Killer Klowns From Outer Space


1h 28m 1988
Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Brief Synopsis

Aliens resembling circus clowns invade a small town.

Film Details

Also Known As
Killer Klowns, clowns tueurs venus d'ailleurs
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Horror
Sci-Fi
Release Date
1988
Production Company
Completion Bond Company Inc; Fantasy Ii Film Effects Inc
Location
Santa Cruz, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m

Synopsis

Some kids are terrified of clowns, and with good reason. The new big top set up in the center of town is really a spaceship, and those clowns are really spacemen plotting to take over the Earth.

Film Details

Also Known As
Killer Klowns, clowns tueurs venus d'ailleurs
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Horror
Sci-Fi
Release Date
1988
Production Company
Completion Bond Company Inc; Fantasy Ii Film Effects Inc
Location
Santa Cruz, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m

Articles

Killer Klowns from Outer Space


The terrain of horror films is filled with cult classics by one-shot directors who inexplicably never made another feature: Carnival of Souls (1962) by Herk Harvey; The Flesh Eaters (1964) by Jack Curtis; The Honeymoon Killers (1970) by Leonard Kastle; Street Trash (1987) by Jim Muro. Easily worthy of inclusion in that list is Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), the sole feature directed by the Bronx-born Chiodo Brothers. Much loved among devotees of practical effects in film, the brothers - Charles, Stephen and Edward - had established themselves with inventive creatures and animatronics for Critters (1986) and collaborations with Tim Burton including Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), his "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" episode of Faerie Tale Theatre and the very rare Burton-helmed Disney Channel adaptation of Hansel and Gretel (1983).

Though the demand for their handiwork had made them favorites among '80s monster movie fans (and continued with films like Team America: World Police [2004]), the brothers were also aspiring filmmakers in their own right. From early Super 8 projects shot in their basement to more ambitious shorts made in college, they turned out a number of charming lo-fi amateur projections with titles like "Beast from the Egg," "Land of Terror" and "Free Inside." Stephen's jump to directing with Killer Klowns from Outer Space was met with anticipation among readers of horror and sci-fi magazines at the time with tantalizing photos promising an extravaganza of inventive visual effects, and indeed that's exactly what the film delivered. However, this film about aliens who resemble clowns terrorizing a small town, had the misfortune of being released just as the theatrical market for indie horror was drying up at a rapid pace; furthermore, distributor Trans World Entertainment had a much stronger toehold in the home video market than the theatrical one (as well as the world of retail chain stores in which it still remains active), with its most popular cult titles like this one and Teen Witch (1989) finding most of their initial audience via TV airings and VHS rentals.

First scripted as simply Killer Klowns (with the title expanded to prevent viewers from thinking it was a slasher film, according to the brothers' DVD audio commentary), the film is an unabashed love letter to the golden age of drive-in creature features, complete with an opening sequence that clearly evokes The Blob (1958) right down to the colorful old timer played by Royal Dano and the innocent young witnesses played by Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) and the amusingly named Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer), seen earlier as the star of Hardbodies (1984). Shot for a very low budget, the film nevertheless features an ambitious number of characters and malevolent scenarios featuring clown. Though it doesn't have any major star power, it sports some familiar character actors like Dano and John Vernon, offering a cranky cop variation on his most famous role as Dean Wormer in Animal House (1978).

Some other odd names turn up in other capacities as well, some uncredited; for example, the flower-squirting gag on Vernon was performed by Brett Leonard, future director of The Lawnmower Man (1992), while the sound design of the klowns themselves was executed by Chuck Cirino, a regular composer for Jim Wynorski on such films as Chopping Mall (1986) and Transylvania Twist (1989).

