Got coulrophobia?

I was wondering what to do on this blog in honor of April Fool’s Day. I’m not much into pulling pranks, and I don’t want to deviate too far from my usual fare. (Not that I’d probably be able to, considering I pretty much breathe horror, sci-fi, and the generally absurd.) Historically, April Fool’s Day has either been really aggravating or really boring. I hate being suckered by false celebrity death news, and my friends and I have never been much for pulling pranks. Most pranks seem mean. I guess humor is in the eye of the beholder.

In this same vein, I started thinking about what else is polarizing in terms of humor. The first thing that came to mind was clowns. There’s actually a clinical term for fear of clowns. Coulrophobia. Sounds terminal, doesn’t it? My uncle hates clowns. He was the person that introduced me to Killer Klowns from Outer Space when I was younger. While I don’t necessarily find them funny, I’m not afraid of them. At least not clinically anyway. Circus clowns are alright, not necessarily funny but not scary either. Renaissance Fair clowns, on the other hand, are downright horrifying. I hate the ones that walk around on stilts and don’t say anything. They just leer at you from their height.

Being that it’s April Fool’s Day, let’s take a look at some clown representation in books and movies. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but more a sampling. If you think of any others or just want to join the discussion, feel free to comment at the end of this post!

BOOKS


  • Stephen King’s IT
    – The Loser’s Club of Derry, Maine is terrorized by Pennywise the Dancing Clown. While initally that doesn’t sound like much of a crisis, it turns out that Pennywise is actually a monster straight out of space who capitalizes on children’s fears. When the children grow up they are drawn back to Derry because Pennywise is on the rampage again. They must band together to defeat their old nemesis before it takes the lives of more children.
  • Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes – A carnival arrives mysteriously after midnight the week before Halloween. With it comes death and terror, and it’s up to two friends to fight the dark carnival.

MOVIES AND TV

  • Stephen King’s IT – The 1990 tv mini-series introduced viewers to Pennywise and the Loser’s Club. This project showcased Tim Curry in one of his best roles – as Pennywise himself. The mini-series couldn’t possibly hope to encompass the entire book, but it made sure to get the point across and was suitably creepy. (I’m super excited for the remake, which stars Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame!)
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes – This is an adaptation of the book by the same name. I confess that I haven’t seen this in years, but I do remember thinking it was absolutely creepy when I was a kid.
  • Clown – This movie is both sad and terrifying. Two loving parents have booked a clown for their son’s clown-themed birthday party. When the clown is overbooked, it’s up to Kent to find a replacement clown for his son. He’s in luck, as the house he’s getting ready to put up on the market has an old clown suit in a trunk that just happens to fit him perfectly. The only problem is that once he puts it on he can’t remove it, and he starts to change. As it turns out, the origins of the clown are not so innocent, and Kent and his family are dragged into the reality of the Cloyne, an ancient demon.
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space – This 1988 classic features aliens that come to Earth in a big circus tent. They look like clowns, but not the kind you’d ever want to meet. They set about capturing people and turning them into big light-bulb shaped cotton candy, which they then eat with a straw. Sort of like outer space spiders. A group of teenagers attempt to stop the Klown’s mayhem.
  • American Horror Story (Freakshow) – Twisty the Clown has always wanted to make children laugh. Some of the carnies don’t take favorably to the attention he’s paid by the children and families visiting the traveling freakshow. They start an awful rumor which tears Twisty’s world apart. He is a figure both terrifying and sad, and well worth watching the otherwise mediocre season just to see.
  • DC’s The Joker – The Joker has been interpreted in a variety of ways by not only several actors, but also several authors and artists in the comic book world. In each iteration, he has the typical colorful hair and white makeup. The extent to which he uses humor deviates based on who is doing the interpretation, but in every version he is the clown.
  • DC’s Harley Quinn – When doing brief research into the archetype of the clown, or fool, I found out that in theater it was used as a foil for the archetype of the harlequin. The harlequin was sly, stealthy, devious, and devilish. The perfect opposite of the bumbling clown. Originally introduced in Batman: The Animated Series, she quickly won over fans and has made her way into the comics, movies, and DC Comics merchandise line. Although her costume has changed over the years, a part of the harlequin is always included in her design.

Honorable Mention

  • The Cabin in the Woods – A group of teenagers heads up to a cabin for a weekend of sex, drinking, and general youth. Very quickly their weekend is derailed and they are left fighting for their lives. Two of the group, Marty and Dana, find themselves in a vault that houses horrors from the old world. A veritable stable of nightmares. Wouldn’t you know that one of them is a clown? As far as I can tell, it’s a nod to Pennywise, wearing the same garish colors and shock of red hair.
  • Frumpy the Clown – This series of comics from Judd Winick features a normal suburban family who happens to live with a disgruntled clown named Frumpy. Frumpy smokes cigarettes, drinks coffee, and advocates anarchy. The children love him. The parents are largely unsure.
  • Funcom’s The Park – I recently devoted an entire post to this Secret World spin-off game. It takes place in a haunted amusement park after dark. Clown imagery, while not necessarily frequent, is extremely effective and terrifying when put to use. I highly recommend playing this game in pitch dark with headphones.
  • Frightworld – My local haunted house features five themed houses. Almost every year they feature a clown house, which is done up in garish blacklight paint and features distorted carnival imagery and mocking clown actors.

