Blu-ray Review: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Killer Klowns From Outer Space BR CoverDistributor: Arrow Video

BBFC Classification: 15

Director: Stephen Chiodo

Starring: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, John Vernon, Royal Dano

When going into Killer Klowns From Outer Space it is necessary to be aware of two things – a) the title really does say it all so don’t be surprised when that is all you get, and b) the film is basically a showreel for the Chiodo Brothers and their particular brand of filmmaking and special effects tomfoolery. Armed with this information Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a whole heap of fun and pretty much beyond any major criticism, despite the film not exactly setting the world on fire when it was originally released.

Paying homage to 1950s B-movies like Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Blob, these killer klowns arrive on Earth and set up a huge circus tent in the middle of the woods. Thinking Halley’s Comet has crashed into Earth, Farmer Gene Green (Royal Dano – House II: The Second Story) goes to investigate but ends up being kidnapped by a huge clown-like monster. As more and more strange things start happening around town it is up to young lovers Mike (Grant Kramer – New Year’s Evil) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder – Return of the Living Dead II), local sheriff Dave Hanson (John Allen Nelson – Baywatch) and ice cream salesmen the Terenzi brothers to get to the bottom of things and try to stop the murderous klowns before the whole town gets turned into a bloody shake for them to drink through their novelty straws.

Along with other ridiculous (in a good way) ’80s cult favourites like Night of the Creeps and Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Killer Klowns From Outer Space knows exactly what it is and runs wild with it, never letting up with the stupidity but always with a knowing wink to let you know that it is laughing along with you. There is not a lot of gore – a decapitation punch and a human glove puppet being the only gruesome moments – and there doesn’t need to be as the klowns themselves are pretty creepy, their grubby, monstrous faces providing most of the horror elements of the film as their weapons are deadly versions of seemingly innocent clown props, like custard pies full of acid and mutant popcorn that turns into miniature klown heads with very sharp teeth. And the special effects really are quite special, not just with the klowns’ animatronic masks and lairy costumes but the interior of their circus tent looks fantastic, the sort of neon nightmare that most 1960s TV shows were built on.

The acting isn’t what you would call great but the cast generally pitch it suitably, with Grant Cramer and John Allen Nelson giving the appropriate ‘gee whiz’-type reactions that were a staple of ’50s sci-fi/horror movies. The presence of John Vernon (National Lampoon’s Animal House/Dirty Harry) as a grumpy police officer who has it in for anyone younger than him is a very welcome one and adds to the youthful rebellion feel of the film, despite the fact that the town’s youngsters aren’t being that rebellious and he is just a cantankerous asshole. The only real dud is Suzanne Snyder, who doesn’t seem to know what film she is in despite having been in the equally silly Return of the Living Dead II and Night of the Creeps, and her line delivery veers from wooden to totally theatrical without any sort of middle ground. Granted, it is not a film for subtleties but her lack of consistency is a little annoying.

Had Killer Klowns From Outer Space been made in the 1950s then it probably would have been branded a violent shocker and been tremendously popular with movie audiences. However, it was made in the late 1980s amongst the bloodier likes of Evil Dead II, Re-Animator and Frank Henenlotter’s unique brand of twisted humour, and never really did much financial business, becoming a cult hit on home video in the years after its original release. Comparing it to today’s horror movies is like comparing the 1960s Batman TV series to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight but it is not really a film that you need to compare to anything; just accept it for what it is and revel in the madness that the Chiodo Brothers bring to the screen – when it is done with this much maniacal glee, being silly just for the sake of it is good enough.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Special Features: Audio commentary with the Chiodo Brothers, five ‘making-of’ featurettes charting the genesis of the Klowns and the Chiodo Brothers in film, a selection of cast and crew interviews, deleted scenes, bloopers, Klown audition footage, storyboard gallery, image gallery, original theatrical trailer and collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Starburst critic Joel Harley, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.

UK Release Date: 15th September 2014

Arrow Films – Website

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