During the ’80’s when horror movies were at their height (thanks to video) all of the victims were virginal women fleeing from the masked, crazed killer. But in a twist, 1989’s “Clownhouse” shifted the story to three young boys as the victims.
It begins with a nightmare young Casey Collins (Nathan Forrest Winters) is having. In the dream he climbs out of bed and a flier of the Jolly Brother’s Circus is swept up to his bedroom window and sticks there for a moment. The flier has a picture of a clown on it which lets us know he’s afraid of clowns.
The following morning we meet his other siblings: eldest Randy (Sam Rockwell) and middle brother Geoffrey (Brian McHugh). Their mother is going to be away for the night and gives them permission to go to the circus. She asks Casey if he wants to go with her but he declines the offer of visiting an old aunt.
As the three walk to the circus, a convoy of police cars converge on the local mental institution (and unbeknownst to them three patients have escaped).
Randy keeps chiding Casey about the experience he suffered the year before as a clown frightened him and this year there’s no exception as the three are under the big top and Cheezo the clown (Timothy Enos) looks to him for assistance.
Casey gets scared and runs away followed by Geoffrey. He tells him its okay to be afraid, but it’s Randy who has issues with Casey’s fear and then the three head home for a night of fun without the parents.
Back at the circus the three escapees have on killed Cheezo and the other two clowns. They don their makeup and costumes and hone in on the boys, who are telling a ghost story about clowns in their upstairs play room.
It’s Casey who first discovers the menacing clowns outside but Randy and Geoffrey tell him he’s seeing things and is just afraid. The three retreat down to the kitchen to make some popcorn and when they discover they don’t have any it’s a quick walk to the store for Randy and Casey.
While the two of them are gone Geoffrey hears a report on the radio about the escape but isn’t paying attention to the report and as Randy and Casey are on their walk to the store, Casey sees the evil Cheezo (Tree) on their heels.
Casey tries to tell Randy but Randy isn’t in the mood and after getting the popcorn they head back home, make the corn and that’s when the fun begins.
Randy disappears leaving Geoffrey and Casey to defend themselves in the huge house while fighting off the clowns.
If you’re looking for blood and gore in this movie you won’t find it as this is a superb example of psychological terror. It’s not a movie for people who are afraid of clowns nor for those who are afraid of movies which primarily take place in the dark.
The actors playing the deranged clowns never utter a line which makes it even more terrifying and we’re never told what mental illness they have. Obviously we can assume the three have been committed for murder in the past and they probably knew one another on the outside.
This is one of those rare gems which will scare you in many ways and it’s a shame the movie didn’t do well at the box office, but then again everyone was into the slaughter of fast girls and bad boys of the time.