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The Circus of Fear

The Circus of Fear

I mean, really, what kind of a demonically evil scheme involves rollercoasters and cotton candy anyway?
~ Murray the Demonic Skull

The Circus of Fear is a popular common theme in dark fantasy which takes the traditional realm of circuses and fair-grounds then warps them into nightmarish dystopias - often changing the pleasant theme of such places into demonic parodies that frighten rather than amuse. This also applies carnival-like/clown-like villainous groups in media and literature such with their implied names and namesake lairs of such nature, such as the Dead Moon Circus from the Sailor Moon universe and Professor Screweyes' Eccentric Circus from the animated movie We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story.

The concept of a Circus of Fear is at least as old as fair-grounds themselves and although some class them as different scenarios for simplicities sake it can be said a Circus of Fear can also be applied to amusement parks that are horrific and twisted. The Circus of Fear is often the home of the Monster Clowns.

Overnight, the circus came to town. But something is wrong — very wrong. The ringmaster is abusing the animals and performers, and the circus music, which should be cheerful, seems quite menacing. The attractions (especially the Freak Show) seem off, the cotton candy is a sickly shade of green, the knife thrower never miss, and the clowns,, the less said about the clowns the better.

And people are disappearing, either consumed by or turned into the circus denizens.

This trope is the brother to "The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday", and often used in context with aberrations (or "freaks" as commonly referred to), providing instances of either "Red Right Hand" or "The Grotesque".

A common variation on the theme is a killer amusement park, with homicidal costumed mascots and a fun house that is anything but. If it is in a videogame, expect a roller coaster that acts an awful lot like a mine cart.

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