Circus side shows with real live (and in some cases preserved) human and animal oddities have always been a source of fascination for people. While genuine live side shows are few and far between in modern society, the fascination with human oddities lives on. What are some classic horror movies featuring side show freaks and other human oddities? Here’s a list of some of the more notable ones.
Any list of human oddity horror films begins and ends with Tod Browning’s amazing Freaks. It’s a must-see for any horror fan, and despite its age, still holds up as genuinely disturbing today. Even if you’ve never seen it, you’ve probably seen images of some of the many real-life human oddities who starred in it and have probably heard the famous quote "Gooba-gobble, gooba-gobble. We accept her. One of us, one of us."
7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)
This is one strange movie. A mysterious circus comes to a small Arizona town in the early 1900s. The magical Dr. Lao and his strange crew of mystical creatures teach the townspeople a few life lessons when they visit the circus. Tony Randall plays Dr. Lao, and with the help of some puppeteers and makeup artists, many of the strange creatures.
House of the Damned (1963)
Two couples visit a creepy old mansion and start seeing strange things. All sorts of side show-type human oddities populate this strange place…a giant, a fat lady, and legless and headless people. This movie is short, at just around an hour, but that’s probably a good thing since the premise does wear thin after a while.
The Other (1972)
This is an odd psychological thriller about identical twin boys and their reclusive mother. Some mysterious tragedies begin to befall people who have harmed the boys. Are one or both of the twins responsible for the evil goings-on? Set in the 1930s, this film features well-known scenes set in a human oddities tent.
The Mutations (aka The Freakmaker) (1974)
A British sci-fi horror film about a mad genetic scientist who kidnaps college students and subjects them to a series of bizarre experiments, including mixing their DNA with plant DNA. The mutants are given to a circus side show, but they decide to team up with the resident freaks and demand their rights.
Night Tide (1961)
A young Dennis Hopper stars as a sailor on shore leave who falls in love with a mysterious woman named Mora who performs as a mermaid in a circus side show. Could she really be a mermaid…and not just a nice mermaid like Daryl Hannah in Splash, but a dangerous siren who lures sailors to their deaths? This moody film has great seedy seaside carnival atmosphere.