The title of the movie should make this patently obvious, but for those of you who still don’t get it, I guess I’ll have to spell it out for you: you absolutely have to have a sense of humor to even remotely enjoy Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Unless you’re pathologically terrified of clowns, then Killer Klowns isn’t a scary horror movie. It’s a self-aware tongue-in-cheek horror comedy and if you can’t get into that then, well, you might as well not bother. As someone who enjoys stuff like Troma films, Killer Klowns was right up my alley and remains one of my favorite horror-comedies of all time.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (MGM)

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A handful of college kids (oh c’mon, do their names really matter?) are busy exploring each other at the local make-out point until a shooting star crashes down in a nearby forest. Investigating the crash, all they find is a circus tent set-up smack dab in the middle of nowhere. But this is no ordinary circus tent. Springing from this tent is a horde of vicious Klowns, all using various whimsical weapons to transform the local populace into their favorite snack: cotton candy. No one back in town will believe the kids, which sucks for them, because the Klowns waste no time in laying siege to the city.

Outside of perhaps “evil Klowns eat people”, there really isn’t anything even approaching a plot to this film. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is essentially just a collection of clown-related sight gags strung together one after another with your standard horror movie stereotypes filling in the gaps along the way. But let’s be honest, all anybody watching this movie wants to see is a bunch of deformed clowns brutalizing people with circus-themed weapons, so what’s the matter?

And believe me, you get plenty of that. The cotton candy ray is only the tip of their arsenal, as the Klowns also use “popcorn” as seeds which grow hungry little monsters and acid-cream pies to dissolve the opposition. Personally, I’m most fond of the “invisible car” bit and the scene with the man-eating shadow puppets. Like I said a few paragraphs back, Director Stephen Chiodo built Killer Klowns on comedy, not scares, but it does have its moments here and there. Easily the darkest scene in the movie involves one of the Klowns transforming the corpse of the jackass Officer Mooney (John Vernon) into a ventriloquist dummy. The film’s only genuine attempt at horror, the scene does effectively deliver the creeps.

The Klowns are the real draw of the film, as it certainly isn’t the cast. They can be pretty annoying (particularly the pair of horny ice cream vendors) and everyone seems to have the IQ of a tadpole. I mean, if you heard strange unearthly growlings and snarlings coming from inside a dumpster late at night, would you stick your head inside to investigate? One would hope not. The gags involving acts of gory Klown-related violence are pretty much all winners, but the moments of humor revolving entirely around the human cast pretty much always falls flat.

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The production values for this movie range from “pretty cool” to “was this filmed in a parking lot?” The costumes and set design are wonderfully cheesy, though the finale where we’re introduced to the gigantic “King Klown” is surprisingly well done. The climax of the film, on board the Klowns’ spaceship is a bit of a mess, though. At times, the set looks really bizarre and surreal, while at other moments you can tell that it was filmed in either a warehouse or a parking lot. I swear, if I look hard enough I can see the parking space lines on the asphalt.

If you have a taste for self-aware B-movies, then “Killer Klowns” will be a satisfying trip. If you’re expecting something genuinely frightening, then disappointment lies in your future.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) Review
The Chiodo Bros provide cheesy special effects, but they're appropriate for a movie with this sort of title.It holds up to rewatches really well since there's little down time and lots of Klown mayhem.
It's a horror-comedy, but when the Klowns aren't up to their hijinks the comedy really blows.No, I was right. You can see the parking space lines on the asphalt in the Klown mothership.
8Great
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  • Andrew Thompson

    I was worried you were MIA permanent for a while, there.

    I’ve always loved this movie. I wish the rights would revert to the Chiodos. It sounds like they’ve had a lot of ideas…or maybe just one that they keep bringing up…for further Klown-related adventures. But apparently MGM doesn’t see any money in them, or something.

    • Mark Pellegrini

      Yeah, this and the Critters flicks could use a proper Chiodo Bros revival.