Synopsis: Aliens who look like clowns come from outer space and terrorize a small town.
Stars: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, John Vernon
Director: Stephen Chiodo
Running Length: 88 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns and who hasn’t met one or two coulrophobics in their lifetime that tremble in fear when the circus comes to town? A staple of most haunted houses, the demented clown motif is a guaranteed winner if you are targeting the right people. The same could be said about Killer Klowns From Outer Space, a late 80’s horror comedy cult classic that achieved some big ideas with a tiny budget.
Watching the film again recently I was struck by how similar it is to B-Movies from the 50’s and 60’s. The concept of alien invaders descending upon a small town wasn’t anything new when it was released in 1988 but it was the execution of said concept that guaranteed the film its place in late night movie marathons for eons to come.
Tremendously cheesy and made on the cheap (yes…its two million dollar price tag was cheap), Killer Klowns From Outer Space is mostly a bust if you aren’t viewing it in the right frame of mind. I vacillate between admiration and exhaustion when thinking of the film because there is so much wrong it that I can’t really recommend it without some strong caveats.
The acting by most of the cast is hysterically earnest with the majority of the stars doing their darndest not to crack a smile when reciting some of the more eye-rolling dialogue. Cramer and Snyder (who takes the longest shower in the history of cinema) are attractive as a couple of lovebirds that discover what’s lurking under the big top/alien ship that winds up ruining their make-out session one late summer night. Vernon (so memorable in National Lampoon’s Animal House) gets exactly what movie he’s in and eviscerates the scenery as a curmudgeonly old police officer.
On the other hand, the film is kind of brilliant in what it achieves in production design. Written and directed by The Chiodo Brothers (not to be confused with The Cohen Brothers) work wonders with sets, props, and special effects to give their movie a little oomph. The clowns themselves are nightmare inducing with their grotesque rubber features and strange digitized method of communication. As they invade Crescent Cove and turn the townspeople into cotton candy (yep…that’s right) there are some decent effects and a few chuckle moments that give way to a fairly nifty conclusion.
Look…if you want a really scare clown you should be renting IT to witness Tim Curry’s perverse and terrifying Pennywise the Clown or you could track down an old VHS copy of the super scary Clownhouse.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is more comedy than horror and I’m totally OK with that. How much you can tolerate its low budget origins will be the final indicator of your enjoyment – but if you want a leg up on the 3D sequel that is said to be released in 2013, it’s time to arrange a viewing of this and pronto.