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Home | Film Review: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Film Review: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)


An alien band of killer clowns descends from the cosmos to harvest scores of small-town victims, cocooning their prey in cotton candy to save for later. With the extraterrestrials disguised as harmless circus employees, the authorities don’t suspect a thing. But the joke is on the clowns when two street-wise teens (Grant Kramer and Suzanne Snyder), armed with an ice-cream truck, do battle to save their friends in this cult favorite.


“In Space No One Can Eat Ice Cream!”

A small town is invaded by aliens, in the shape of circus clowns with over-sized heads, from outer space. They are capturing and killing the townspeople with cartoon-like ray & popcorn guns, vehicles, balloons and more. They store the bodies in cotton candy cocoons on their ship, which is disguised as a circus tent.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space, written and directed by the Chiodo brothers, may seem like a comical movie but what better a disguise? No one takes the clowns seriously as they slowly imprison a small town’s people. Almost everyone falls for the deception except for a few of the young people in the town that realize the true nature of the clowns. Armed with an ice cream truck, they try to defeat the alien army!

You gotta admit that this is one unique B-movie film. The basic plot isn’t exactly original but throw in a circus of large, zany clowns with Toys’R’Us-like weapons and you have one wild and crazy ride of a “horror” film!

Viewers should not expect great-acting here with several no name actors. The clowns and cheesy SFX are the true stars of this B movie. Mike Tobacco & his girlfriend, Debbie Stone, are the first to understand the true nature of the alien clowns. They enlist the help of Dave Hanson, a young policeman, and Rich & Paul Terenzi, two twins that own an ice cream truck to try to get girls — what a ragtag team! The classic John Vernon is great as the rude and disbelieving Police Officer Curtis Mooney. Another B-movie star, Royal Dano, is perfect as the redneck farmer, Gene Green, with his dog.

The cinematography is very colorful and fun. This is a B-movie but it plays like an A in some respects. Sure it’s quirky and the acting leaves much to be desired, but it just doesn’t feel like other B-movies I’ve seen. The crew took great care here to meticulously use cheesy effects purposely and not due to lack of experience. There are some cheesy SFX but they’re meant to be comical. I suppose that’s the charm of this movie — the fact that the crew professionally shot this film with the intention of it being less than serious. With a $2 million budget back in the 80s, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a step above a B-movie budget but it went primarily on production costs and the special effects were done at a really low cost.

The sound is good and the music is professionally done with a few creepy songs. I took a few clips of the songs that I thought were especially creepy. Who can forget the opening theme song that combines creepy laughing with a menacing version of circus music and fun lyrics about circuses and killer clowns that sound very 80-ish? The song used when the clowns are first marching into town with their goofy looking weapons is memorable. A really creepy song is used for the large clown parade marching into town scene — very dark and menacing.

Contrary to this being a silly spoof of horror, some scenes are truly scary to me. Watching large, colorful clowns walking around without talking is very creepy to me! There is also something about the people hanging in cotton candy cocoons that I find rather chilling — it kind of reminds me of the original version of The Fly in the end where the fly with a human head is caught in a spider web screaming. One popular and disturbing scene is when the one clown is making shadow puppets on the wall to distract the people walking by and the shadow turns into a T-Rex head that chomps down on their heads.

When I first saw Killer Klowns from Outer Space about twelve years ago, I despised it because I had not seen enough old horror to truly appreciate the quirky homage. But upon this viewing and hearing the commentary of the directors and crew, I appreciate it a lot more after learning that the creators are huge fans of the old-time cheesy movies from the 50s and used this movie to pay homage to the horror and sci-fi of old by creating caricatures of many of them. Viewers almost need to look past the simple story and focus on the fun and colorful props, sets, and SFX. It’s not great by any means, but it does utilize a lot of plot and scene devices from 50s Sci-Fi films, of which the directors are great fans. This is a hit or miss for horror and sci-fi fans. 3/5

Mike Tobacco: It was a space ship. And there was these things, these killer clowns, and they shot popcorn at us! We barely got away!
Curtis Mooney: Killer clowns, from outer space. Holy sh*t!

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is now on bluray per MGM

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

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