Killer Klowns from Outer SpaceSuzanne SnyderJohn VernonRoyal Dano
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Medium: film
Year: 1988
Director: Stephen Chiodo
Writer: Stephen Chiodo, Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo
Keywords: horror, SF
Country: USA
Actor: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, John Vernon, Michael Siegel, Peter Licassi, Royal Dano, Christopher Titus, Irene Michaels, Karla Sue Krull, Brian Degan Scott, Danny Kovacs
Format: 88 minutes
Website category: Horror 1970/80s
Review date: 1 October 2008
Darn those UFOs! Just when you're about to persuade your girlfriend to get intimate, overhead they go shooting and thus ruin a perfectly good evening. "Hey, let's go check it out," she'll say. You'll lollop after her in three-legged pursuit, but of course you'll know even then that that it won't end well. Your odds won't improve if you're in a movie whose title includes the words "killer" and "outer space". Admittedly these particular aliens wear clown outfits and flew down in a circus tent, but they still want us all dead anyway.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is almost what you'd expect from the title, except that you'd be advised to lower your expectations. Yes, even further. I'd been confidently expecting rubbish when I picked this up, but somehow I was still surprised by its tackiness. On a scale of "Hollywood blockbuster" to "teenagers goofing around with a video camera", guess to which it's nearer. Admittedly there's fun to be had here, but subliminally it doesn't quite feel like a real film. Essentially it's a cheapo 1950s alien invasion flick, but deliberately as silly as possible. You wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for story, depth or quality filmmaking, but it might hit the spot if you're looking for something dumb but oddly good-natured to watch over a few beers.
Obviously the Klowns are the stars of the show. Did it need saying? There are only two things of note in the human cast and one of those is the fact that the cast list includes the names "Suzanne Snyder" and "Royal Dano". What's more, neither is a porn name. Suzanne quit acting in 1997 after fifteen years in the business but still has a respectable list of credits, while no admiration could be too great for any man so splendidly monikered as Royal Dano. The New York Critic's Circle nominated him as one of the Promising Actors of 1949. You learn something new every day.
The other interesting non-clown is John Vernon, whom you'll know as the authority figure in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) and the original Dirty Harry (1971). Wow, he's come down in the world. Almost as much as Royal Dano. Instead of starring opposite Clint Eastwood, here he's playing a bloody-minded small-town cop called Curtis Mooney. There are amoebae on Saturn that already know he's the Authority Figure Who Won't Believe Our Heroes Until Too Late. At one point he even says, "No one's going to make a dummy out of me," thus sealing his own fate. The heavens would have fallen had his death come in any other way but what you're imagining. Oddly enough though, we're not reminded about that line for sick irony when the inevitable happens, turning it into a kind of easter egg to reward any freaks who might watch this film twice.
However the Klowns are cool. They're amazingly grotesque and kill people in pretty much every circus-related way you can imagine. Cotton candy, shadow animals, etc. If it's clown-related, they'll have found some way to make it lethal. Credit where it's due. That's imaginative. There's even one genuinely disturbing scene where one's beckoning to a little girl, which I hasten to say isn't paedophiliac or anything but is still as creepy as all hell. Furthermore, boy, are they ugly. Those mouths! Those teeth! They're obviously clowns and you can see why people mistake them for the real thing, but at the same time they're freaking nightmares. Apparently the costumes and effects were cobbled together for almost no money, which astonished me because they look great. You couldn't mistake this for Industrial Light and Magic, but in its own way this is genuinely nifty. It's thanks to the circus theme. All usual yardsticks for special effects fly out of the window and suddenly the gaudier and more outrageous an effect, the better. Imagination and flair are what's called for here, rather than any such encumbrance as verisimilitude or taste.
Distressingly there's no nudity, although one girl is kind enough to answer the door in what's basically her nightie. This should happen more in real life. Even the heroine's shower scene gives you nothing to gawp at, unless you have a thing for clown-headed tentacle monsters. Hmmm. Tentacle porn. Maybe the producers were hentai fans? However in America this was a PG movie, so we're probably lucky they went even this far.
I liked the theme song. "KILLER KLOWNS!" This film is cheerfully lowbrow, but in its own way actually quite efficient. At what it's trying to do, it succeeds. Beyond that, there's not much there. The characters are worthless. This is a movie whose idea of characterisation and humour is picking up fat chicks. It's not scary unless you live in terror of clown gags, but it occasionally manages to be a bit creepy and disgusting. That's worth something. Visually it's fun and in its own way almost impressive. You can certainly tell they enjoyed making it! I didn't really like this film, I didn't keep the DVD and I can't imagine ever subjecting myself to a rewatch, but I can respect its low-budget enthusiasm.