Terror: Clowns vs Children

When you think of the creepiest horror films of all time you probably don’t think ghosts, vampires or witches. Well, maybe you do. But you probably don’t think sweet little children or silly harmless clowns. Or maybe you do. Sometimes the least scary things make the most disturbing nightmares. In horror film, it is not the story or the idea that makes the film scary but the execution of an idea. I am convinced that anything can be scary  if you know how horror works.

Evil children are the stuff of adult nightmares. Whole villages of creepy children make horrifying films but one brilliant child-acting performance can make a film unforgettably chilling. Maybe this is what makes a film particularly disturbing; we know that the child of the film is a real child-actor who is capable of this terrifying performance, and we are not used to children demonstrating such dark behaviour, even if it is pretend.

Terrifying children as antagonists go back decades in cinema. The telepathic children of Village of the damned (1960) may have had evil powers but what made them particularly scary was their unchildlike behaviour. You can depict a sweet innocent child as the spawn of the devil, an alien/monster in disguise or possessed by a demon, you can give them mind-reading powers, unnatural strength or invulnerability, but what makes them creepy is the sense of uncanniness.

Like a creepy china doll, which offers no threat but is unexplainably disturbing, a child-villain is simultaneously familiar and seemingly unthreatening whilst also slightly eerie and unnatural. When a child acts like an adult or threatening or demonic it’s uncanny because the two concepts clash and it’s disturbing because it occupies a space between irrational fear and fear of the irrational.

Frightening clowns make a strange but popular choice for villains. Although an irrational fear of clowns is common among children, you would think that clowns who have a job of making people laugh, would make very poor villains. You don’t usually associate funny entertainment and gags with fear. Even if you find clowns daft, silly or pointless, you don’t find them scary. Again, this may have something to with the uncanny nature of scary clowns. Or it might be the make-up and strange behaviour of clowns that play to our fear of the odd and irrational.

Children Clowns
Every parent knows the stress of bedtime that leaves them sleep deprived


Horror at bedtime But creepy clowns are the stuff of nightmares. The enemy of good sleep


 Is there anything more scary than a child left loose with lipstick and eyeshadow? Every dad for himself


Make-up Sure they apply it a bit thick but compared with the cougars out on the town on a Saturday night, clown makeup is quite subtle
Once they start talking kids are comedy gold. But don’t put them on Youtube. They won’t thank you when their older. 2-1


Funny or die Clowns on the other hand are rarely funny.
Village of the damned and the Omen spring to mind. But the best example is undoubtedly the twin girls in The Shining. Chilling


Scary films I don’t need to say it but I just have. Undoubtedly the most famous horror clown but how about killer klowns from outer space?


Run for your life. Or get showered in snot. Sniff


Red noses Squeaky round noses are a bit unsettling but raising money for charity is good.


Whether you want them to or not, kids eventually grow up and become normal adults…


 Growing up Unless they become clowns. Or just Dads really. Some can’t stop clowning around.


Children outdo clowns 4-2 

The clown zombie has become a cliche of sorts, an effective but unoriginal Halloween costume. Is there anything left for the horror clown but parody? Creepy children will always be scary as long as there are great child actors.


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