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John’s Horror Corner: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), in-your-face goofy shenanigans veiled in murderous menace with fantastic creature effects!

February 10, 2020

MY CALL: What a joyously fun dose of 80s horror nostalgia with fantastic monster make-up. If you enjoy 80s horror, just go buy this already. MORE MOVIES LIKE Killer Klowns from Outer Space: For more evil clown movies, try All Hallows’ Eve (2013), Terrifier (2016), Stephen King’s It (19902017), and maaaybe even Stitches (2012), Scary or Die (2012) and Clown (2014).

The premise is all too familiar. Much as we enjoyed in Night of the Creeps (1986), The Blob (1988) and Critters (1986), aliens from outer space land on Earth and terrorize the citizens of a small town. Only these aliens look like twisted monstrous clowns and their spaceship resembles a circus tent. So now you know what kind of movie this is gonna’ be.

Among this movie’s strengths is its pacing. It wastes no time introducing our protagonists to the alien clowns and their elaborate spaceship. Glowing like a meteor entering our atmosphere, Mike (Grant Cramer; New Year’s Evil, Father’s Day) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder; Night of the Creeps, Return of the Living Dead Part II) see the flash of light across the night sky and, of course, go investigate to see whatever it was up close.

Among the cast, the crotchety Officer Mooney (John Vernon; Curtains, Blue Monkey, The Uncanny) acts as a secondary antagonist, balanced by the more proactive Officer Dave (John Allen Nelson; Deathstalker III, Feast III).

Director Stephen Chiodo had decent experience in special effects (Critters 1-4), and I thought Killer Klowns was an absolute blast that holds up well. But somehow he only ever directed this one feature film. Which shocks me, as this movie is visually ambitious and loads of fun. The spaceship boasts grand, colorful and creative sets thematically meshing Sci-Fi and circus motifs.

And much in the way Gremlins (1984), Critters (1986) or Hellraiser (1987) gave each of their monsters a slightly different look and personality, so does Killer Klowns. But being that these are larger creature effects than rubber monsters or hand-puppets, I find the artistic endeavor much more ambitious here. Even if the action is hokey (and often deliberately so), the special effects are great! These clowns are grinningly silly demonic fiends with pretty impressive latex work. Much nuance went into the Klowns’ faces and hair to make them unique, and their eyes and mouths are awesomely realistic—the teeth especially.

The clown themes are thorough. They shoot popcorn rifles, throw acidic pies (in the now-melting face) and craft balloon animal tracking dogs. They encase victims’ bodies in cotton candy cocoons and drink their sweetened blood with super curly straws. They perform shadow puppets and eat people with them (yes, with the actual shadow puppet).

And their popcorn turns into little monstrous clown worms (like Deadly Spawn). Following trends set by Ghoulies II (1988) and The Gate (1987), there’s even a particularly large “boss” clown that’s meaner and more beastly than the others.

The tone of the entire movie is on the verge of slapstick. So much of the clowns’ victim-foraging antics come off as just in-your-face goofy shenanigans veiled in murderous menace. And you know what? It’s great!

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