Contest Closed September 25th, 2009
We had 93 entries in the contest, and filmmaker Kevin Kangas (creator of the FEAR OF CLOWNS movies) picked the type 5 winners! Here are their entries, listed below! Thanks to everyone that entered and congrats to the winners!
1st Prize Winner! William Johnson of Philadelphia, PA
The Painted Mask
Within the genre of horror, whether it be cinema or literature, the thing that frightens people the most isn’t the chainsaw or the ax, the knife or the claws. It’s the mask. Take away the mask and how many iconic figures do you have in horror? Goodbye Jason, Michael Myers, Freddy. Consider the buzz of Leatherface’s chainsaw held by an otherwise normal person. It’s the inhumanness that’s frightening, the context of the knife thrust force by someone whose face is hidden, covered in layers, literally sheaved in skin, plastic, fabric, or in the case of Patrick Bateman, yuppie capitalism (feigned normalcy is also a mask, no?).
Stephen King practically opened and closed the door on what can be done with clowns as far as horror is concerned. It, the thousand page opus concerning Pennywise, the horrific entity known and seen only by children, is a tale so sordid and frightening I tore through it in a week. As a teenager, the story kept me from sleep after having just burned through another three hundred pages, working faster and faster just to see it through, just to see the clown die. Even as a fiction, Pennywise was too terrifying to let him live on in my imagination; he had to be dealt with.
But Pennywise lived long before It came around.
As a kid my family lived down the street from a fire house. A couple of times a night a truck would reel its way out of the garage, singing its long winding song. But as a child, I didn’t fully understand what the sirens meant. In fact, my imagination conjured up its own explanation: a van of clowns were looking for me.
As the sirens got louder, they grew closer. As the sirens faded, the chase grew cold, giving up for the night. What were they going to do to me if they ever managed to track the signal? And why, out of all the things, clowns?
Thinking it over now, it isn’t the clown that scares me. It’s the masks they wear. The paleness, the redness of their lips. The painted on expression, exaggerated to comedic effect, though stuck in time and frightening as any photograph capturing the archetype of emotion. A grin, a frown, a cry. Eventually each one of these facial expressions become strange and eerie when found etched upon a face, unexplained and left to our own projections. Yet, if you look close enough, you can see what the person underneath is really saying with their faces: exhaustion, depression, lust, or a second smile that makes the frozen one stretch out like a jack-o-lantern.
I can’t give It credit. In fact, I can’t give any film or book credit. The fear resides somewhere deep inside of me, like a fear of spiders or snakes. It’s the mask, the problem of someone deciding to cover themselves and literally paint a face on. It makes you wonder- what are they hiding?
And why won’t they stop grinning?
2nd Prize Winner! Ryhan Adams of Smilax, KY
Why are Clowns so Scary on the Silver Screen?
A clown is a clown is a clown, but, why are clowns so mysterious? So enigmatic? For one, we really have no idea who is under the makeup. Is the friendly old guy next door under that paint, mixing and mingling with children and adults alike, or, is it some sado-masochist under that painted smile, blowing up baloons for your three year old?
Clowns on the silver screen can pretty much be summed up easily. To jump back a bit, everyone knows what a clown is, but I would guarantee you that if you interviewed a hundred people, probably half would admit that they have a fear of clowns. Why is this?
On the silver screen, especially if we already know it’s a horror movie before we watch it, the clown is automatically a face of evil. I think that clowns on the silver screen are no more different than the clowns we see at local circuses. The reason being is that each of them are portraying something they’re not. We see that painted smile and dark make-up and automatically villianize the clown – and rightly so. When we have a killer clown on the loose, there’s this subtle feeling of ‘cheesiness’, but underneath the guise of light heartedness that we might get, there’s always this nagging feeling of who’s under that mask? It’s no different than Jason or Michael. Both wear masks. We know not who they really are under that mask, which leads me back to my first point. Is the killer the final girl’s best friend, aquaintance, a random victim, premeditated, on the spur of the moment?
Hell, we really don’t know. But, REALLY, why are they so scary? The fear of the unknown. The fear of being watched through those painted eyes, not knowing if it’s some stranger, or our best friend. And, what really adds to the madness is that why would a clown kill?
In all actuality, when the paint comes off, there’s a person there. But, who? Again, we don’t know. Clowns on the silver screen bring back that childhood mentality we’ve already had while growing up. Putting a knife in the clowns hands almost mulls any sense of ‘fun’ we perceive in a clown. Enigmatic painted human vessels, which underneath may lie evil, destruction, death, and every twisted thought you can imagine. Clowns on the screen are no different to me. A clown is a clown is a clown.
