Killer Klowns from Outer Space! I remember when I used to tell people about this movie in high school but they thought I had made it up. This is yet another cult classic that I have USA Up All Night and Rhonda Shear to thank for introducing me to at a young age. I have spoken about it before, but a friend recently loaned me a DVD copy which included the commentary and deleted scenes. So in the spirit of Halloween, why not revisit one of the best horror movies of the 1980s, and one of my favorite feel good movies of all time:
For the uninitiated—Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a 1988 film written and directed by the Chiodo brothers, and although they have worked on many other movies, this is by far their biggest and best known endeavor. The plot is not important at all as everything that a new viewer would need to know is in the title, and as with so many movies of its kind, it is just a matter of throwing the monsters into a small town where no one will believe the two young people when they spout such a ridiculous tale. That’s right—an alien race that just so happens to resemble demonic looking clowns with similarly themed weaponry and traps is here to capture a town full of humans as a food source. It’s pretty simplistic honestly and works off of its unique nature and a whole lot more.
I love the design of the clowns, especially for the time and budget the brothers were working with. Everything looked clown-like but also very alien. These creatures were easy to buy as weird space worms that humans might have based our idea of clowns off of. It makes sense why most of the victims are so easily captured, as most people find clowns harmless and funny. Other than how creepy the clowns look and one scene that almost happens with a little girl, there isn’t really anything scary in this movie—unless you are afraid of clowns of course (Coulrophobia)—but it tries hard to be genuinely scary with some gruesome scenes and stylistic kills.
The film has an amazing soundtrack which is mostly credited to The Dickies for a wonderfully fitting theme. The title track impresses me more because no one had seen the movie when the song was made yet it captures the opening perfectly. I found myself wanting to hear the song by itself afterwards. The soundtrack is great as well, providing some atmospheric tones and helping the dreadful and futile mood. The composition is still horror/science fiction with a touch of emotion. It may sound like I am giving the movie too much credit here, but without the music this movie would be much less entertaining. The sound of the alien clowns language also sticks out in my memory, helping them to seem even less human.
What honestly makes the film though is the characters. Everyone in this is so close to being an archetype but manage to still feel genuine and slightly unique. They are a bit odd and over exaggerated, but the reasoning for that is explained in the commentary. The Chiodo brothers based most of the characters off of their real life friends, or people they grew up around, just turned up a notch in some cases. It works. I laughed when they said, “We kill most of our childhood friends in this movie.” The only personalities that are almost too much are the Terenzi brothers, but thankfully they are not in every scene. The writing itself is not bad either. Sure, the dialogue is weird and overdone, but the script does some nice subtle themes and foreshadowing.
“You’re not going to make a dummy out of me.”
So many out there think Killer Klowns works because no one who made it took the film seriously, but that is not the case by far. The Chiodo brothers describe it as a labor of love for them, a project stemmed from a single idea that took on a life of its own. Their roots in classic horror films are shown as well with references to Psycho, The Blob, and many others that are harder to spot. A lot of stuff they wanted to put in the movie had to be cut for budget reasons or time constraints, but past that the executives wanted a happier ending. It was a horror movie after all, so the original ending called for Dave to die fighting Klownzilla (named such due to the Godzilla style costume that had to be used) when the spaceship exploded, but the ending was re-shot to send the crowds home happy. Though, most people seem to forget that half of the town was cocooned up there on the spaceship when it exploded, so the death toll for Killer Klowns is up there.
“We played this movie really straight. It’s not a parody. It’s not a satire. It’s not a lampoon. It’s a serious monster movie but the dialogue that we’re delivering here is dead serious, but ridiculous in its content.” –Stephen Chiodo
The ridiculousness of the film may shine through, and the quirkiness of the characters certainly leans the audience to laugh at the absurd nature, but this movie is still eighty-eight minutes (with the two deleted scenes added back in) of pure awesome. There may be a small bit of nostalgia guiding my words here, but mostly it is that I absolutely love movies that commit to their idea and the world they create, no matter how silly it might sound when said out loud. The movie does that and still has a following to this day. A sequel has been in discussion for years, with the Chiodo brothers seeming positive about it, but waiting for the right time. Personally I think fans will eventually see Return of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space in 3D, and as long as the brothers keep it serious and commit, the real fans will get a good sequel.
“This is no fun house.”