BLU-RAY REVIEW - KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE - ****
Directed by Stephen Chiodo. Starring Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, John Vernon, Royal Dano, Irene Michaels. Horror/Sci-Fi, USA, 88 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on 9th April 2018.
Paying homage to 1950s B-movies like ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS and THE BLOB, these killer klowns arrive on Earth and set up a huge circus tent in the middle of the woods. Thinking Halley's Comet has crashed into Earth, Farmer Gene Green (Royal Dano – HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY) goes to investigate but ends up being kidnapped by a huge clown-like monster. As more and more strange things start happening around town it is up to young lovers Mike (Grant Kramer – NEW YEAR’S EVIL) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder – RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II), local sheriff Dave Hanson (John Allen Nelson - BAYWATCH) and ice cream salesmen the Terenzi brothers to get to the bottom of things and try to stop the murderous klowns before the whole town gets turned into a bloody shake for them to drink through their novelty straws.
Along with other ridiculous (in a good way) '80s cult favourites like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE knows exactly what it is and runs wild with it, never letting up with the stupidity but always with a knowing wink to let you know that it is laughing along with you. There is not a lot of gore - a decapitation punch and a human glove puppet being the only gruesome(ish) moments - and there doesn't need to be as the klowns themselves are pretty creepy, their grubby, monstrous faces providing most of the horror elements of the film as their weapons are deadly versions of seemingly innocent clown props, like custard pies full of acid and mutant popcorn that turns into miniature klown heads with very sharp teeth. And the special effects really are quite special, not just with the klowns' animatronic masks and garish costumes but the interior of their circus tent looks fantastic, the sort of neon nightmare that most 1960s TV shows were built on.
The acting isn't what you would call great but the cast generally pitch it suitably, with Grant Cramer and John Allen Nelson giving the appropriate 'gee whiz'-type reactions that were a staple of '50s sci-fi/horror movies. The presence of John Vernon (ANIMAL HOUSE/DIRTY HARRY) as a grumpy police officer who has it in for anyone younger than him is a very welcome one and adds to the youthful rebellion feel of the film, despite the fact that the town's youngsters aren't being that rebellious and he is just a cantankerous old fool with a chip on his shoulder. The only real dud is Suzanne Snyder, who doesn't seem to know what film she is in despite having been in the equally silly RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, and her line delivery veers from wooden to theatrical without any sort of middle ground. Granted, it is not a film for subtleties but her lack of consistency is a little annoying.
Presented in a brand new 4K restoration, this is the second release of KILLER KLOWNS from Arrow Video. Although the remastered picture looks fantastic in all its neon glory there may not be enough of a noticeable difference to reinvest if you bought the steelbook Blu-ray that came out a few years back. However, there are a few new extras that may tempt you to double-dip if you’re a fan, including a new interview with punk band The Dickies who provided the annoyingly catchy theme song, a new featurette detailing the Chiodo Brothers’ early films from their childhood and college days and new HD transfers of the complete collection of the Chiodo Brothers’ 8mm and Super 8 films. These sit alongside all of the original special features from Arrow’s earlier release, which includes cast and crew interviews, audition footage, deleted scenes, blooper reels and various other nuggets to make a fairly loaded disc for collectors and fans alike.
Had KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE been made in the 1950s then it probably would have been branded a violent shocker and been tremendously popular with movie audiences. However, it was made in the late 1980s amongst the bloodier likes of EVIL DEAD II, RE-ANIMATOR and Frank Henenlotter's unique brand of twisted humour, and never really did much financial business, becoming a cult hit on home video in the years after its original release. Comparing it to today’s horror movies is like comparing the 1960s BATMAN TV series to THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy but KILLER KLOWNS is not really a film that you need to compare to anything; just accept it for what it is and revel in the madness that the Chiodo Brothers bring to the screen because when it is done with this much maniacal glee, being silly just for the sake of it is good enough.
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