Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #395


Number of Views: Three
Release Date: May 27, 1988
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi/Comedy
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $2 million
Running Time: 88 minutes
Director: Stephen Chiodo
Producers: Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, Stephen Chiodo
Screenplay: Charles Chiodo, Stephen Chiodo
Special Effects: Gene Warren Jr.
Cinematography: Alfred Taylor
Score: John Massari
Editing: Christopher Roth
Studio: Sarlui/Diamant, Chiodo Brothers Productions
Distributors: Trans World Entertainment
Stars: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, Royal Dano, Michael Siegel, Peter Licassi, John Vernon, Christopher Titus, Irene Michaels, Karla Sue Krull, Brian Degan Scott, Danny Kovacs, Adele Proom, Howard Malpas, Karen Raff, Kathleen Stefano, Claire Bartle, Sharon O’Mahoney, Michael Halton, Lucinda Burgess, Melvin Thompson


Suggested Audio Cotton Candy

The Dickies “Killer Klowns from Outer Space”



I’ll never forget my first trip to the Big Top. I can’t have been more than seven years old and it was an important rite of passage for me. There can be no denying that it was one hell of a spectacle and I still uphold my belief that candy floss should be presented as garnish for every meal to this very day. However, I couldn’t help but feel indifferent towards the lion tamers, acrobats, and high wire acts. Just as I was preparing to feign an asthma attack and get back to Pong on my Atari, a funny little car pulled up and out of it fumbled a clown, honking his hooter and squeezing his wilting flower. It was terror at first sight and the vision of his painted-on smile and wonky yellowish teeth is still emblazoned across my psyche over three decades on.

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“They took your wife away in a balloon? Well you don’t need the police, pal, you need a psychiatrist!”

So what do you do with an illogical fear? As far as I can gather, there are two options at your disposal. Either A: You keep your distance at any cost and avoid the circus like your Great Aunt Mabel with the hairy face mole that waves at you, or B: you face your fear like a trooper, slide on those size 27’s, and join the procession. The fact that the sight of one of these jokers is enough for me to push out a booty pebble just makes them that much more compulsive in my opinion. Granted, I never went the Poltergeist route and trusted one at the foot of my bed, while Pennywise the Clown convinced me never to drag my heels by the curbside on my way home from detention, but I never once shirked my responsibility as twisted terror and, instead, thanked them for the nightmares. By the way; I just found my lute. Anyone object to a short intermission?

The Devil Wears Klown Shoes

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Prada’s so last season
There really is no reason
To hobble in stilettos
and make your shit falsetto

These klown shoes will suit fine
They’re garish but they’re mine
and should I step in doo-doo
no need to think it voodoo

It’s just part of the act
klowns aren’t known for their tact
I wouldn’t dress one down
they don’t need to see your frown

For should you show them fear
Allow these rascals near
They can be prone to splatter
and that’s no laughing matter

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So I recently got round to watching Ted Nicolaou’s TerrorVision for the very first time and came away a smidgen underwhelmed. It did precisely what it stated on the tin and precious little else; just another amiable eighties oddity with a big heart and tiny brain. That got me to thinking and Killer Klowns from Outer Space seemed like a natural progression. It could never be accused of taking itself seriously and fitted the bill like a duck muzzle so I warded off the monster in my closet and reached inside for my comfiest shoes… those size 29’s (I have grown during the interim). Time to buck up and revisit the circus.

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“I’m Jo-Jo the ice cream clown, we’ll give you a stick, you’ll give it a lick. And it’ll tickle you all the way down”

Then it hit me like a rubber mallet. Stephen Chiodo’s film may well seem to be cut from the same cloth as TerrorVision, perhaps it does pay the same degree of homage to the sci-fi B-movies of the fifties, it’s quite possible that you will shed brain cells at the same alarming rate, but it does something repeatedly which Nicolaou’s picture didn’t… it tickles you all the way down to its candy-coated stick. Its sight gags hit more than missing and its klowns are completely at-ease with pratfall. However, they still retain that edge; the creations of Gene Warren Jr. and team still retain their poker-faces when not too busy inflating balloon animal sniffer dogs.

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Now would ordinarily be about the time that I drop some synop on yo’ asses but it just doesn’t seem that vital where Killer Klowns from Outer Space is concerned. Destroy all humans; that’s the general gist. I trust I’m not missing any devious sub-text; if you ask for candy then candy’s what you get right? Yessiree it is; 88 minutes of compacted sugar which will have rotted you to your gums by morning if you negate to brush before bedtime. I mention laughter, and the Chiodo brothers serve it up by the bucket load, but somewhere deeply embedded in the darkest recesses of your imagination exists a voice. “They all float down here.” Or at least that’s how I heard it.

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Some of the humans even have names. Mike (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) are placed in the center of the chaos and both commit themselves admirably. It’s just that, while they’re sniffing around where they really shouldn’t, the klowns are doing what they know best, and it turns out that’s far more appealing. For a relatively low-budget affair, it boasts wonderfully psychedelic production design, and really pours on the optical candy. As for the klowns themselves, it is plain to see that they’ve been fashioned with TLC. Somehow, for all their tomfoolery, they still have that menace. It’s a fine line they walk but years on the road with tightrope artists is never time wasted.

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So it’s so bad it’s good right? Wrong again my friends and fellow merrymen; Killer Klowns from Outer Space is so good it’s downright bad…and I say that while grabbing my crotch and grunting. It feels like a cop-out feeding a sandwich to Chiodo’s act with the same knuckles used as lubrication for TerrorVision’s fisting. This is simply a far better film. When all is said and done, the clue is in the title. 8/10 is pretty much the big top pinnacle of a B-movie such as this and this marvellous movie misses this mark by the laces of its klown shoes. Candy will corrode your teeth enamel kids, but it sure is cotton-picking tasty. Just remember to brush for a full two minutes before bedtime and watch out for any discarded bicycle horns beneath your bed sheets. PARP! That one was me. Sorry.



Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10


Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Floss-Guzzlers: A decapitation and melted exoskeleton are all she wrote but there is so much else here to tussle your muscle to. Candy-coated cocoons, spiteful shadow puppets, acidic Bakewells, it’s all here and in glorious Technicolor. Chiodo has announced The Return of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space in 3D for next year and I have already purchased my front-row ticket. Fuck yeah I’ll take that extra dimension. PARP! Me again; sincere apologies.

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Read TerrorVision Appraisal

Read Poltergeist (1982) Appraisal

Read Scary or Die Appraisal

Read The Rocky Horror Picture Show Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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  1. I did enjoy this film, but I would also say the best part of it is the Dickies song in the soundtrack. I’m not sure it that speaks to the quality of the film or the quality of the song. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

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