3rd Prize Winner! Chris Shaffer of North Syracuse, NY
Clowns are meant to entertain, to be funny, by accentuating gaudy, outlandish characteristics of human beings, but as cinematic horror hounds know full well the clown image can translate very easily into a being that elicits fear; so let me muse for a bit with the question “what makes clowns scary.” By default of their purpose and appearance alone clowns should not be scary, but there can be a very thin line between funny and creepy and let’s face it; these clown people can be downright frightening.
Through the act of altering their appearance into assuming deformations of the physical form it’s quite easy to see why immediately they can elicit a negative response; horror often focuses on subjects afflicted with maligned physical attributes. The clown’s giant feet, the freakish smile, the oversized red noise and rosy cheeks, these are aspects of the biological makeup of someone who is malformed; and deviation from the norm scares people. There is something physically wrong looking with clowns and this abhorrence is the magical stuff that nightmares are made of.
You can’t really talk about the fear of clowns without discussing the cultural impact of John Wayne Gacy Jr. This serial killer cemented the possibility that underneath all that makeup clowns can be malicious and evil; and cognition of this fact is enough to catapult the fear of clowns into the stratosphere. The idea that a clown, whom by default has a true identity sheltered from the public eye, working in close proximity with innocent children could be a maniac wielding candy coated scalpels is enough to terrify even the most stalwart parent. There is arguably nothing more gut wrenching than the possibility of harm befalling a child; especially unexpected harm from something as presumably innocent as a clown.
And to really fully peg out the creepiness meter many clowns typically play the role of a vagabond, hobo, or whore. Shifty transient people usually don’t rate high on the funny factor for most people; the very image evokes thoughts of drug abuse and decayed moral sensibility. A lunatic can squeeze out a few laughs from an audience, but the stereotypical edginess of a homeless recluse is something that immediately causes most people to be on guard; their spastic behavior indicates that above all you never quite know what they are thinking or are going to do next. There is an element of unpredictability in a clown’s behavior that opens the door for the potential of danger, and the presence of danger (either perceived or hidden) is a pillar of the horror yarn.
When one really breaks down the reasons why clowns can be scary it’s hard to even imagine why people could find them humorous at all. The classic imagine of a clown, if anything, is more like fertile ground for white knuckle horror than for kiddy-like amusement. Now if you excuse me I’m going to meditate over every balloon animal a clown has ever made for me… and shit myself in fear.
4th Prize Winner! John Klyza of Australia
My “scariest clown”? Bruce Burger from Michael A. Simpson’s Funland (1986). Bruce isn’t a typical clown villain, in fact he’s sort of the tragic, pathetic hero of the movie, but in my mind it’s that factor that sets him apart in a freakiness factor all his own – the “not meant to be scary” factor, which any clown movie villain immediately loses by virtue of existing with that label. Bruce Burger is more than a character in an obscure dark comedy, he’s a character study in fictional human form: born Neil Stickney, a man who gradually lost his identity the more his job of amusement park and corporate mascot demanded time and energy in the costume.
Of course, only half this subtext is actually present in the film, the rest you have to read through the sad dried up eyes of David L. Lander’s (Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley!) too-caked-in-white-paint face. But I digress, the costume. Good lord, the costume. Going against the grain of the usual loose attire that allows a clown to function like a human rubber band, Bruce is embedded within a giant V-shaped pizza slice. Indeed, this outfit was not designed to encourage limber antics, it is the absolute frightening height of 1980’s market-research-focused commercialism – aesthetically more concerned with cynically representing food that children will want to be friends with, and in turn pay to eat – than to actually entertain.
And Bruce Burger’s best friend? A cheap green hand puppet named “Peter Pepperoni” that has consumed what likely used to be his writing hand. Bruce Burger rarely goes out of his way to scare, or to creep people out, but ends up achieving it anyway with seemingly no idea. With his social skills long left back on the front step of clown college, Bruce says grossly inappropriate things with seemingly no concept whatsoever of what he’s doing. Although my favorite sequence is the conclusion when he goes traditional “nutzo” up in a tower, for the most part what strikes me as enjoyable and creepy are his constant corny jokes and quizzical actions.
