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There have been times when folks have wrote me to complain about my ranking for this movie or that. These are common topics of conversation, of course. Someone thinks I either rated a movie too low or too high. The ones that really get peeved with me though, are the ones who compare my reviews of two distinctly different movies. How can I possibly give 3 Shriek Girls to movie "X" and then give 3 Shriek Girls to movie "Y" when one is a serious cinematic effort and the other is schlock?
My answer: Because schlock can be fun, and when it is, it deserves to be recognized.
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE is a case in point. Let him who hath understanding recognize this movie by its very name KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE.
This will not be say, ALIEN - though the tag line reads "In Space No One Can Eat Ice Cream".
This tale of alien beings taking over a small town and all of its inhabitants is also not on the same scale as INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
And while there are some who would cringe because I start a new paragraph with a conjunction, even they would have to admit that this low budget effort derives its humor, not from being another tired satire of cheap cinema hack material, but from the very source of its title.
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE is supposed to be goofy, silly, moronic, and above all, corny - So very corny - Popcorny in fact. To be even more precise, popcorn plays a very sinister role in this flick. And so does cotton candy for that matter. And silly straws, let us not forget silly straws, they too are demonized in this pic. And of course, these clowns could hardly be considered dangerous without a bevy of cream pie weapons.
There is moderate sex in this movie, of a sort. If you like sex in a hot tub, you might be interested in sex with alien, pneumatic, female clowns who sit by the side of a hot tub full of brightly colored plastic balls.
In short, these are clowns and highly dangerous ones. There are scenes of complete goofiness as well as those of carnage. There is bloodsucking, child endangerment, beheadings and fists that punch through bodies. One chilling scene in particular is the "puppet scene".
The movie starts off with some local yokels getting their groove on at the nearby make-out point, Top Of The World. They are all old enough to have their own apartment and even a few rug rats running around. But hey, when you have a make-out place near town, why waste it on the teenagers? So here they are, making kissy-face, when an ice cream truck comes roaring up with two idiots so inane that you can't wait to see them die. The ice cream vendors disrupt everyone's evening and get pelted for their antics. They leave and a bright shooting star flies past.
In one car, a girl (Debbie Stone played by Suzanne Snyder: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II, RETRIBUTION), bored with her new lover's technique, insists then begs to change the subject by going to see where the falling star crashed. Believing himself to be a master make-out artist, if only his girlfriend would pay attention, the guy (Mike Tobacco played by Grant Cramer: NEW YEAR'S EVIL, FATHER'S DAY, SAVE ME, AUNTIE LEE'S MEAT PIES, RAPTOR) resists until her whining overpowers him.
Tromping alone through the forest at night (always a good idea!), they come across a brightly lit Big Top tent in the middle of nowhere. It makes no sense, especially as how the tent isn't even made from fabric, but some kind of tough metal. The girl has sated her curiosity and then some: her female intuition telling her that having sex with a dullard is better than investigating weird, out of the way, circuses.
Too late! Her boyfriend's libido has been drop-kicked by his childish curiosity and he tells her that either she can go with him inside the "tent", or she can stay outside all alone! So they go inside the tent and Merry Mishaps occur.
Though KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE is really just a one joke movie, there are an awful lot of punch lines to be found in the pantheon of American circuses and buffoonery in general. Veteran character actor John Vernon* (1984 , TOPAZ, THE QUESTOR TAPES [TV], THE BLACK WINDMILL, THE UNCANNY, BLUE MONKEY) does a turn as officer Curtis Mulrooney, a man who pretends to be brave, but is actually obsessed with the idea that the whole world is laughing at him behind his back. So much so, that when the town is terrorized by the aliens, Mulroony refuses to leave the police station. He sits at his desk, arms folded across his chest as the emergency phones ring off the hook. His pretense at being a "no-nonsense" guy only serves to reveal that he's paralyzed by his fear that the entire town is in on an elaborate hoax to make him look like a fool.
Crazy cars, brightly colored little bikes, balloons, even pizza delivery gets pasted in this flick. But though the filmmakers, the Chiodo Brothers (a Circus name if I ever heard one) could have easily made a slapstick movie that served up a slice of social commentary, they don't. They simply wanted to make a movie about KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE: no ups and no extras.
Where this movie really succeeds are in its clowns. These are not people made up in greasepaint, but rubber appliance puppet heads on human bodies. The clown heads are in all shapes and sizes too grotesque for a human being. These clowns are all caricatures of humanity, which only further serves the plot of the film. These aliens are cartoonish in appearance and utterly evil in behavior. They want to make you laugh: they want to make you happy and unafraid; and once you are, they want to terrify the living hell out of you. Then they want to kill you and drink your blood. They are also vampires.
What's most amazing about this movie is the bizarre balance between stupidity and brilliance. The dialogue is corny enough to make you gag, and yet the inventiveness, the never ending string of alien clown behavior, the revelation of their whole society and operation, is amazing. There is no trope of Circus Clown act, prop, or skit that isn't turned on its head and revealed as evil intent. The Chiodo Brothers, who directed, wrote, and seemingly did almost everything behind the scenes of this film, really know the history of American Clowns.
The effects are great, the acting mediocre, and the dialogue half-assed. That's why it works. You couldn't make a movie like this having everyone play it straight a la "Airplane" (without being accused of ripping off that form of humor), and it would be despicable to have the actors mugging and being goofy ass in front of the cameras. The wackiness of killer clown aliens need a straight line to play off of, and that straight line has to be cheesy. Fear not gentle viewer, the story carries it through and saves the day.
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE gets three Shriek Girls.
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