Killer Klowns from Outer Space
|Killer Klowns from Outer Space|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Chiodo|
|Produced by||Charles Chiodo
|Music by||John Massari|
|Edited by||Christopher Roth|
|Distributed by||Trans World Entertainment|
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a 1988 American science-fiction horror comedy film written, produced, and directed by the Chiodo Brothers and starring Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, and John Vernon. It is the only film to be written and directed by the Chiodo Brothers. The film is about a clan of evil aliens from an unknown region, who all resemble circus clowns. They arrive on Earth and invade a small town in order to capture, kill, and harvest the human inhabitants to use as sustenance.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space was filmed in Watsonville, California and at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The film utilizes practical effects, including rubber suits. The score was composed by John Massari. The film received generally positive reviews and has been considered a cult classic.
A sequel has been in development hell since the original film's release, with Stephen Chiodo having stated that he hopes to produce a series of films with a total of four installments, or a television series based on the film.
In the town of Crescent Cove, farmer Gene Green (Royal Dano) spies an object falling to Earth. Believing it to be Halley's Comet, he goes to find it, coming across a large circus tent-like structure. He is at first amused by the sight, but he and his dog are quickly captured by mysterious clown-like aliens. Meanwhile, Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and his girlfriend Debbie Stone (Suzanne Snyder) also investigate. Coming across the same structure, they discover a complex interior that looks nothing like a circus tent. They discover the old man in a cotton candy-shaped cocoon and are nearly captured by the alien clowns, who coat them with popcorn from a gun as they escape. A balloon animal dog that comes to life gives chase.
Narrowly escaping, Mike and Debbie travel to the police station to confide in her ex-boyfriend Dave Hanson (John Allen Nelson) and his skeptical, curmudgeonly partner Curtis Mooney (John Vernon) about the killer clowns from outer space. Mooney believes it to be a hoax. After they drop off Debbie, Mike and Dave investigate, only to find the ship missing. Dave dismisses it as a hoax until they find Mike and Debbie's make-out spot destroyed and covered in a cotton candy-like substance. In town, the clowns capture townspeople in cocoons by using ray guns that resemble toys. The clowns perform a series of pranks and performances, including a puppet show, that end with many deaths. One clown fails to lure a young girl to her death, while another one kills a biker who destroyed his tricycle.
Mike and Dave encounter one of the clowns using a shadow puppet to shrink a crowd of unsuspecting people into the palm of his hand before feeding it to a bag full of its offspring, but it escapes before Mike can run it down. Mooney, convinced that the calls to the police station are the result of a hoax, encounters one of the clowns. A series of pranks makes Mooney lock the clown up, not realizing until too late that the threat is real. Dave returns to the station to find two prisoners dead, the station decorated with shoe prints, and Mooney being used as a puppet with the clown's hand inserted into him. Dave shoots the clown several times before destroying its nose, which causes it to spin wildly and explode.
In town, Mike and his friends, the Terenzi brothers (Michael Siegel and Peter Licassi), who rent an ice cream truck they were using to warn people, notice the town is overrun by the clowns and flee. Popcorn monsters attack Debbie at her home, and the clowns trap her in a giant balloon. Mike, Dave, and the brothers give chase to the amusement park. Journeying through a funhouse leading to the ship, the Terenzi brothers become separated, meeting two female clowns who seduce them off-screen. After Dave and Mike witness a clown using a crazy straw to drink the liquefied townspeople, they rescue Debbie and flee into a maze full of tricks and traps.
When they emerge, they are surrounded by clowns. Rich and Paul Terenzi arrive, having escaped the female clowns, and use the clown figure on their ice cream truck to distract the clowns. A gigantic clown marionette, Jojo the Klownzilla (Charles Chiodo), arrives, breaks free from his strings, and attacks. As Jojo destroys the ice cream truck, Dave distracts him by shooting at him. Jojo grabs Dave, who uses his badge to destroy his nose. The clown explodes and the ship is destroyed as Debbie and Mike escape. Debbie and Mike briefly mourn their friends' loss until a clown car drops out of the sky; Dave and the Terenzi brothers then emerge. Suddenly, pies fall from the sky and hit them in their faces.
The film's original title was simply Killer Klowns, but the filmmakers added the words "from Outer Space" to prevent audiences from assuming the film was a slasher movie. Filming took place in the city of Watsonville and at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The film was Christopher Titus' first role in a motion picture. The popcorn gun used by the clowns in the film, which included a compressor that would allow the weapon to actually propel popcorn, was the most expensive prop made for the production, costing $7,000 to create and taking six weeks to build. The legs of the clowns' balloon animal dog were coated in latex by the film's special effects department in order to keep the balloon from popping on the pine needles which covered the ground.
Most of the vehicles used in the film were rented, and therefore were not allowed to be damaged. Only one car was damaged, as it was driven off a bridge. A sandbag was placed under the front tire and a cable was attached to the front of the car, but the sandbag was not removed, causing the cable to snap and the car to fall a shorter distance than originally intended.
