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March 4, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #9 - Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Despite the fact I grew up watching the now nonexistent Clownhouse on a weekly basis, my first experience with Killer Klowns from Outer Space occurred on Christmas Eve 2001. I received the DVD as a gift from my father that night, making it one of the first few horror films to land in my collection, and assumed a love affair was about to begin. Unfortunately, it didn't work out right away. The movie surely entertained me, but the goofy actors and the PG-13 status of the flick rubbed me the wrong way. When looking up info for this review on IMDB, I even found that I had scored the movie 2 stars out of 10 back then. Luckily, it turns out my younger self was kind of an idiot.

Over the years I've looked back at that Midnite Movies DVD from MGM repeatedly, and each time I have more fun with the film. And when Rhonny Reaper from Dollar Bin Horror recommended it as a potential Midnight Movie of the Week during my recent contest, I needed no other excuse to give that beloved disc another spin. Now that I'm a little wiser and a lot more cinematically open-minded, I recognize that Killer Klowns from Outer Space is essentially a remake of The Blob, without a blob. (Which is kinda what Rob Zombie proposed, only he's a foolish director.)
The story, if you really can't guess, follows a few teens (aged 26-29) who see an object fall from the sky and assume it's something worth finding. Of course, a farmer who probably didn't have much schooling and his dog (played by veteran character actor Royal Dano and a dog) stumble upon the crash site first, and are quickly spun into cotton candy by intergalactic circus folk. It's kinda like that play about racism called Spinning Into Butter, only with cotton candy and klowns instead of butter and racism. (Oh, and with an entirely different plot.)

From there on the Blob formula continues, as the unteen-teens find the site and discover the evil on the loose and try to get help from cops that are either old and obtuse or young and helpful. As they get involved in their youthful game of "Can We Trust Those Rascal Teens?", the Klowns run around town disposing of people in random hilarious ways. Most memorable are the "biker gang boxing" scene and the "hand puppets of death" scene, but my personal favorite is the "see-through lingerie babe unimpressed by pizza delivery" scene. And there are also some creepy moments for clownophobes, particularly a great scene with a little girl in a burger joint who may be convinced to come play with a klown she thinks is a clown.If you're wondering what the difference between klowns and clowns is, I think it's that klowns a) come from outer space in a meteor/circus tent; b) are kinda bulbous, looking more like the lovechild of Charles Barkley and Jabba the Hut than any normal clown; and c) aren't so creepy as clowns are.

Aside from the klowns' kooky kills, the highlight of Killer Klowns from Outer Space is John "Dean Wormer" Vernon, of Animal House and "Double Secret Probation" fame, as the consistently irritated Officer Mooney, who has a Dirty Harry attitude that's only matched by his inability to consider anything said by people younger than 30 (or maybe 40 in real years) as less than complete lunacy. It's a great "those damn kids!" role for any actor, but Vernon really hams it up wonderfully. (Especially considering the fact no one else in the movie could act their way out of an episode of The Facts of Life.)
Like I recognized years ago, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a movie that's no cinematic treasure from a technical standpoint. But with everything from the practical effects to the silly plot to the awesome musical score, it's clear that the Chiodo Brothers had a ton of fun making this movie. Looking back, I know now that if a filmmaker can succeed at having fun and at the same time produce something as memorable and goofy as Killer Klowns from Outer Space, that's a film I'm gonna keep coming back to, and that's a movie that should be a Midnight Movie of the Week.

(One last thing: Next time you watch this one, try to figure out how long Debbie spends in the shower. I'm thinking it's at least three hours.)
HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Jeremy [Retro] said...


R.D. Penning said...

Man, I love this movie! I remember when I got it was in a double pack with the newer Ryan Reynolds Amityville Horror. It was just by chance.

deadlydolls said...

Your review had me chuckling quite hard, and this is one of my all-time favorites. It's goofy, but it totally gets that from the get-go and gives you exactly what you want in a film about killer alien clowns. Your description of what makes a klown a klown (and not a clown) was also golden.

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