However, that wasn't the extent of Cirino's involvement; he also directed the music video for this film's much-loved theme song, "Killer Klowns," performed by punk band The Dickies. The video, which features exclusive footage of the klowns in action, was originally appended to the end of the film for its first VHS release, though it has never been included on any home video release since then. The decades since the film's release have seen the rise of a major online fan base, multiple video reissues, an orchestral rearrangement of the electronic score by John Massari, and frequent rumors of a feature film sequel, trilogy, and/or television series. Whether the killer klowns do indeed stomp across the screen again remains to be seen, but the original film shows no signs of disappearing from the pop culture landscape anytime soon.

By Nathaniel Thompson
Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

The terrain of horror films is filled with cult classics by one-shot directors who inexplicably never made another feature: Carnival of Souls (1962) by Herk Harvey; The Flesh Eaters (1964) by Jack Curtis; The Honeymoon Killers (1970) by Leonard Kastle; Street Trash (1987) by Jim Muro. Easily worthy of inclusion in that list is Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), the sole feature directed by the Bronx-born Chiodo Brothers. Much loved among devotees of practical effects in film, the brothers - Charles, Stephen and Edward - had established themselves with inventive creatures and animatronics for Critters (1986) and collaborations with Tim Burton including Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), his "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" episode of Faerie Tale Theatre and the very rare Burton-helmed Disney Channel adaptation of Hansel and Gretel (1983). Though the demand for their handiwork had made them favorites among '80s monster movie fans (and continued with films like Team America: World Police [2004]), the brothers were also aspiring filmmakers in their own right. From early Super 8 projects shot in their basement to more ambitious shorts made in college, they turned out a number of charming lo-fi amateur projections with titles like "Beast from the Egg," "Land of Terror" and "Free Inside." Stephen's jump to directing with Killer Klowns from Outer Space was met with anticipation among readers of horror and sci-fi magazines at the time with tantalizing photos promising an extravaganza of inventive visual effects, and indeed that's exactly what the film delivered. However, this film about aliens who resemble clowns terrorizing a small town, had the misfortune of being released just as the theatrical market for indie horror was drying up at a rapid pace; furthermore, distributor Trans World Entertainment had a much stronger toehold in the home video market than the theatrical one (as well as the world of retail chain stores in which it still remains active), with its most popular cult titles like this one and Teen Witch (1989) finding most of their initial audience via TV airings and VHS rentals. First scripted as simply Killer Klowns (with the title expanded to prevent viewers from thinking it was a slasher film, according to the brothers' DVD audio commentary), the film is an unabashed love letter to the golden age of drive-in creature features, complete with an opening sequence that clearly evokes The Blob (1958) right down to the colorful old timer played by Royal Dano and the innocent young witnesses played by Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) and the amusingly named Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer), seen earlier as the star of Hardbodies (1984). Shot for a very low budget, the film nevertheless features an ambitious number of characters and malevolent scenarios featuring clown. Though it doesn't have any major star power, it sports some familiar character actors like Dano and John Vernon, offering a cranky cop variation on his most famous role as Dean Wormer in Animal House (1978). Some other odd names turn up in other capacities as well, some uncredited; for example, the flower-squirting gag on Vernon was performed by Brett Leonard, future director of The Lawnmower Man (1992), while the sound design of the klowns themselves was executed by Chuck Cirino, a regular composer for Jim Wynorski on such films as Chopping Mall (1986) and Transylvania Twist (1989). However, that wasn't the extent of Cirino's involvement; he also directed the music video for this film's much-loved theme song, "Killer Klowns," performed by punk band The Dickies. The video, which features exclusive footage of the klowns in action, was originally appended to the end of the film for its first VHS release, though it has never been included on any home video release since then. The decades since the film's release have seen the rise of a major online fan base, multiple video reissues, an orchestral rearrangement of the electronic score by John Massari, and frequent rumors of a feature film sequel, trilogy, and/or television series. Whether the killer klowns do indeed stomp across the screen again remains to be seen, but the original film shows no signs of disappearing from the pop culture landscape anytime soon. By Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 3, 1988

Began shooting February 25, 1987.

Released in United States Summer June 3, 1988