RETRO-REVIEW: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen the work of the Chiodo brothers in many different movies over the years, even if you have never seen Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Masters of creature building, animatronics, and puppetry, the trio – Stephen, Charles, and Edward – have worked on characters and effects on everything from Critters to Ernest Scared Stupid, and ELF to Team America: World Police.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space was the brothers’ first together as their own film. Directed by Stephen, and with writing and creature work by all three, the film is about a group of clowns that arrive to Earth in their big-top shaped space ship to capture and kill humans. Sticking firmly with the circus theme, the clowns encase people in giant cocoons of cotton candy, drinking the blood of the people inside through swirly straws, and shoot people using guns that propel popcorn.
Firmly rooted in the 80s, the movie holds up extremely well today, and has some great performances, including John Vernon (Animal House, Dirty Harry) as police chief Mooney. An old-timey, curmudgeonly sort of bastard who hates the town’s punk teenagers, and thinks even young deputy Dave (John Allen Nelson) is a two-bit hotshot.
Dave is roped into the action when his ex-girlfriend Debbie (Suzanne Snyder, Weird Science) and her new boyfriend Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer, Santa Claws) claim they were chased by the Killer Klowns after finding their spaceship crash landed in a field. Dave is immediately incredulous of the situation, but as the night wears on, and more weird things start happening, even Dave begins to believe that these Killer Klowns really are from Outer Space.
Filled with plenty of great one-liners and comedy, the film plays up plenty of horror at points as well. A scene with a recently killed Mooney being used as a hand puppet by a Klown is especially dark, especially as he pulls his oversized, gloved hand out of his back, and shakes off a heavy amount of blood. The Klowns themselves look phenomenal, and in a current cinematic universe populated by CGI, they still look incredible today in their practicality and their animatronics. The faces may be fake, but the motion controls are incredible, and having a real person inside the suit will always make the difference over a computer generated character.
If by some chance you haven’t seen Killer Klowns From Outer Space at this point in time, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. The movie has become a cult classic and is a true staple in most horror fans’ collection. Watch it with some friends on your next movie night, but don’t forget the sprinkles and the cherries, because In Space, No One Can Eat Ice Cream.