Killer Klowns from Outer Space
|Killer Klowns from Outer Space|
|Directed by||Stephen Chiodo|
|Produced by||Charles Chiodo|
|Edited by||Christopher Roth|
|Music by||John Massari|
|Distributed by||Trans World Entertainment|
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a 1988 American science fiction comedy horror film written, directed and produced 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, who also created the practical effects and makeup for the film. 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. The SyFy channel announced on October 22, 2018, that it was in talks to purchase the rights to the film in order to produce a sequel.
Just outside the town of Crescent Cove, Mike Tobacco and his girlfriend Debbie Stone are parked with other couples at the local lovers' lane when they spot a strange glowing object falling to Earth. Nearby, farmer Gene Green, believing it to be Halley's Comet, ventures into the woods to find the impact site. He stumbles upon a large circus tent-like structure, and he and his dog are captured by mysterious clown-like aliens, the "Klowns". Mike and Debbie arrive to investigate for themselves. Entering the structure, they discover a complex interior with bizarre rooms and eventually realize it is the object and a spaceship. They find a gelatinized Green encased in a cotton candy-like cocoon and are spotted by a klown, who shoots popcorn at them from a bazooka-like weapon and then chases them aided by another one who uses a living balloon dog.
Narrowly escaping, they report the incident to Debbie's ex-boyfriend, Deputy Dave Hanson, and his curmudgeonly partner, Deputy Curtis Mooney. Mike takes Dave to the site of the ship, only to find it has disappeared and left a large crater in its place. They travel to the lovers' lane, only to find all the cars abandoned and covered in the cocoon's substance. The klowns begin encasing townspeople in cocoons using toy-like rayguns. Several klowns perform pranks and mock circus acts which result in the deaths of several onlookers.
Mike and Dave witness a klown using shadow puppets to shrink a crowd of people, then dump them into a bag full of popcorn, which are revealed to be klowns in larval form. Back at the police station, another klown arrives and Mooney arrests it, believing it to be a teenage prankster. Dave returns to the station to find the place ransacked and the klown using a deceased Mooney as a ventriloquist's dummy. Dave shoots the alien in the nose, which causes it to spin wildly and explode.
Mike meets with his friends Rich and Paul, the Terenzi brothers, and using the PA speaker on their ice cream truck, they drive around town attempting to warn people of the klowns. At Debbie's house, popcorn from her earlier encounter with the klowns evolves into juvenile klowns and attacks her. As she attempts to escape, she is intercepted by the klowns, who trap her in a giant balloon. Mike, Dave, and the Terenzis witness Debbie's capture and give chase, following the klowns to the local amusement park, where they have relocated their ship. Journeying through a funhouse, the Terenzi brothers become separated. After Dave and Mike witness a klown using a crazy straw to drink gelatinized townspeople blood, they rescue Debbie and flee into a maze full of traps.
The trio then finds themselves surrounded by klowns. The Terenzis arrive in their ice cream truck and use the PA to distract the aliens. A gargantuan klown marionette, Jojo the Klownzilla, appears and destroys the ice cream truck, apparently killing the Terenzis, Dave creates a distraction and Mike and Debbie escape before the ship begins to take off. Dave uses his badge to pierce Jojo's nose, causing it to explode and destroy the ship. A klown car drops out of the sky and Dave emerges along with the Terenzi brothers, who miraculously survived by hiding in the ice cream truck's freezer moments before it was destroyed. As the group watches the fireworks created by the ship's destruction, pies fall from the sky and land on their faces.
- Grant Cramer as Mike Tobacco
- Suzanne Snyder as Debbie Stone
- John Allen Nelson as Deputy Dave Hanson
- John Vernon as Deputy Curtis Mooney
- Michael S. Siegel as Rich Terenzi
- Peter Licassi as Paul Terenzi
- Royal Dano as Farmer Gene Green
- Charles Chiodo as Jojo the Klownzilla
- Christopher Titus as Bob McReed
- Claire Bartle as Little Girl
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.
While the Chiodo Brothers were well-known as special effects artists, much of the special effects work was carried out by other artists, allowing the brothers to focus more on their production duties. However, the brothers did personally construct the miniature set for the "Klownzilla" sequence.
Most of the vehicles used in the film were rented and therefore were not allowed to be damaged. Two cars were accidentally damaged; one was driven off a bridge, although it was only intended to roll a short distance, and the Jeep filled with webbing needed $3,000 of repairs after solvent in the webbing damaged the interior.
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 klown 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.
Four molds were made for the main clowns. One was peanut shaped, another was triangular, circular, and the final shape was an inverted triangle. From those four molds the effects artists produced two clown characters from each. Klownzilla had its own mask molded specifically for its appearance.
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 the 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 27, 1988. The film was released on VHS by Fox Home Entertainment on July 17, 2001, and on VHS and 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.
On April 9, 2018, Arrow Films released their special edition Blu-Ray of Killer Klowns From Outer Space. This release was newly restored, with interviews, documentary featurettes, Klown auditions, bloopers, deleted scenes, a double-sided poster that features the original theatrical poster, as well as art by Sara Deck, and more.
The film has been considered a cult classic. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an average score of 76%, based on 25 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 Los Angeles 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 cancelled sequel
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. Both Klown and Shorty figures have become high end collectibles and are heavily sought after from collectors.
The Chiodo Brothers planned on creating a sequel to the film, with the initial release date being scheduled for 2012, though it was never produced.
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 with a full orchestra at Warner Brothers Studios in 2016.
The Killer Klowns from Outer Space were featured as a scare zone at the Universal Orlando annual Halloween Horror Nights event for its 28th year. Most of the clowns, the Terenzi brothers, and their ice cream truck are incorporated into the zone.
On July 25, 2019, it was announced that Killer Klowns from Outer Space would return to the Universal Orlando annual Halloween Horror Nights event for a second consecutive year, and would also appear at Universal Studios Hollywood. This time, the characters would feature in a Haunted House attraction rather than the Scare Zone format in which they appeared in 2018 in Orlando. Later in August, it was revealed that exclusive merchandise of Killer Klowns from Outer Space would be sold during the Halloween Horror Nights, along with other properties.
In August 2019, after the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney, it was revealed that Fox intended on developing the sequel to Killer Klowns from Outer Space, but Disney had cancelled it along with over 200 other projects.
In 2021, Spirit Halloween dedicated a section of its seasonal stores to merchandise based on the film. In addition to costumes from the film, the sections feature items such as clothing, statues, props, doormats, signage, and life-sized animatronic characters.
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