Clowning Around in Poltergeist

For some reason, people are afraid of clowns. Not just some people. A lot of people seem to be afraid of clowns. It’s Pennywise is one of horror’s most terrifying movie monsters. Rob Zombie built his most recent horror feature, 31, around ‘killer clowns’. American Horror Story had Twisty the Clown. And who could forget the 2016 ‘Killer Clown Panic”? A single Buzzfeed article about a man dressed as a clown trying to lure children into the woods in South Carolina sparked killer clown sightings across the globe. They even have a term for fear of clowns – coulrophobia.

For this week’s Monday Morning Scare, I am taking an 80’s nostalgia trip back to the Tobe Hooper-Steven Spielberg class, Poltergeist. Even after over 30 years, Poltergeist remains an absolute roller-coaster ride of a haunted house film. Many of the scares in the film work so well because they tap into the childlike way our imaginations can run wild. When you’re a child awake in the dark even the most benign objects can become subjects of terror.

Robbie Freeling’s fear of the toy clown in his bedroom is exploited perfectly by Hooper. Every one has probably hidden under their blankets once when they were kids after hearing a sound in the dark. It’s that shared experience that sets the foundation for the above scene. The combined effect of Hooper’s use of silence with audience anticipation as Robbie peers under his bed make the clown’s eventual appearance of the clown all the more shocking.

An excellent jump scare to start off this week.


Author: Andrew Welsh

I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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