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DVD Review: Killer Klowns From Outer Space

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I could not believe my eyes. "What the … is that a man on a bicycle?" I asked Steve Brown, UPS delivery associate and inter-dimensional adventurer.

He looked to where I was pointing to in the kaleidoscopic swirl of the 8th Dimension void. "Oh, him, that's Duke De Mondo. He spends alot of time here."

"I see. That explains much," I said, nodding my head.

"Yeah, I think that guy Olsen lives out this way, too. Well, we have some time to kill," said Steve Brown, jumping up from the driver's seat. "I've got the truck on auto-pilot. Anyone care for a Hot Toddy or Juniper Juice Surprise? My specialty, you know."

He pressed a small blue button and a fully stocked bar suddenly appeared.

"I say," I said, "these UPS hybrid trucks are wonderfully appurtenanced. I'll take a Hot Toddy, if you don't mind."

"Juniper Juice for me, please," said Glenor, in that annoyingly coyish high-pitched voice of hers. "What's the surprise?" she giggled with goo-goo eyes beaming squarely on our burly UPS driver.

"That's a surprise," he winked. "I love that pink sweater you're wearing. Is that cotton?" he asked.

"Angora," she giggled again.

"It really fits you like a glove," he said.

I really needed that Hot Toddy now. "What else do you have aboard this UPS truck," I asked, hoping to change the current path of conversation.

"Press that green button," directed Steve Brown, while juggling the glasses for Glenor's amusement. She is so easily amused.

I pressed it. A large plasma TV appeared out of nowhere, and a shelf of DVDs popped open. I rubbed my hands together with glee, then ran them lovingly across the numerous movie titles. No wait … could it be? Yes! A copy of Killer Klowns From Outer Space!

"Excellent choice," said Steve Brown. "I'll put on the Jiffy Pop."

Not quite sure what the Chiodo Brothers were thinking when they pitched this idea for a movie, but it does have its charm. How can you not like a story about aliens that happen to look like bizarro clowns, who decide to stop for a quick nosh while shooting around the galaxy. Of course, this being a horror kind of movie, that quick nosh involves turning just about everyone in the small town of Crescent Cove into a jumbo-sized cotton candy treat with a nice gooey center that can be sucked up through a crazy straw.

"Considering the low budget for the film, the art direction and production design is fairly imaginative," said Steve Brown.

"Yes," I agreed. "If only the acting were a bit more top-notch."

"Well, with veteran character actors like Royal Dano and John Vernon, the so-so acting may have stood out more," he noted.

"I loved him in Animal House," giggled Glenor.

"Vernon does play a nasty role well, doesn't he," said Steve Brown. "His Dean Wormer is downright wicked. Speaking of wicked, more surprise Glenor?"

"More please, why yes," she said. "Oof, I meant to say please more, yes," she giggled. "Darn, I meant to say…"

She actually hiccupped right on cue. I really needed that Hot Toddy now. I turned my attention once again to the DVD.

It opens with the town's younger set smooching along Lovers Lane. Quickly ruining the peace and quiet, the Stooge-like Terenzi Brothers (no relation to the Chiodo Brothers — I hope) show up in their rented ice cream truck, with speaker blaring, to sell ice cream to the over-heated smoochers. The bumbling but industrious duo are soon driven off by the annoyed Lovers Lane hopefuls. But before Mike and Debbie can get back to their smooching, a bright object shoots across the sky and noisily lands not too far away. In true '50s horror film fashion, our lovers are off to investigate. Of course this only happens in horror films. Given a choice of heavy petting or chasing down mysterious glowing objects in the woods, I think most typical teenagers would go for the former.

Killer KlownsWhile our atypical lovers head to the scene of impact, Farmer Green Gene (no, not Captain Kangaroo's buddy) and his dog Pooh, see the light and head out to investigate. He and his dog are the first ones to find the circus tent spaceship in the woods. There is a nice bit here with Royal Dano walking along the side of the tent and a killer Klown's shadow following him along. Circus fun and excitement soon turn to dread as he and his dog are captured and cotton-candyized.

