Stephen Chiodo’s horror spoof Killer Klowns from Outer Space offers a sprinkling of chuckles amid its fairly witty motif of aliens using the clown oeuvre as a means of taking over the Earth. But the acting is so poor and the production so erratic that some of the fun is dissipated by its very cheapness and amateurishness. The film might also have been improved with some genuine scare moments, too, but the few times that’s tried are lame and unimpressive.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (Blu-ray)
Directed by Stephen Chiodo
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 86 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo; Dolby Digital 1.0 French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 16.99
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Review Date: September 22, 2012
Mike (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) are in the middle of a make-out session when they notice what appears to be a comet streaking through the sky and coming to Earth in a nearby field. Upon investigating, they discover a group of aliens dressed as maniacal clowns who are zapping earthlings into cotton candy cocoons and rubber balls and loading them inside their ship shaped like a circus tent. Most of the poeple in the small town don’t believe their wild story, and only their friend police officer Dave Hanson (John Allen Nelson) is willing to even investigate their claims. Once he does, the “klowns” are well on their way to immobilizing the entire town, and it’s up to the three friends to find a way of saving the planet.
The script by brothers Charles and Stephen Chiodo features almost all inane dialogue punctuated with characters calling each other by their names repeatedly, so any time someone is talking, the film is close to unbearable. Where it excels, of course, is in its clever use of the clown idiom to mask all of the evil these aliens are up to. Their vehicles, clothes, and props are familiar trappings that circus clowns might utilize; their guns blast deadly popcorn or clownish but lethal cotton candy rays; they pile out of a tiny car in vast numbers just like their Ringling Bros. counterparts only with malice on their minds, they do shadow figures on a wall that have a life of their own, and their victims are eclectic from children to adults, from rough bikers to pillars of the community. In one memorable instant, a clown sculpts a balloon animal that serves as its bloodhound to hunt down their victims. The interior of the circus tent/spaceship has some interesting décor (some of it very impressive with nods to Forbidden Planet while other parts look straight out of the Fisher-Price catalog), and the special effects are a mixture of classy and cheesy in about equal amounts. Director Stephen Chiodo doesn’t seem to know much about pacing as the 86-minute feature seems much longer than that with the gags not sustained well but rather with looming gaps between the effective ones. And the few horror moments (the lethal popcorn morphing into something deadly while Debbie takes a shower) miss the real fright that might have made the movie work as a horror movie as much as a comedy.
The movie might have been improved with better acting, but the three leads, especially Suzanne Snyder’s Debbie, are striking looking but synthetic and lackluster, not instilling much rooting interest for them from the audience. Veterans John Vernon (as a snotty local cop) and Royal Dano (as a local farmer who serves as the klown’s first victim) are allowed to overact rather shamefully. Michael Siegel and Peter Licassi as a pair of knuckleheaded brothers using their ice cream truck to lure women have the air-headed ditz stuff down to a science even if their ultimate fate is appallingly ridiculous.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully captured in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is the most inconsistent quality of this presentation with much of the movie looking sharp and impressive but with occasional scenes which look like upconverted standard definition. Colors are bold and wonderfully controlled even if flesh tones vary a bit throughout from slightly pinkish to overly rosy. Black levels are good but certainly not all they could have been. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix seems to have occasional phasing problems. Apart from that, there is bold use of music and sound effects which never overpower the dialogue. It has been nicely and accurately recorded.
The audio commentary is provided by brothers Stephen, Charles, and Edward Chiodo. The track was recorded fourteen years after the film opened, so they’re proud of time turning their little film into a cult classic. Truth to tell, all of interesting things that they have to say are also a part of the numerous featurettes which are a part of this package. If you want to save yourself some time, watch those instead of listening to this which is fairly hit and miss.
All of the video material is shown in 480i.
“The Making of Killer Klowns” is a 21 ¾-minute sit down with the three Chiodo brothers discussing various aspects of the production. There is ample behind-the-scenes footage shown including the original opening, the rigging of the car stunt, the tornado-appearing death effect, the balloon effect, and outtakes with the dog being used in the Royal Dano scenes.
“Komposing Klowns” introduces us to composer John Massari who discusses how he originally got the job and notes the various equipment he used to create the music and music effects used in the movie. This runs 13 ¼ minutes.
“Visual Effects” is discussed by writer-producer Charles Chiodo and Gene Warren (head of Fantasy II Film Effects) as they enumerate using raw footage the matte paintings, the stop motion, rear projection, and optical effects created for the movie. This runs 14 ¾ minutes.
“Creating Klowns” is a 12 ¾-minute featurette with Charles Chiodo discussing the props and vehicles used in the production, assisted by Dwight Roberts who discusses mechanical objects and creature building that he supervised.
“Chiode Brothers Earliest Films” shows some fun stop motion animation films the brothers worked on for years using their 8mm camera, their neighborhood, and their imaginations. This montage of two brief films runs 7 ¼ minutes.
There are two deleted scenes which can be viewed with or without Chiode brothers’ commentary. Each runs 2 ¼ minutes.
The blooper reel runs 2 ¾ minutes.
“Klown Auditions” shows some behind-the-scenes rehearsals with various actors practicing klown walks, reactions, and arm movements. It runs 4 minutes.
“Holy Smoke!” is a ½ minute shot of actor John Vernon speaking this line used in TV airings of the film rather than the expletive that is used in the theatrical cut.
The theatrical trailer runs 1 ¾ minutes.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Killer Klowns from Outer Space retains its cult audience to this day, but its wit and imagination might have earned it a greater place in cinema history had the budget allowed for a more experienced director and better actors. The Blu-ray is an adequate high definition upgrade which fans will surely want to own.