 

 

 

 

As stated previously, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means. Just a sampling from TV, movies, and books. If there’s anything else you’d like to add, drop by the comments section!

Hello from Buffalo!

hubbyYesterday it was rain-slushing. There were puddles of water in the streets, and melting snow on the grass. There were people raking leaves, and everyone was wearing hoodies and fleeces. Last night the snow started a little bit more in earnest.

The flakes fell a little bit faster, and stuck on the ground longer. This morning when Chris and I woke up, we were in the process of being snowed in. Now it’s 2 minutes shy of 3pm, and snowed in we are. Neither of us went to work, and most of my coworkers called in as well. There is a driving ban for all points starting in South Buffalo. (Chris and I live in what is known affectionately as “The South Towns”). A few hours ago, Chris tried to go and chew us out of the snowdrift. Yeah, that didn’t happen. We don’t have  the ability, and more snow keeps falling. The photo to the left is Chris making an attempt. About another foot has fallen since then.

Let’s make the most of it! Chris and I are working our way through our series (currently catching up with American Horror Story), and drinking hot cocoa. As far as I’m concerned, we have food in the house, and the power is still on, which means my zoo survives (orchids, snakes, and fish).  To be continued…

…it’s 8:15 the same night. The snow has continued falling. Chris and I went out to uncover our exhaust pipe for our furnace, because high efficiency furnaces are notorious for getting covered and causing carbon monoxide poisoning (so keep yours clear!). We barely made it around the front of the house. I was climbing over the snow drifts and using my shovel to balance my weight out (like a freaking crab.) We will try again tomorrow, and tomorrow there will be more picks.

For those of you who might be snowed in (or just want to pretend you are), here are my picks for a fun snowed-in day (or week, as this isn’t supposed to let up until Thursday or Friday):cookies

1) Candy Cane Hot Coca – Oh man! This stuff is the bomb. It takes about 2 packets to make a decent cup, but it’s great. Highly recommended!

2) Snowcone Cookie Mix – The flavor is blue raspberry. And they’re amazing.

3) Z Nation – If you haven’t been watching this, well, get on it! It’s a really great show. It’s pretty traditional, but has some really poignant and funny moments. Plus the characters are multi-faceted. That’s always a bonus.

4) American Horror Story – My personal favorite is Season 1, but Season 4 is picking up nicely.

5) The Thing – Both the John Carpenter version, and the “prequel“. Either works just as well – even though I will always have special love in my heart for the original. (Go, MacReady, go!)

6) Dreamcatcher – So sue me! I freaking LOVED the movie version. The book was ok, but the movie kicked some serious ass! (And it starred Timothy Olyphant, which never hurt anyone.)

7) 30 Days of Night – HELL YES. Now THAT is being snowed in.

8) The Shining – Yes, you knew that was coming. A classic tale of being snowed in, and the damage an alcoholic can do when influenced by bad spirits.

9) The Mist – Ok, ok. So not a snow movie, but creepy as hell. And, if you’re from Buffalo like I am, the wall of white outside the window doesn’t really matter does it. Mist, snow. It’s white and you can’t get through.  (Oh, and Thomas Jane is spectacular in this one! Not to mention three Walking Dead alumni are in it – Carol, Andrea, and Dale.)

 

Whatever you’re up to, and wherever you are, be safe and be warm. I’m off to watch some TV with the husband, and then get my crochet on. Afterwards, I might keep reading a really awesome book – The Undead Haze, by Eloise J. Knapp. My favorite literary sociopath, Cyrus V. Sinclar, is back at it again. As an added bonus, he’s slogging through a winter wonderland too. (If you’re new to the series, start with The Undead Situation first!)

American Horror Story – Asylum

bleeding faceAfter the thrilling conclusion of Season 1 of American Horror Story, I couldn’t wait to see the second season. I wanted to see how the show writers would incorporate familiar faces into new roles. Would they trade places? Would the sinister become the innocent, and the innocent become the deranged? How would the character’s stories weave together this time? I waited for what seemed like an eternity, and finally was able to get my hands on American Horror Story – Asylum.

American-Horror-Story-poster-AsylumI have to confess, the first few episodes were extremely disappointing. While the writers put their actors to good use (look forward to strong performances by Lily Rabe, Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Evan Peters, James Cromwell, Chloe Sevigny, and Sarah Paulson), the stories just weren’t as intriguing as Season 1. I was also disappointed that the stories were isolated, they weren’t interconnected. There were story arcs that began, became interesting, and died within two episodes (Anne Frank story arc in specific), which left me frustrated. Yes, bits and pieces were referenced later, but overall, the story arcs came to a dead end. Additionally, the first episode began with an alien abduction, which came back here and there, but more as a minor backstory.

