Coulrophobia is the technical name for a phobia of clowns. For whatever reason, the fear of clowns seems to be incredibly popular and something that so many people struggle with. And those who live with this fear will probably have a list of horror films they’re actively avoiding.
While the first film that comes to mind will of course be any adaptation of Stephen King’s It, there are a lot of scary clown movies. Another very popular one is Terrifier, which features Art the Clown as its primary villain. These movies definitely showcase some frightening clowns, but one particular low-budget film could probably take the cake in terms of worst films for people with coulrophobia to watch. Imagine a mixture of clowns and intense body horror, with an extremely sinister plotline.
The film described is simply titled Clown, and it was released in 2014. It was directed and written by Jon Watts. Watts’ name might sound familiar, as he is of course now most well-known for his work directing all of the MCU Spider-Man films. This feature is of course wildly different from any of those and showcases an opposite side of his talents. The story revolves around a man who dresses in a clown suit for his son’s birthday, only to later find he cannot take it off. And not only is he stuck in the suit, but it seems to be taking over him and making him do unspeakable things.
If anyone is confused about what the term “body horror” actually means, Clown is an absolutely perfect example. True body horror revolves around showcasing trauma to the body. It sounds gross, and it often is. This can involve mutations, like what is seen in Clown, but it can also be seen in films that revolve around some kind of virus taking over the body, zombification, or extreme body mutilation. Clown has some pretty intense gore, but the real body horror is about the main character’s body being taken over by something else. The clown suit is taking over his body, turning him into a completely different person. It’s a scary and cringe-inducing storyline that this film does really well without a crazy amount of special effects.
Those who suffer from clown phobia will be absolutely terrified by this film. Not only is it about an evil clown, which would surely trigger someone scared of clowns, but the imagery is truly haunting. Towards the end, as the main character is really becoming a clown and the demon inside the suit has taken over most of him, he just looks really gross. Even someone who doesn’t have a phobia of clowns will find it at least a little scary and might have to look away. Even in the beginning as it’s all slowly unfolding, there’s a lot of gross stuff that the character goes through to try and get this suit off. It’s very easy to cringe at these moments.
Clown also deals with a pretty heavy storyline that will be hard for some to stomach. Essentially, the suit is causing the main character to attack and kill children. More specifically, he’s eating them. It’s always kind of shocking when films actually go there in terms of killing children and showing violence because it is a very taboo thing that makes viewers uncomfortable. Combining that with a villain that is a personification of one of the world’s most popular phobias makes for a movie that many will probably not want to watch. It’s boundary-pushing and brave filmmaking, which should always be commended. And while this film isn’t perfect by any means, it certainly has a lot of intriguing elements.
The film holds some recognition amongst horror fans, but it’s by no means been a hit. The reviews are largely mixed, with some absolutely praising the film and many completely hating it. With that being said, Clown will for sure not be for everyone. And that’s not just because it’s about clowns. The tone is overwhelmingly bleak and, while maybe not the most explicitly scary, it’s just kind of a gross and grimy film. Not everyone likes movies that feel so gritty and bleak, but with the storyline that Clown has, it’s hard to imagine it being done any other way.
The gritty and bleak tone also makes it hard to believe that Jon Watts directed this film. With him now being so well known for his work on films that are the exact opposite of gritty and bleak, it’s just an interesting progression to see and shows his versatility. And he may be using these skills in his next upcoming MCU project. While Watts hasn’t really made a return to such straightforward horror in the same way, the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home is looking very intense from what audiences have been shown so far. Surely it won’t be as low-budget or small as Clown, but it’s certainly seeming more mature than the previous MCU Spider-Man films and might bring out a little bit of that gritty side again.
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