Aliens who look like clowns arrive on Earth in their circus tent spaceship and start to feast on the population of a small town, forcing a group of teenagers and their cop friend to save the day.
Give this one a chance, please. Apparently the studio gave it the green light purely on the title and I can't say I don't blame them. It's about a blatant a title as Snakes on a Plane so you know what you're going to get. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is one of the best b-movies of all time and a definitive cult classic along the lines of The Evil Dead and Plan 9 From Outer Space (although nowhere near as bad as Ed Wood's legendary disasterpiece).
It's clearly a labour of love from the Chiodo Brothers who directed, wrote, produced and contributed to the production design. I can't understand how these guys have never capitalised on the success of this film. Rarely has such a B-movie been so creative and vibrant. Even if you hate the film, you wouldn't begrudge admitting that the novelty value of the killer klowns has to be seen to be believed.
For such a low budget film, I can't believe how well the Chiodo Brothers pulled it off. It's such a simple idea - a throwback to the 50s sci-fi invasion films where aliens land in a small town. It's got a very The Blob vibe to it with the cast being mainly teenagers, no one believing them until it's too late, the small American town setting, etc. But that's where the comparisons end and the imagination begins. Normal circus-related activities have been twisted around here to turn them into deadly devices. You've got popcorn that turns into miniature clown heads. You've got cotton candy which is actually the liquefied bodies of human victims. Balloon animals come to life. Cream pies are actually acid-based which melt whatever they hit upon impact. Punch and Judy shows take a sinister turn. Shadow puppets become just more that shadows. The list goes on. I would have loved to have been there when the Chiodo Brothers were brainstorming everything to do with the circus and seeing how they could twist it to their own nefarious needs.
The klowns are the best part of the film. They look extremely scary and very sinister. A lot of people have a deep-rooted fear of clowns (something I can't really understand) and this film is certainly not going to change that perception. They are all huge individuals who tower over most of the cast to add to their physical presence. Their badly-painted faces covering up something not-human underneath with each clown having a really nasty set of teeth. The set design of the spaceship is great too. Using what they could with their limited budget, the Chiodo Brothers use every colourful, carnival-like thing they could get their hands on. The sets may look a little garish but it fits in perfectly with the clown theme. After all, how many clowns or circus tents do you see that a plain metallic colour or simply a shade of grey?
The plot is more or less second best here - we know the klowns are here for some nasty reason so it's best to get the film kicking into first gear as soon as possible. And that it does. It has a decent pace and it's never boring - the only scenes that tend to drag are the "comedy" scenes with the annoying Terenzi Brothers. They are here to provide comedy which doesn't work. The rest of the cast aren't going to win any awards with the exception of veteran actor John Vernon who does his "bad ass, hates all teenagers" police officer character to a tee.
If the film does have a weakness, apart from the not-so-serious tone, is that it gets slightly repetitive during the middle third. All you get are the main cast members trying to convince people that there are killer klowns running around in between scenes of the klowns turning people into cotton candy in various ways. There aren't too many serious scares either so your fear factor from this film will be dependent on whether you just laugh at clowns or run away from them as fast as you can. There's also a kick-ass, suitably 80s theme song from punk band The Dickies which adds to the circus element (listen to a famous circus theme be torn apart with some killer guitar riffs).
Killer Klowns from Outer Space has achieved cult status over the world and rightly so. It's really enjoyable to watch, highly imaginative, quite funny at times and showcases some of the best clown make-up you're ever going to see. It's a totally unique film which is exactly what B-movies should be all about.