Tag Clowns

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

In Space No One Can Eat Ice Cream!

Mike and Debbie, a pair of young lovers, decide to follow a shooting star that has landed outside of their hometown and they discover a mysterious circus tent in the middle of the woods. Exploring inside, they find dead people hanging in what looks like candy floss cocoons and sinister clown-looking aliens walking around.  Rushing in to town to alert the local police, they are frustrated when no one believes them and thinks it’s a prank. They don’t realise that the clowns have followed them into town.

 

An affectionate throwback to the 50s sci-fi flicks of the past that used to be shown in drive-ins (The Blob immediately springs to mind), Killer Klowns from Outer Space has garnered one of the biggest cult followings known. And there’s a good reason for that. For all its silliness and ridiculousness, it’s one of the most creative horror-comedies to come out of the 80s and certainly something that you’ll not likely to see replicated any time soon. This is a film which does anything and everything it can to live up to the promise of its title, a true labour of love from its directing team.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is the perfect example of a film which exists solely based on its central idea. Everything you can associate with clowns and the circus is brought to life and twisted into all manner of horrific forms – balloon animals come to life, pieces of popcorn are eggs for clown-headed snake monsters, cream pies are laced with acid, Punch and Judy shows take on sinister new meanings, giant shadow puppets eat spectators and the clowns make human ventriloquist dummies. It’s a film full of wacky and kooky ideas and your enjoyment of the film will depend on whether you can suspend your disbelief for a while and enjoy the sheer creativity on display. The film doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to delivering on the absurd premise – these are aliens that just so happen to look like clowns after all. But for each of the bad taste kills, there is a nightmarish quality that lies under the surface once we find out just why the aliens have landed on Earth.

The plot is structured exactly the same way as those 50s sci-fi films, where the young heroes discover a threat, try to warn the adults, are ignored and then have to save the day when the threat comes to town. Of course, the audience are in on the act from the start as we see exactly what Mike and Debbie have uncovered but the dramatic irony is that no one else believes them for the stupidity of the story they appear to be concocting. Killer Klowns From Outer Space is extremely pacey and the klowns are on the screen right from the early going – no slow reveals here. The narrative can sometimes be too dependent on the loose collection of kill scenes and klown set pieces strung together, but it doesn’t really need to be doing anything overly dramatic. Simplicity is the key here.

The Chiodo Brothers were known for their effects work so it’s no surprise to see that the film’s strengths lie in the production values, the sets, the make-up and, of course, the special effects. With a low budget, the Chiodos know how to get maximum mileage from the tools at their disposal. Apart from some obvious miniature and composition work during the finale with Klownzilla, the special effects generally hold up. The ray guns that turn people into the cocoons are a simple effect and the spaceship itself looks decent as it takes off. The sets are colourful and wacky, like you’d get in some Halloween haunted house attraction, and really add to the aesthetics. Literally everything you seen on the screen to do with the klowns has been designed to perfection. It’s attention to detail on a grand scale.

But the undoubted stars of the show are the ‘klowns’ themselves. Believe me, if you ever had Coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) then you’ll want to stay well clear of this one as these creatures are terrifying. The demonic rubber masks give them human qualities, with just the right amount of Otherworldliness – you know these chaps aren’t local lads from Barnums! Generally tall and imposing, with huge red noses, sharp animalistic teeth and hairdos which must have taken ages to style properly, give the clowns a menacing physical presence despite the cartoonish appearance. The costumes look fantastic too and during the finale you really get to see just how many variations with both make-up and costumes they created for the film.

The cast isn’t particularly brilliant – both Grant Camer and Suzanne Snyder were hardly ever going to make it big after this but their relationship on-screen is good enough to pass muster. Likewise, for the annoying comic relief sidekicks Michael Siegel and Peter Licassi, though most of their irritability comes from the script trying to make them funny rather than anything they do personally. It’s veteran hand John Vernon who steals the show as grouchy Officer Mooney, the old-fashioned cop who believes in being sterner with the younger generation. Vernon gets to spout the infamous “You’ll never make a dummy out of me” line, oblivious to the fate that the klowns have planned for him.