Mike and Debbie discover the circus tent in the woods next, and decide to enter it. Again, your average person would probably think a circus tent plopped down in the middle of an isolated woodland setting would be rather odd; but then we wouldn't have much of a horror story, would we, if they just ran away? One interesting flub to watch for has Debbie's arm briefly disappearing behind the matte painting of the spaceship as they come upon it.

Another imaginative matte shot used as an homage to Forbidden Planet has Mike and Debbie enter a room reminiscent of the Krell's huge power cell chamber. As they explore the ship — and realize it is not part of Cirque du Soleil — the clever use of colorful, carnival and clown-like objects — such as red rubber balls used for door buttons — makes good thematic use of the limited production budget. Soon they're running for their lives, with two Klowns, and a balloon dog hunting them. They escape, but the whole kit and kaboodle of killer Klowns, armed with wacky but lethal weapons, head to town in search of late night snacks.

As Mike and Debbie try to convince incredulous officers Hanson and Mooney that a bunch of clown-looking aliens recently arrived in a circus tent spaceship are snackerizing the townsfolk, the clown-looking aliens are doing just that. A series of bizarre, Looney Tunes-inspired scenes includes a lethal Punch and Judy, such as the pizza delivery a la killer Klowns, clumsy Klowns knocking over shelves in pharmacy, and mini-Klown knocks block off of biker dude.

But three scenes stand out for true creative creepiness, and move this film squarely into horror-head territory. The first has a nasty-looking Klown enticing a young girl away from her mom, while she sits in the local burger joint. Behind his back he holds a very large, brightly colored mallet. His intentions are clear to us, but not to the innocent, fun-seeking youngster. This well-paced scene plays on a very interesting side point of the film: how the appearance of a clown can automatically trigger expectations of enjoyment for most of us, especially children.

The second involves a bus stop, a few tired adults waiting for the late-night bus, and a Klown that suddenly appears and does hand-shadows on the side of a building to their enjoyment. This stop-motion realized scene is humorous and surreal. The hand shadows are beyond fantastic, and border on the absurd, but still the enchanted audience lets their guard down and is soon captured in a delightfully horrific way.

Officer MooneyThe third has Officer Mooney playing ventriloquil dummy to one particularly tall and mischievous Klown. Even Officer Hanson, who is treated to this vent act after finding Klown footprints all over the jail, breaks a brief smile on seeing them, until he realizes the lethal gravity of the situation. The use of sound in this scene is also quite disgusting.

Pie Throwing Killer KlownsNow, "If you were a Klown, where would you hide? In the amusement park!" So off go our heroes to rescue Debbie, who winds up captured and trapped inside a really big beach ball. And if you have a bunch of killer Klowns with pies in their hands, who do you think should get hit with them? Why, Soupy Sales of course!

Unfortunately, according to the audio commentary, the budget did not allow him to be flown in for the shoot. Too bad. That would have been a funny and apropos scene indeed.

The zany Terenzi Brothers arrive in their ice cream truck and join Mike and Officer Hanson as they enter the funhouse spaceship. The brothers soon get separated from Mike and Hanson, and wind up with a pair of big-bazoomed female Klowns. Thankfully we cut to Mike and Hanson entering the cotton-candy room, where Debbie is imprisoned. Although they rescue her, they are soon discovered, and a chase ensues through the weird rooms of the spaceship. After finally making their way through a doorway with a seemingly limitless amount of doors to open, they are trapped and surrounded by the Klowns.

The Terenzi Brothers burst in with their ice cream truck — which happens to have a clown's head on top of it — and use the speaker to tell the Klowns to bug off. But as they retreat, another, bigger threat appears. A giant Klown descends from the ceiling and goes after the ice cream truck. When told to get out of the truck, the brothers respond by saying "we can't, it's rented!" The ice cream truck, with the dull-witted brothers inside, is picked up and tossed into a fiery explosion. The scene is shot using miniatures and forced perspective, and works very well.

Will our heroes escape? All I can say is … the extras are pretty good. Aside from an informative and entertaining audio commentary by the Chiodo Brothers, there are commentaries on the music, deleted scenes, bloopers, special effects, a trailer, and storyboard gallery.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space is an enjoyable film, and one that would do well with an effects-loaded remake or sequel.

