Gnawing their way out: A review of CLOWNS: THE UNLIKELY COULROPHOBIA REMIX

Published by Unlikely Story
Available here
Review by Billy Lyons

Almost from the beginning, clowns have enjoyed a special place in weird fiction and film. In the eighteenth century, there was Poe’s Hop-Frog, a disgruntled jester who took revenge on those who had wronged him by burning them alive. In 1986 Stephen King introduced us to Pennywise, a clown who took great delight in abducting children and storing them in sewers, never to be seen again. The new Millennium gave us Rob Zombie’s Captain Spaulding, a clown as wickedly humorous as he was deadly, and in 2011, American Horror Story: Freak Show featured Twisty, perhaps the most menacing killer clown of them all.

No matter where we first discovered clowns, as horror fans we quickly learned a central truth: not a single one of the grinning bastards can be trusted. Not even Bozo. Somewhere not far beneath the greasepaint lies a lurking horror that waits patiently for the opportunity to do the Devil’s work. Nowhere is this tenet better illustrated than in Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix, an excellent collection of flash fiction published by Unlikely Story.

Each tale in Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix provides a unique interpretation of that sometimes-undefinable quality that leads so many of us to be so frightened of them. In “Five Things Each Successful Clown Must Do,” Derek Manuel gives the readers helpful hints for the aspiring clown, some innocent enough, others as horrifying as one might expect. “Melpomene’s Heirs” by Evan Dicken tells the story of the disturbing, yet touching way in which hospital clowns continue to support grieving parents long after their son’s death. In Chris Kuriata’s “Whaling With Clowns” the tables are turned, and for once the clowns are the recipients of the horror, rather than those who dole it out.

Interspersed between the stories are quips and quotes about clowns that greatly enhance the overall weirdness of the collection, along with the readers’ enjoyment. My favorite of these is “Fact: Inside the heart of every clown are three smaller clowns, gnawing their way out.”

Each tale in Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix is masterfully-written, and as much fun as it is weird. I found it to be a truly must-read collection for serious fans of scary clowns and weird fiction everywhere.

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