Topping off the film is an excellent soundtrack from John Masssari, with plenty of calliope-style circus tunes suitably matching up what is happening on screen – the perfect combination of light-hearted fun and dark, brooding danger. There’s also a highly-catchy punk theme song by The Dickies, which bookends both sets of credits nicely. They just don’t make soundtracks like they used to!

 

In a genre filled with knock-offs, copy-cats and derivative rehashes, Killer Klowns From Outer Space is arguably the most unique and original comedy-horror ever made. The Chiodo Brothers had a wacky vision for a film and they saw it through to the very end with this fantastic amalgamation of ideas and practicality. Time has been extremely kind to this film and the whole production design still looks fantastic.

 

 ★★★★★★★★★★ 

 

 

Dead Clowns (2004)

Dead Clowns (2004)

Fifty years ago in Port Emmett, a bridge collapsed during a hurricane, plunging a train carrying a circus into the dark depths of the bay. Attempts to recover the train carriage carrying the clowns were unsuccessful and the hurricane simply washed silt and mud over it, making any future recovery attempts impossible. The people of the town decided to forget about it and leave the clowns in their burial ground in the bay. But now with another hurricane approaching, the clowns are back to extract their revenge upon the descendants of those who left them.

 

If there is one horror sub-genre that is totally underused, it is that of the killer clown. I mean you could probably count on one hand how many films there are with clowns that are evil and enjoy killing: Killer Klowns From Outer Space, The Clown At Midnight and IT all spring to mind (unfortunately so does Camp Blood). Clowns just look downright scary at the best of times. There is something about the big fake red mouths, the brightly coloured clothing and ridiculous hairstyles that go above sheer camp value to sheer terror. So many people are scared of clowns and they’ve been causing nightmares for centuries. So any new additions to this minor sub-genre are greatly appreciated, even if they aren’t particularly thrilling.

Dead Clowns doesn’t just star evil killer clowns, but evil killer ZOMBIE clowns that like to feast on their victims. The film doesn’t really have any particular cohesion to it: we’re introduced to a load of isolated characters that never meet and just stay in their respective houses. So there is no interaction between them and any form of character development is impossible because there’s no one to bounce off. It’s just like they filmed a bunch of scenes with one actor, then did the same with another actor else and so forth. There’s no individual character arc to last the whole film and the only major plot we get is the fact that there’s clowns killing people which leads to a disjointed and messy one hundred and eleven minutes. The film runs like this: we’re introduced to a character who is then killed off by a clown after a cat-and-mouse set piece. Carry on to next character and repeat.

Unfortunately the standard of acting isn’t great so a lot of these characters grate and annoy the viewer. With this low budget film, it looks like the director got his mates to come down for a few days of fun. B-grade scream queens Debbie Rochon and Brinke Stevens star to give the film some minor credibility: Stevens is killed off pretty quickly though and if memory serves me right, Rochon never actually speaks during the whole film (nor does she get naked to my utmost disgust, which she’s done before). At least there are some B-movie names to slap on the front cover to sell some more DVDs.

The stars of the film are the clowns themselves and whilst we never get an actual good look at one in proper light, what you can see of them is pretty cheap. The director keeps from showing us the clowns in their entirety, giving us glimpses of their feet whilst they walk or their hands whilst they try and smash down doors. It’s effective in this case because less is more and the clowns are more menacing when you can’t see much of them. To be fair they’re more so zombies than clowns and George A. Romero has featured zombified clowns in some of his zombie flicks so it’s nothing you won’t have seen before. And they look nothing like the clown on the front cover! Take a cheap fancy dress costume, make some minor alterations and that’s what you’ve got here. The use of traditional circus calliope music (you know, that sinister clown music) is one of the highlights of the film, usually played in the background to indicate that the clowns are on their way. It’s just a pity the clowns are such a let down and they don’t do an awful lot except shuffle around really slowly.

 

I’ve usually been harsh on these second rate horror films which look like they were made by a bunch of mates for a pint and a packet of crisps but surprisingly, Dead Clowns is alright in places. Steve Sessions manages to crank some atmosphere out of the whole thing and despite it looking really cheap at times, horror is one genre where true quality shines through no matter how tacky it looks. Give this guy a budget and let’s see what he can do.