear from the shadows is ‘Heh. Heh.Heh.’ But he’s not laughing. He’s just saying the word.
Every time I see this, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The Joker - My Joker - has finally been rendered in the flesh, on the screen. And he is - will always be - the scariest motherfucker in the room.
Sorry Pennywise. You may be the Ace of Spades.
But The Joker is Wild.
The clown from Tobe Hooper’s “Poltergeist” surely belongs on any list of evil clowns; even though it is something of a rarity in that it was just a toy. To be honest about it there are a lot of similar toys around, pretty much all of them look creepy at the best of times, and this one is no exception. When things in the Freeling household take a turn for the supernatural it is this clown doll that quite easily becomes one of the scariest things any of the family came up against, which in a movie crammed with supernatural entities is no mean feat.
I believe much of what made it so horrific is that it is so ordinary, yet with the right lighting looks sinister even before being taken over by evil forces. There is that false sense of security, playing to the subconscious as nothing deadly would be left in the children’s bedroom by loving parents, and if toys can turn against you, then you are not safe anywhere. When it does turn evil the look on its face is frightening, but I cannot help thinking it didn’t need to change, it was scary enough already.
KILLER KLOWNZ FROM OUTER SPACE
I'm not afraid of clowns. Never have been, as far as I can recall. To me, they're just mimes with slightly better acts and more makeup. In his Dancing Clown form, Pennywise didn't disturb me. John Wayne Gacy (aka Pogo the Clown) was a little before my time. Patch Adams probably would have annoyed me, had I stumbled into him in the halls of the children's hospital. And Captain Spaulding is more sleazy than frightening—I'd worry most about contracting an STD just by being in the same room as him.
But there are a handful of clowns that did scare me once upon a time—or rather, "klowns."
The Killer Klowns from Outer Space kicked my ass.
Why? By all rights, it should have been a small blip in my childhood horror education. The movie is deliberately silly—the main character's name is Mike Tobacco, for Klutz's sake! They use weapons that fire popcorn, literally hurled by offscreen hands toward the protagonists in each successive cut. They make balloon animals and shadow puppets that kill. Their spaceship is a giant Big Top.
This is not a serious movie, by a long shot. It's in the same league as Saturday the 14th or The Toxic Avenger. But there are very serious moments, and at ten years old, those scenes terrified me deeply.
If you haven't seen the movie, let me paint a picture for you: Aware of the invasion, the Deputy hurries into the darkened police station, looking for weapons. A giant, bulbous thing with florescent hair and more markup than Tammy Faye Baker sits behind the desk. It hoists the dead Sheriff into its lap, his face painted with rosy cheeks and red lines from the corners of his lips down his chin to look like a ventriloquist's dummy. "Don't be afraid," the klown says through the Sheriff, its voice gurgling and alien. "We're just gonna kill ya." Then it pulls its massive klown glove (hand?) from the Sheriff's back and flicks blood off its fingers onto the floor.
Now imagine being home alone at age ten, having skipped school, watching an invasion of ten-foot-tall klown monsters and the house starts rattling, the ceiling light swings, and all sorts of stuff falls off the table.
So maybe it was the klowns, or maybe it was the aftershocks of the Sagenauy earthquake, or maybe it was the nightmares I had in the following weeks about Killer Klowns eating my schnauzer, but the movie stuck with me.
And I know it's supposed to be funny, and sometimes it does make me laugh. But rewatching scenes like the Sheriff Puppet one bring that scared ten-year-old boy right back.
We have tried to get through this article without mentioning it, but IT wasn't the first clown to freak me out. In fact, when it comes right down to it there's no use trying to pretend, there is only one clown that can be considered the King of Clown scares and the award has to go to Robert Powell's Gregory from the 1980 movie Harlequin. Some of you may never have heard of this film which used the mythology of Rasputin as its basis and transported it to 80's Australia. Powell had just finished his stellar performance as Jesus in Jesus of Nazareth another role where is glacial piercing blue eyes captivated the audience. As a nine / ten-year-old boy who had snuck down the stairs after his parents had gone to bed to watch some late night telly I foolishly thought "oh look it's the bloke who played Jesus, this will be a good film to watch." 90 minutes later is was as traumatized as a young man could be at that age.
Powell's performance as the insidious, mystically manipulating Harlequin chilled me to the bone. That scene with a finger and a cooks knife will go with me to my grave; I couldn't look at a carrot without feeling sick for almost a year after watching it.
The Harlequin perfectly exemplifies the fact, that we who do not like clowns should always be on the lookout. For clowns are a crafty bunch of buggers, they don't all wear garish makeup normally only seen on the likes of Katie Price and Yorkshire women. They can hide in plain site, with their multi-coloured diamond patterned jumpsuit secreted behind regular clothes. So with that in mind, be careful, be watchful, and if in doubt rip the clothes of the next person with icy blue eyes. I seriously think that bread boy Paul Hollywood is one, no average person has eyes like that. Beware, be careful and if you see him strip him and bung him in the oven at 230C for 90 minutes just to be on the safe side.
MARILLION'S THE JESTER (1983 - 1987)
,For years, The Jester had pride of place on Marillion's album and single covers. Seen as the embodiment of Fish's tortured psyche. The heartbroken fool, the lost and lonely man, forever consigned to abandoned playgrounds, reminiscing about Belsize Park, and haunting the end of the bar with the boozed soaked tatters of a million rain checks.
We were meant to feel sorry for him; we were supposed to pity him for the lovelorn fool that he was, for he wasn't just a part of Fish's psychological make-up, he was part of all of us, such was and is the power of the big man's lyrics. All of us could relate to and feel as though Fish was singing not just to us he was singing about us.
However, I was never comfortable with him, probably due to my experience with another Jester / Harlequin. Initially, I just found him a bit creepy; he had that sort of lothario feel about him, like he was a previous incarnation of Russell "look I swallowed a Thesaurus, and also suffer from verbal dysentery" Brand. I was jealous of him in the way that only a 12-year kid who was painfully shy could be. What with him standing there like a prima donna with a violin, he was the prototype Hipster Douchebag. I know I was a crazy, you don't need to roll your eyeballs, but there was something I could feel it. And when they released the two singles, He Knows You Know and Garden Party I was vindicated.
The cover for He Knows You Know (see the picture above) is rather gruesome, featuring the Jester ripping off his face while Fish growls the lyrics to the song
"You've got venom in your stomach, you've got poison in your head."
What had happened to the loveable Jester, I'll tell you what he was beginning his transformation into his true self, a nasty creepy creature of pure evil.
Hell, he even taunts you with the fact
"He knows, you know, he knows, you know,