Within the logic of his reality (forged by hotdogs and perma-smiles), he’s the victim. He’s simply doing his best to live up to the super happy fun world his park and persona are supposed to reside in. Bruce has his own constantly shifting internal state of normalcy and on a whole is a firm shade of grey between black and white. And that makes him unpredictable. You know to run for the hills the second you see “Pennywise”, but you’ll take Bruce for granted as you pass him, smirking to yourself at his over-the-hill veneer, but who knows what’s bubbling inside of him, and when he’ll snap? That’s what makes him a scary clown. The unknown quantity.
5th Prize Winner! Amanda Reyes of Los Angeles, CA
Send in the Clowns
There was a comedian who once said he’d hate to be attacked by a clown because describing him to the police would be useless. “He had a big red nose and his feet were this big,” the comedian went on as he stretched out his hands to indicate the supposedly funny gigantic shoes. He was trying to be witty, but let’s face it, that’s exactly what it is about a clown that is just so dang scary. Just who is behind that makeup and fat red nose? Narrowing down the list of scary clowns to the scariest clown was a difficult task. As far as I’m concerned, they are all terrifying.
Ever. Single. One. Of. Them.
And that’s the cold hard truth. Eventually in an attempt to come up with just one movie, I ended up with five. And they were five slashers, perhaps lesser known in the wickedly wicked clown sub-genre. There will be no clowns from Poltergeist or It. Now don’t get me wrong, those clowns are C-R-E-E-P-Y, but there were just a few others that never get mentioned and maybe they should. Plus I love lists. Shall we begin our red nosed reign of terror?
Class Reunion Massacre (1978) – Yikes! The killer in this movie is sort of a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy, donning different costumes to set the scene for varying doses of mayhem. The clown theme in CRM comes and goes, with the killer even employing a clown marionette for evil bidding! When the bad guy gets all clowny-clown-clown himself, attacking the poor old slut at the aforementioned reunion… uh… scary! The scene features an agonizing struggle in one of the bathrooms of the now-abandoned high school… and it’s a doozy! The overall effectiveness of CRM’s killer isn’t just the clown costume either, the ambiguity that follows the masked marauder through the film and even past the end casts a strange glow of unease that most horror films are still trying to figure out how to do (Rob Zombie, take notes please).
House on Sorority Row (1983) – A lush slasher with beautiful women, a decent storyline and lots of great shocks is only made better by the inclusion of an infamous clown killer. This guy plays into the idiot-man-child sub-genre but one ups the eeriness with his sinister clown costume. He’s only briefly glimpsed but undeniably terrifying.
Slaughter High (1986) – I’m bending the rules a bit with this one. Yeah, Marty is a jester and not a true form of the clown as we’ve come to know and fear it, but he’s creepy nonetheless. And that’s an interesting thing to be in a movie as half-assed as Slaughter High. Don’t be mad Marty, I do love you so…
Blood Harvest (1987) – OK, I haven’t seen this, but Tiny Tim as a killer clown?!? Disturbed!
Slaughterhouse II (0000) – Imagine a clown so scary that people have sworn they’ve seen it even when the movie itself does not, I repeat DOES NOT exist. So why am I mentioning it? Because some brilliant mind out there in the ether created one of the most fabulous plot lines ever. His hoax got so far the movie is even listed on IMDb (with Julianne Moore listed as one of the stars)! Here is the wonderfully perverse synopsis: Quartet of teens venture into a seemingly abandoned old clown training institute, evil mutant Pigsby Malone wreaks his revenge upon them, along with his minions of satanic freaks. I truly hope someone out there tries to actually make this movie. It’s clown-a-rific!
Fear of Clowns DVD– Director’s Cut: Stars Jacky Reres, Mark Lassise, Rick Ganz, Lauren Pellegrino, John Patrick Barry, and Frank Lama. Directed by Kevin Kangas.
Fear of Clowns 2 DVD – Director’s Cut: Stars Jacky Reres, Mark Lassise, Johnny Alonso, Tom Proctor, Lars Stevens, Savannah Costello, Leanna Chamish, and Frank Lama. Directed by Kevin Kangas.
Fear of Clowns L T-shirt: Cool one-color t-shirts from the movie of the same name. Depicts a silhouette of Shivers the Clown carrying balloon and the original tagline “Your Fear is Justified.”
Second and third prizes will also be awarded in the form of the Lions Gate DVD release of the 1st Fear of Clowns movie.
Fourth and fifth prizes will also be awarded in the form of the idependent horror DVDs.
Sponsored in part by:
My sincere thanks goes out to Filmmaker Kevin Kangas for all of his help and sponsorship, and remember to support independent movie productions!