KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)
Sometimes you have to lighten things up a bit during the Halloween season and what better way than with this cult classic horror/comedy!… and one I actually saw in a 42nd Street grind house just before the big ‘clean-up’ ended an era. My only time in one of those theaters and I’m glad I had the expeience.
The story is simple and echoes one of those alien invasion flicks from the 50s with a small California college town being set-upon by a race of aliens, who resemble clowns, with plans of taking over the town and harvesting its citizens for food. It’s up to local guy Mike (Grant Kramer) and his girlfriend Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) to somehow convince the stubborn sheriff (John Allen Nelson)… who is also Debbie’s ex-boyfriend… that this is no college prank, and the townsfolk are in the midst of a cotton candy covered nightmare. Can Mike save his town from the Bozo-like invaders or will they all find themselves taken to the aliens’ big top shaped mothership to be used as clown food!
Cult classic is a deviously fun romp written, produced and directed by the Chiodo brothers. Every clown cliche in the book is utilized in amusingly gruesome manner from people sealed in cotton candy cocoons, ferocious shadow puppets and popcorn that evolves into jack-in-the-box like creatures, to combating the invaders by shooting them in their big red noses. As shot by Alfred Taylor, the film is as candy colored as it’s villainous clowns and their lethal toys and the production design echoes the nightmare circus it’s supposed to be. Every prop and set has an appropriately circus-esque look but, with a sinister edge that really helps enhance the atmosphere of a sinister big top that director Stephen Chiodo gives this ghoulish delight. And the director does succeed in giving this flick both a sense of dread and a sense of fun as the alien clowns are quite amused by the carnage they create and so are we. We are almost ashamed at how much delight we take in watching a killer clown luring in a little girl while holding a giant mallet behind it’s back or a tiny clown bullied by a biker who gets his block knocked off by the little guy, literally. The Chiodos stuff more clown cliche’s than can fit into a clown car into their midnight movie thriller and all with a sinister edge and the creature effects portraying the villains are very well done, as the rest of the visual FX are charmingly old fashioned. The film can be both spooky and side-splittingly funny and more often than not, at the same time and it works perfectly. Add in John Massari’s spooky circus music imbued score and you’ve got yourself a cult classic midnight movie that accomplishes pretty much everything it set out to do!
The cast all play it fairly straight too, just like in those old 1950’s sci-fi flicks but, you can tell they are having a good time and there are plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments. John Vernon’s mean old cop Mooney chews up the scenery a bit but, it fits his character. Other than that Grant Cramer, John Allen Nelson and Suzanne Snyder all take things serious enough to make it work with the film’s tone of a semi-straight 50s style alien invasion flick… with the invaders being scary clowns with diabolical senses of humor instead of little green men.
A deviously fun cult classic and an almost perfect flick to lighten up your Halloween movie schedule when you need a break from the more intense stuff. Watch it on a night with Night of The Creeps and The Monster Squad and you’ll have a fun film festival that will still keep the Halloween spirit ghoulishly well.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) killer klowns!