The Chiodo Brothers wanted to cast comedian Soupy Sales as the security guard killed by the clowns' acidic pies, as he was known for receiving pies in the face on his children's television show Lunch with Soupy Sales. However, the executive producers did not want to allocate funds to pay for Sales' plane ticket to the production, as they felt that audiences would not know who Sales was.
Jojo the Klownzilla, the colossal clown who appears at the end of the film, was originally intended to be created using stop-motion animation, but was instead portrayed by Charles Chiodo in a rubber suit. In the film's original finale, Deputy Dave dies in the explosion of the clowns' ship, but this was changed after audiences in test screenings desired a more upbeat ending.
The film's score was composed by John Massari. The title song "Killer Klowns" was written and performed by the American punk rock band the Dickies and was released on their album Killer Klowns from Outer Space in 1988. A limited edition complete soundtrack was released in 2006 through Percepto Records and features twenty-six tracks of score, the title song "Killer Klowns", and four bonus tracks at a running time just over sixty-nine minutes.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space was released in the United States on May 20, 1988. The film was released on VHS by Fox Home Entertainment on July 17, 2001, and on DVD as part of MGM Home Entertainment's "Midnite Movies" line of home media releases on August 28, 2001. MGM released the film on Blu-ray on September 11, 2012.
On May 25, 2013, the film received a 35 mm screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Vintage Park in Houston, Texas, as well as a 35 mm screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Yonkers, New York on June 20, 2014.
The film has been considered a cult classic. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an average score of 71%, based on 17 critic reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Killer Klowns from Outer Space's title promises darkly goofy fun – and more often than not, the movie delivers." Leonard Klady of The New York Times wrote that the film "demonstrates both above-average technical skill and large dollops of imagination". Film critic Leonard Maltin initially declared the film a BOMB ("Strictly tenth-rate."), but gave the movie a second look after a few years; this time, Maltin awarded the picture two-and-a-half out of a possible four stars. In his second review, Maltin wrote "Routinely plotted, but vividly designed, with cheeky humor...plays its premise to the hilt, all 'circus' bases touched".
Charles Bramesco of The A.V. Club recommended the film, writing that "The film is patently absurd, but the filmmakers are fully committed to that absurdity. It’s hard not to respect", and noted the film's "enduring appeal". Charles Webb of MTV.com called the performances "a little rough", and wrote "If Killer Klowns isn't especially scary, it's only kind of funny but still gets by on the execution of extremely inventive visuals based on the clown/circus motif". Dread Central gave the film three out of a possible five stars. JoBlo.com gave the film a rating of 8/10, stating that the film "is the KING of 80's B-movies and it delivers the tacky goods by the truckloads". John Gugie of HorrorNews.net gave the film a score of 3/5, calling it "a hit or miss for horror and sci-fi fans".
Author Matthew Chojnacki recommended the film in his book Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art From the Underground. Jim Craddock, in his book VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever, gave the film two-and-a-half out of four bones, calling the film a "Visually striking, campy but slick horror flick that'll make you think twice about your next visit to the big top". Director Brian Herzlinger considers Killer Klowns from Outer Space to be "his favorite cult film".
Legacy and possible sequels
In 2005, SOTA Toys announced they would produce Killer Klown figurines as part of their Now Playing film action figures line. One figure was produced in 2006. After SOTA stopped producing the toys, Amok Time took over. In 2017 Amok Time announced they no longer have the licence to release more Killer Klown figures.
The Chiodo Brothers plan on creating a sequel to the film, with the initial release date being scheduled for 2012, though it has since been postponed. The sequel is currently stuck in development hell.
In 2012, Grant Cramer, who starred in the original film, revealed that his character would make a return as a town drunk whom nobody believes. His character would serve as a mentor to young street performers who must fight the Killer Klowns when they return. He described his character as "somewhere between the energy of Kris Kristofferson's character in Blade and Christopher Lloyd's character in Back to the Future".
Like the original film, Stephen Chiodo is set to be the director and Charles Chiodo is set to produce. With production to take place over 30 years after the release of the original film, the timeframe between films will be credited as the longest gap in the release of films in a horror comedy film series.
Stephen Chiodo stated in March 2016 that:
Right now, we are currently pursuing a long arch series for cable. We wondered, should we do a sequel to the first one or do we do a remake? We came up with a 'requel' – it's a sequel and a remake. We've been developing this for a while. It's a trilogy in four parts, and it really follows the continuing adventures of new people who are experiencing this phenomenon of a Klown invasion, and once in a while you see some of the old guys pop up and hear their stories – find out what happened over the last 25 years. It's fucking great.
The proposed title for the first sequel to the original film is Return of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space in 3D. A television series based on the original film is also rumored to be produced. John Massari, who composed the synthesizer-filled score for the original film, re-recorded the score will a full orchestra at Warner Brothers Studios in 2016.
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...to stop the car from rolling down the hill it was on, they put a sandbag underneath the front wheel. And they neglected to take the sandbag away when they had the cable pull the car, so the cable snapped immediately. So the car just kind of rolled down the hill via gravity.
- Killer Klowns from Outer Space soundtrack info at Screen Archives
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