There are some horror films that have stories swirling around their production that are even stranger than the action in the film. "Clownhouse" is just such a movie.
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and directed by young filmmaker Victor Salva, "Clownhouse" is a low-budget horror film that features a boy protagonist who ends up doing battle with a group of escaped lunatics dressed as clowns. It just so happens the boy is terrified of clowns, so the movie is about him facing his worst fear.
In a sick twist of fate, Winters, the child star of this movie, would actually be molested by Salva. Indeed, Salva even videotaped the molestation. The director served 15 months of a 3-year sentence for the crime, was released and scored another job directing the Disney-produced film "Powder." The now-teenage star of this movie showed up at the 1995 premiere to protest Salva. Parents groups were enraged that Disney had hired a convicted molester to make a movie, and the incident is still being used as an argument by Christian groups to boycott the entire corporation.
Eventually, Coppola would bring Salva back to the big-time by producing his landmark horror classic "Jeepers Creepers," one of the best movies of the early ‘00s. Like "Jeepers," "Clown House" is full of homo-eroticism, with bare-assed young boys and plenty of talk between the male-child characters about pubic hairs and male sex, and given the history of the movie, these scenes stick out like a sore thumb.
The last part of the film is basically an attack on a remote house by the clown/psychopaths, who broke into a nearby circus to steal the uniforms. As low-budget movies go, "Clown House" is a decent horror film, but nowhere near a classic. Its synthetic score, cheesy attempts at John Carpenter-esque lighting and slow and unbelievable storyline are tough to wade through. There aren’t many films that, in recent years, have exploited the fears children have of clowns (Stephen King’s "It" comes to mind), so Salva’s film is pretty original on that score.
Although this film is no "Halloween," it does exhibit that warped homo-erotic horror sensibility that would serve Salva well in his masterpiece, "Jeepers Creepers," and it’s certainly a must-see for fans of that movie. For everyone else, however, it might be worth avoiding.