"It's time for the descent," said Steve Brown, buckling himself back into the driver's seat. Glenor and I buckled ourselves in also, and prepared for The Descent.

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About ILoz Zoc

  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com kanrei

    Very original review. One of my favorite “I am so far from Sober” movies of all time. I have debated on the DVD for a while now, no more. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • http://zomboscloset.blogspot.com Iloz Zoc

    Thanks kanrei. I really think this film would be a smash if they could work out a sequel, or remake. It’s quirkly enough to make a solid Halloween-time movie.

    What’s really amazing is that they spent 7 grand on the popcorn gun. It actually fires popcorn. Hell, every kid should have one.

  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com kanrei

    I want one now! I gotta get this DVD. I have seen the movie tons of times, but all that trivia I do not know.

    I am not sure if a remake would be any good. Most of this movie’s charm is how cheap everything appears, how bad the acting was and that we saw it in the 80’s. I am not sure if today’s audience can relax enough to enjoy a dumb movie that takes itself seriously.
    We all still loves movies that are dumb and know it, but this one, like Rocky Horror, took itself serious as a horror movie first, and camp second.

  • http://zomboscloset.blogspot.com Iloz Zoc

    Yes,the 80s was a unique time for horror films. Your point about the audience relaxing enough is probably true. The DVD commentary is interesting because they fill in the background about the characters, including Mike Tobacco and the wacky T Brothers. Those brothers always dumbfounded me. The special effects talk, especially in regard to the budget, is great, too. I always love creative stretching of the dollar. Lord knows what happened with the popcorn gun, though. They sort of went crazy with that one.

  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com kanrei

    The 5th Element was the last true bad movie that pretended it wasn’t bad and it was great for it. Today, movies either let the audience know that they realize they are dumb or they take themselves too seriously. Gone are the days of having a good time watching a well done b-movie.

  • http://mondoproject.com/ Mat Brewster

    Another brilliant review. For reasons I can’t possibly fathom I’ve never seen this film. I simply must add it to my blockbuster queue post haste.

  • http://zomboscloset.blogspot.com Iloz Zoc

    Damn, I remember 5th Element. While watching it I thought, wtf!, but then went with it. I appreciate it more now.

    Mat, I suggest you stop—–clowning around and get this baby. Ahem.

  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com kanrei

    I walked out of 5th Element thinking the same thing. It wasn’t until the second time I saw it that I said “Oh, I get it!”
    I love bad movies when done well. I cannot tell you how many times I would sit down to watch MST3K and feel embarressed at the fact that I had actually seen the movie they were making fun of.

  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com kanrei

    Iloz,
    I hope you don’t mind, but I linked to your site. I am always looking for the real reviews on horror flix.

  • http://mondoproject.com/ Mat Brewster

    Ugh. That was super-ultra bad Iloz. I really don’t know why I haven’t seen this yet. Everytime it comes on TV I think I should watch the sucker. I’ve even picked it up a few times thinking I should buy it. I’ll blame my wife, I guess, who really despises my love for really bad horror flicks.

  • http://zomboscloset.blogspot.com Iloz Zoc

    When I watch a movie on MST3K that I grew up with, and thought it was super when a kid, yup, I get that feeling. But when you can make fun, and have fun with a film that’s bad, it’s great. There are some godawful films I’ve watched that were pure torture with no redeeming value whatsoever.

    Wow, thanks, I’m honored you want to link to my site. I must confess I started reading your Home for Wayward Lemmings posts after your first comment. The writing style is great. Political writing is tuff to do as it requires a deft touch between satire, humor and sarcasm. I’m going to add your link to my On Writing section. You won me with “I never knew Peace Talks had half-time shows either.” Go figure. And some people think Killer Klowns is bizarre.

  • http://zomboscloset.blogspot.com Iloz Zoc

    Mat, sorry, I couldn’t resist :)

  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com kanrei

    Iloz,
    Thank you so much. I find it the opposite. Political writing is so easy, but a good film review is near impossible.
    You are my new source for Horror news.

  • http://zomboscloset.blogspot.com Iloz Zoc

    Thanks Kanrei! I appreciate it.