“Clowns, once a source of delight, have become more twisted than the balloon animals they wrap their creepy hands around,” noted longtime Springfield newscaster Kent Brockman in last night's episode of The Simpsons. And if the re-emergence of Stephen King’s IT has been any indication, clowns sure have become that twisted, at least in the imaginations of horror movie fanatics, who can now swear there are fangs flashing in the grin of even the most innocent (are any of them really innocent?) party clown.
After Andy Muschietti’s take on Pennywise -- IT's shapeshifter from an alternate dimension who haunted theaters last year -- real clowns were starting to bemoan how the clown industry was dying because of the creature that lurks in sewers and eats children. And last night’s Simpsons episode totally played off of that. "Fears of a Clown" centers on Krusty’s paranoia that legit clowns will disappear off the face of the earth after Bart revenge-pranks Skinner and his Springfield Elementary colleagues by super-gluing Krusty masks to their faces.
It doesn’t take Brockman long to make this a nightly news headline. He asks viewers to submit their scariest clown videos to Kent's Krazy Klown Karnival of Kartoon Karnage, and of course, the first one is of a zombie-green Pennywise rising from the sewer and freaking out some kids walking home from school. He starts peering out of the sewer at around 5:47 of the episode, which is available on Fox's website. Matt Groening and company even nailed Bill Skarsgard’s unapologetically creepy smile (which isn’t all makeup).
Horror movie junkies might notice two more easter eggs before Pennywise spooks Springfield’s version of Niebolt Street, too.
At 5:02, a horrified Skinner looks in the mirror only to see the soulless eyeholes of a cardboard Krusty mask peering back at him. Written in blood at the bottom of that mirror is REVENJE, a throwback to The Shining’s REDRUM.
Then skip ahead to 5:17, when Cletus is lazing about his porch and nonchalantly spots a horde of clowns chasing clowns. The ones who aren’t in Krusty masks are all animated versions of the rainbow-colored, cotton-candy-sliming aliens that invaded Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
Be sure to unearth the full episode on Fox’s website, but for now, here’s a clip of Krusty being melodramatic. Or is he?