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KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, Royal Dano, John Vernon
Director:  Stephen Chiodo
Audio:  Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  MGM
Features:  See Review
Length:  86 Minutes
Release Date:  August 28, 2001

“Why are they here?  Where did they come from?…Why clowns??”

Film ***1/2 (on the cheese scale)

Low budget horror movies are my secret weakness, and my love for Killer Klowns From Outer Space is probably proof positive that I need serious help.

When I was working at my first job at a local dollar theatre, Klowns actually made its debut there, bypassing all the full price houses and going straight for the bargain showings.  In between seatings, I would sneak into the auditorium and sneak peeks at what had to be one of the most gleefully absurd movies I had, or would ever, encounter.

It plays like a typical late 50’s sci-fi film.  Teenage couple explores strange falling star.  Old man gets to it first, and becomes the first victim of the alien terror.  Teenagers try to make the authorities believe them.  Eventually, the police come around, but of course, not until after much damage has already been done.

The touches that make this picture unique?  Well, the spacecraft resembles a gigantic circus tent, for one.  And, of course, the aliens are Killer Klowns.  Using an array of typical clown tricks as their dastardly weaponry, they are going on a hunt through a quiet little town, killing people left and right and preserving their bodies in giant cotton candy cocoons.

The fact that the Klowns use balloon animals, popcorn shooters, and even shadow puppets as weapons of death is perhaps the film’s most ingenious and twisted offering.  The special effects and art design are actually quite good for such a low budget film.  And the Klowns have to be one of cheesy science fiction’s greatest creations:  big, ugly, and grotesque, with wide grinning mouths, sharp teeth, and devilish eyes.

I’ve come to learn over the years that a lot of kids apparently have hang-ups about clowns.  Their bizarre costumes and obtuse make-up can be quite startling to young minds, I suppose.  As it turns out, director Stephen Chiodo came up with the image of a clown as being the scariest vision he could think of amongst things you could encounter on a dark road at night.  And that’s how movie history is sometimes born.

The acting is mediocre, to be sure, but good performances would actually be unwarranted.  In fact, they’d probably go a long way to breaking the terrifically fun spell this film casts.  The script is mostly an excuse to give the Klowns bigger and better and funnier ways of dispatching hapless victims (two instant classics:  the pizza delivery and the “knock my block off” sequences).  It’s no wonder this film has earned a cult following over the years.  It deserves one more than most.

So sit back, relax, and watch maniacal Klowns do their worst for an hour and a half.  It’s good, sick fun, and it might have you thinking twice about that next trip to the circus!

Video ***1/2

Klown fans, rejoice…MGM has done a magnificent job with this anamorphic widescreen transfer.  This is a very colorful movie, and those colors are a joy to behold on DVD.  The entire range of the spectrum is here, and every color is rendered beautifully and brightly, with excellent containment.  Images are sharp and clear throughout, with excellent levels of detail.  One or two of the very darkest scenes show a slight bit of softness and less definition; these are fleeting and not distracting.  Most dark scenes come across just as well as the lighter ones, with deep blacks and no annoying grain to break up the composition.  A decidedly terrific effort!

Audio ***

For a simple 2 channel surround mix, this movie offers more signal to the rear stage than most.  There are effects, reverberations, and bits of music that play at a near-continuous level from behind, with good solid panning from front to back and from side to side.  The score gets some touches of distortion here and there…it’s terrific music, but sounds like it was all composed on some inexpensive department store keyboard (which actually adds to the charm).  Still, it’s a very good mix…fans will be quite happy.

Features ****

There are five, count ‘em, five featurettes included on this DVD.  One is an interview with the Chiodo Brothers on the making of the film, one on the score composition, one on the visual effects, one behind the scenes footage compilation, and one on the brothers’ earliest films.  There are also some outtakes, two deleted scenes with optional commentary, a photo gallery, a storyboard gallery, and an original trailer.  There is also a full length running commentary by the Chiodo Brothers as well…absolutely Killer!

Summary:

Killer Klowns From Outer Space is one of the all-time great B movies, which is exactly what it strived to be.  Bizarre, colorful, fiendishly funny and devilishly creepy, these Klowns and this DVD will make great additions to your home library.