The season didn’t start coming together until episode 6, when the writers brought a american-horror-story-asylum-premierefew storylines to the forefront. I also got my number one wish from Season 1 – more Zachary Quinto! Rather than being a peripheral character, he was one of the main characters, alongside veteran Jessica Lange.

The writers kept the same flashback format from Season 1. This format gives valuable insight into the character’s motivations and experiences. The flashback sequences were mixed with scenes in the future, depicting events at the now-defunct asylum. I can’t say any more because it gives away a major plot point in episode 9, but let’s just say they upped the ante significantly!

I finished the final episode last night, and I found my views totally changed. It seemed that instead of slacking, the writers were only starting a trainwreck in motion that would have horrifying outcomes for everyone involved. My earlier gripe was also resolved – they brought back the alien abduction and made it relevant.

richardsonThe attention to detail and historical accuracy surprised me. When I was in high school, I did a senior thesis on modern medicine, which included a focus on chlorpromazine and ice-pick lobotomies. (Yes – I was a strange and curious child.) During the season, such practices as aversion therapy, electroshock therapy, and hydrotherapy were also showcased. What’s more, their abuses were clearly showcased. Yes, some of the asylum abuses shown were for the shock value, but some of them were actual depictions of abuses suffered by those in asylums. (For the fun of it – here’s my favorite one, located in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. May I introduce you to the H.H. Richardson Complex! And yes, if you’re wondering, some of the same abuses occurred there as well.)

American Horror Story Season 2 – Asylum is available in local stores now, so head out and grab your copy! (Or, if you’re particularly cheap, you can wait until it hits services like Netflix, but that might be awhile.)

 

American Horror Story – Murder House

americanhorrorstoryseason1When American Horror Story first aired, I was living with my parents. We were channel surfing as a family one night, and found it on FX. After watching a few minutes of the show, we changed the channel because the images were pretty disturbing. (We happened upon one of the episodes with the leather suit.) All throughout the first season, my friends kept raving about it and insisting that I watch. The picture of the person dressed in the leather suit kept coming to mind, and I couldn’t figure out what they saw in me that would connect me to a leather S&M suit. I’ll freely admit I’m a little strange – I like to start celebrating Halloween about a month before everyone else, and I almost never wear matching socks – but I’m not THAT KIND of strange. Well, about three months ago, my friend Steve (the one I go to haunted houses with) told me that at all costs, I have to get through the show. He told me I would love it, because the story was never predictable, and the cast was top-notch.

One night, I decided to seek out American Horror Story, Season 1 on Netflix and american_horror_story_ver4_xlg1see what all the hype was about. From the first scene, all the way to the soul-rending conclusion, I couldn’t tear myself away from the screen. Episode after episode, each character that was introduced was more  exciting than the last. Choosing my favorite character or storyline continues to be difficult, even today, because there are too many to choose from. There is Moira, the housekeeper, who appears as an old lady to women but a fiery-haired seductress to any man who sees her. Constance and her daughter Adelaide, the strange next-door neighbors who seem to always find their way into the house. Ben and Vivien Harmon, a troubled married couple who move into the house at the start of the season with their daughter Violet. Tate, the troubled teen who has dark and violent visions. Chad and Patrick, a couple who hope to hope that the new house will save their failing relationship. The list goes on and on, and even the minor characters are a joy to watch.

American-Horror-Story-house-wide-560x282American Horror Story is not shy with any of it’s storylines. Topics include school violence, infidelity, and a very realistic portrayal of a homosexual couple. Each of these issues is treated in an unflinching manner that invites open discussion. The storyline that hit home the hardest for me was the school shooting storyline. I immediately thought of the Columbine Massacre, which happened in the spring of my last year as a middle school student. It scared me deeply, because up until then I had thought that being at school was as safe as being at home, and that tragedy had proved me wrong. Seeing the tragedy in this show from the point of view of the shooter, those shot, and someone who got close to the shooter after the tragedy was extremely interesting. It made me seriously think about the people who committed the crimes, and the emotional pain and feelings of isolation that must have led them to do what they did.

By the end of the season, I was firmly hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the 400px-Am-horror-chad-and-rubber-guy-300x212characters. I rooted for them, I cried with them, and my heart sunk with theirs. I liked both the villains and the heroes, though sometimes it was hard to tell which character fit which role. Each character acted their part so perfectly that even the minor characters came to life.

Additionally, I never saw any of the plot twists coming. Even when there were plenty of subtle clues pointing me in the right direction. Every single plot twist hit like a punch to the stomach – especially when the identity of the leather-clad person was revealed. I nearly died of surprise!

If you can push yourself past the freakier parts of the show, you will find that American Horror Story Season 1 is an enjoyable TV show. The characters are very multi-faceted, and the acting is superb. Today I will start Season 2 – I’m anxious to see if it lives up to the first season!