Welcome back to another edition of Late to the Party, where the iHorror writers take turns checking off boxes on their personal unseen classics list. With the release of the IT remake and the premiere of the new season of American Horror Story, it appears as if scary clowns are all the rage again. This has forced me to make a rather embarrassing admission; I have never seen the 1988 cult classic Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Until now.
Going in, there were a couple of things I knew about Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Of course, I knew what the titular Killer Klowns looked like, since they are the film’s main iconic image. Also, being an old punk rocker, I was familiar with the Dickies theme song. But, other than that, I was going in blind when I popped in the $7.99 blu-ray from Walmart (I splurged on the limited edition Dia de los Muertos-inspired cover version).
Basically, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is one big laugh riot. There’s nothing serious about the film at all. It’s a standard alien invasion flick along the lines of The Blob or Invasion of the Body Snatchers (in fact, it even lifts plot points from both of those influential movies), only with clowns (sorry, Klowns) as the alien invaders. It’s a glorified B-movie.
What makes Killer Klowns from Outer Space a “glorified” B-movie instead of just your run-of-the-mill B-movie is the klowns themselves. For what seems to be a very low-budget production, the alien Klown effects are very well done. They’re more elaborate than just actors in makeup; the klowns look to be part rubber monster suit and part animatronic puppetry. The klowns also take turns pulling out all the stops while terrorizing the public, doing clowny things like using victims as ventriloquist dummies and attacking bystanders with shadow puppets. They even stick the people they abduct into cotton candy cocoons. The story may lack creativity, but the appearances and the actions of the klowns are inventive enough to make the movie fun, and for a B-movie, that’s really all you can ask for.
I’ve personally never been particularly afraid of clowns, so in the end, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is exactly the movie that I thought it would be. How could it be any different with a title like that? The klowns did surprise me, as they were much more animated and “monster-like” than I thought they’d be, and some of their methods of attack are downright ingenious. But, for the most part, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a movie about just that – killer clowns from outer space – and doesn’t pretend to be anything else
Come on back next week for another edition of Late to the Party, or check out older ones you may have missed in the meantime!
(Feature image courtesy Chris Fischer)