Pennywise, the evil clown from the 1990 TV miniseries Stephen King’s It, single-handedly scarred generations of children for life and forced parents to find alternate means of birthday party entertainment. But Pennywise is far from the only frightening joker to haunt our collective cultural consciousness. Before you catch It during IFC’s Stephen King Father of Horror marathon, check out the top 5 clowns from our childhood that still send a shiver down our spine. Nightmares and hiding under your blankets is totally optional (but completely expected).
5. Killer Klowns from Outer Space
This cult hit is heavier on the campiness than the creepiness, but its eponymous killer klowns are still no laughing matter. Aliens from an unspecified planet, the Klowns use a variety of circus-style tricks to trap and kill their human prey like making balloon animals come to life or slurping up liquefied humans through a giant crazy straw. The humans are forced to commandeer an ice cream truck in order to flee from Jojo, the giant Klownzilla, proving once again that ice cream fixes everything.
4. Hospital clowns, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Pee-wee’s anxiety over his missing bike manifests in a dream where a freaky group of clowns in hospital scrubs operate on our hero’s prized ride. Perhaps the creepy clown make-up in this scene inspired Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman.
3. Ryan’s Clown Doll, Poltergeist
Lessons we learned from Poltergeist:
– Don’t live in houses built on old burial grounds.
– Turn off your TV before bed.
– Never keep clown dolls in your bedroom.
– Better yet, just don’t own a clown doll in the first place.
– Did we mention the clown doll thing?
2. Zeebo, Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Kids who grew up in the ’90s owe more than their fair share of nightmares to both R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Nickelodeon’s petrifying Are You Afraid of the Dark? series. Easily one of the scariest episodes of the bunch, “The Tale of the Laughing in the Dark” featured clown Zeebo who died during a fire caused by smoking cigars inside a funhouse. Of course, years later, a stubborn kid named Josh just HAS to go inside and steal Zeebo’s nose only to be stalked by the freaky clown until he returns it and makes an offering of cigars. Boy, Red Nose Day really took a dark turn, didn’t it?
1. Pennywise, It
Pennywise (perfectly played by Tim Curry) is actually an ancient demonic creature from another dimension that has the ability to shape-shift into its prey’s worst fears, which just happens to be clowns for the Losers Club of Derry, Maine. Pennywise gleefully torments the children (and later their adult selves) using super fun methods like geysers of blood in the shower or just straight up eating them. And just in case all of THAT wasn’t scary enough, Pennywise’s true form is something closer to a giant, pregnant spider. If you need us, we’ll be filling inhalers with battery acid and practicing our slingshot skills.