Tuesday, June 13, 2017

In short: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

A bunch of, well, killer klowns from outer space land their circus-tent shaped ship near a smallish US college town and proceed to turn most of the town’s inhabitants into some delicious snacks for their (clown) space journey by putting them into large cotton candy cocoons. Because they are clowns, they don’t exactly go about their little expedition in a straight and orderly fashion.

Will young Mike (Grant Cramer), his girlfriend Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) and her cop ex-boyfriend Dave (John Allen Nelson) manage to stop the carnage by shooting clown noses – yes, you of course you kill a killer klown by shooting its nose – or will they end up becoming delicious?

I’m not terribly fond of late 80s horror comedies – I’m not even particularly fond of late 80s horror – and I’m easily annoyed by films that try to be consciously camp, so Killer Klowns is not at all the kind of film I expected to think much of going in. There’s a reason why it took me until 2017 to watch it. However, it turns out I missed out rather badly, for while it is certainly camp as all get out, Killer Klowns is a pure delight for anyone who enjoys 50s horror tropes, wild imaginations and fun. The whole thing doesn’t play out with the distance and smugness I usually connect with conscious camp but breathes a sense of enthusiasm and fun. The film looks and feels as if the brother trio who made it – Stephen Chiodo is the credited director – had put a lot of love and energy into it, seeing as there’s not a single scene going by where nothing that is either candy-coloured, outrageous or brilliantly over the top happens. In fact, most of the time, all three of these things combine into some appropriately garish.

I’m particularly fond of how the film puts an enormous effort into making nearly all the kills and all the little bits and pieces surrounding them clown (and sometimes circus) themed, so there’s seldom the feeling you get when you watch your typical late 80s franchise horror film that every murder could have been done by half of the other franchise horror monsters because there’s no thematic coherence at all. Here, there’s thematic coherence up the wazoo, a clear proof – if one is even needed – that clowns are indeed the most horrifying things imaginable. So expect a film where a clown uses a balloon animal as a blood hound, a tricycle massacre, little evil klown heads growing from popcorn, a very special ventriloquist dummy (in a scene that manages to be funny, macabre and grotesque at the same time), death by finger shadow puppet, and so on, and so forth. Once you’ve bought into the Killer Klowns, it all makes perfect, twisted sense, and just happens to be really, really funny, as well as sometimes surprisingly twisted.

The special effects have an inspired handmade quality, full of character and fun and the same twisted humour that’s running through the whole of the film. Like everything else in Killer Klowns from Outer Space, they are a joy to watch.

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