Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Director: Stephen Chiodo

Starring: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Nelson, John Vernon

“Killer clowns? From outer space? Holy shit.” (Mooney, Killer Klowns From Outer Space)

Sometimes a film is so clearly ridiculous it doesn’t pretend otherwise and instead proclaims through its title: “if you buy this film, you’re in for some weird shit”. As you can no doubt imagine, Killer Klowns From Outer Space falls directly into this category.

It was created by the Chido brothers, a trio of siblings with a love for the weird and wonderful and an admirable passion for film-making, in particular puppetry and special effects.

In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve seen their work before, because in recent times the Chiodos have made occasional contributions to The Simpsons (like the Gravey & Jobriath cartoon), and more notably created all the puppets in Team America. It’s fairly clear, then, what sort of sense of humour they have.

Yes, because that clown definitely looks 100% trustworthy

Killer Klowns From Outer Space, however, was the only time the Chiodos worked together to create the story, do the special effects and direct a whole movie, and while many these days regard it as a “good bad” movie among the ranks of Troll 2 and Howard The Duck in reality it’s actually pretty well made for its budget, hammy acting and ridiculous plot aside.

It’s set in a small country town, where one night a couple on a date see a flaming meteorite enter the atmosphere in the distance and land with a crash. When they go to investigate they find a circus big top in its place. They enter the big top and discover that it’s actually an alien spaceship, where aliens who look like clowns are abducting the townsfolk, placing them in big cotton candy cocoons and draining their blood to drink it.

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While the acting is by-and-large horrible throughout the film (with the exception of Dirty Harry and Animal House star John Vernon as the police chief), there’s no denying that Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a labour of love, not just by the Chiodos but by the entire cast as well. They may not be great actors but by God you can tell they’re giving it their all.

Somewhat more impressive is the excellent clown costumes. While it would have been perfectly acceptable to just say “well, they’re from space, so let’s just say all the clowns look the same”, the Chiodos made all sorts of weird and wonderful clowns so that each looks completely unique. It’s a pleasant attention to detail that really gives the film a sense of character.

You’ll see a lot of things in Killer Klowns that you’ve never seen in any other film. Popcorn that comes to life and eats people, for example. Or custard pies that actually contain acid. And, of course, the classic scene where a group of people are eaten alive by a shadow puppet.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space is silly fun, and fantastic proof that a low budget doesn’t necessarily mean a film should be lacking in originality and great ideas. Get some mates around, get some (non-killer) popcorn and enjoy some proper low-budget ’80s comedy cheese. Oh, and the music is awesome too, as you can see by the trailer below.

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3 thoughts on “Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

  1. Interesting sidenote: the Chiodo Brothers also designed the “ghost” puppets in Universal Studios’ former “Ghostbusters Spooktacular” attraction.

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