Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Starring Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, John Vernon, Michael Siegel, Peter Licassi, Royal Dano, Christopher Titus, Irene Michaels, Karla Sue Krull

Directed by Stephen Chiodo

Expectations: High, been looking forward to this one for a while.


When I was a kid my buddy used to bring his Fangoria magazines to school and we’d check out all the cool ghoulies, goblins and killer gore FX horror films of the 80s and 90s had to offer. It was a golden time for me in which the seed was deeply sown for my love of the genre and the FX that came with it. In those days it was all about foam latex masks and appliances, scale models and slick opticals of raygun blasts and lightning. Camera tricks fooled the mind in clever ways that less-than-subtle, modern CG does not. Many of the films I was exposed to in these Fangoria issues are long-standing favorites, while others I still have yet to see. My childhood household had an unspoken hex on true horror pictures, so I had to wait to see a lot of this stuff until I was old enough to get ahold of them myself. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is one of these films, until now only glimpsed in the colorful pages of Fangoria and in short clips.

Many movies that have built up this much hype just can’t live up to it. Killer Klowns from Outer Space also has the PG-13 horror movie stigma working against it. In spite of all the odds stacked against it, Killer Klowns from Outer Space managed to worm its way into my heart and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A big part of my enjoyment were the excellent range of visual FX on display throughout the picture, and when a bunch of brothers that run an FX studio make a movie this is only to be expected. From the hyper-detailed foam latex clown masks to the wonderful optical raygun FX, from the stop-motion shadow puppets to the cotton candy bodypods, Killer Klowns from Outer Space astounds and entertains at every turn.

The plot here is very light and inconsequential, existing simply to allow the Chiodo Bros. to let their imaginations loose on what killer klowns from outer space might do should they find themselves in a small American town. Basically, the killer klowns land in the forest, people check it out and then the klowns begin their murderous spree of whimsy. Oh, and of course there’s a damsel in distress to save later on in the film.

If you examine the plot of this one too closely though, you’re missing the point. This is a fun-filled trip to the horror circus and should be viewed as such. It’s impressive just how much of clown mythology makes it into the film in the form of inventive gags and horrifyingly funny ways to die. From acid pies thrown into victim’s faces to cotton candy rayguns, no clown stone is left unturned in the film. So when I learned than the Chiodo Bros. are currently planning a sequel to the film, I instantly wondered how they’d figure out enough original gags to include in it. After watching Killer Klowns from Outer Space, it feels like they completely mined what was there and perhaps this is why they are only now, twenty-three years later, producing a sequel. If it’s anywhere close to the level of awesome contained here, we will all be in for a sugary, delectable treat of a horror film.

The film’s music is also very iconic and memorable. The main theme by The Dickies is something you’ll be turning around in your head for days after watching the film. I absolutely love this song, as it contains the same fun spirit of the film while being an accomplished musical piece as well. Circus motifs are wrapped within pop melodies played on precise guitars, while the singer warbles out bigtop-themed lyrics about P.T. Barnum and killer klowns. What’s not to like? John Massari’s synth score is similarly fun, creating an atmospheric base to the film that compliments the inventive sets and visuals perfectly.

I expected to like this, but I hadn’t planned on loving it as much as I did. Don’t let the PG-13 fool you, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a full-fledged, fun-filled horror flick, albeit one with popcorn blasters and cotton candy instead of chainsaws and gore. It’s a fuckin’ hoot and a half, and one B-movie definitely worthy of your time.

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