Watching Killer Klowns made me feel like I was watching someone else’s bad LSD trip and being very entertained by it. It has all the comfortable 80s comedy elements, which is the other reason I love the movie, but it’s the visuals that set it apart.
While hanging out at makeout point in their small college town, even though they have apartments, Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) and Mike (Grant Cramer) see a UFO land. Debbie convinces Mike to go looking for it, and it’s a giant freaking red and yellow circus tent that has landed in a clearing. Bad tripping ensues as they get into the ship and find some people they know dead and coccooned in pink cotton candy.
They rush off to get the cops. One cop, Mooney, is the requisite asshole ( played by John “Dean Wormer” Vernon) and the other, Dave (John Allen Nelson), is conveniently Debbie’s ex-flame. Mooney thinks the clown story is a hoax and doesn’t believe it until he gets killed by some clowns. Later the ghost of his head pops out of a clown’s ass in a classic scene.
Dave knows Debbie wouldn’t make something like alien clowns up and agrees to check it out. Dave and Mike insist on taking Debbie home for safety but in her bathroom some popcorn the clowns back at the ship shot at her from their giant trippy guns turns into more monsters. Most of the movie involves Mike trying to get back to Debbie while people all over town get turned into clown coccoon milkshakes; the clowns hang them up ’til they’re ready and then drink their liquefied remains with a huge twisty straw. Obviously.
Later we get some stop-motion animation, which is inherently creepy while being fun to look at, and deadly shadow puppets. The clowns never break from their running gag of being playfully evil. Another high point is the late night parade of clowns. The kills that don’t involve the major characters move along in a stream of consciousness fashion making the movie a relaxing mindless pleasure. Typical of movies of the time, the filmmakers don’t waste time with an explanation of each scene or set of characters.
The most 80s deluxe part to me is the characters of the two bumbling brothers (Michael Siegel and Peter Licassi) who drive an ice cream truck in a scheme to get laid. Only in an 80s comedy! It does get them laid, but not in the way you expect, but that small victory ends up saving everyone’s lives when Debbie, Mike and Dave get stuck on one of the clown spaceships yet again. I miss those types of characters like the brothers, those two dimensional jerks who move the plot along and wrap it up as conveniently as the now-overused twist ending.
I’d like to bottle this movie and spray its essence onto a few modern original screenplays. It has elements I didn’t recognize (but miss now they’ve gone) when I was watching movies like this in the 80s, like the absurdly rough biker bar, the story that takes place all in one night, the fact that even though the movie is completely stupid the director doesn’t assume we are, the actors who were good looking but didn’t look like they had been experimented on by evil surgeons, and the clowns that the general public didn’t have a damn phobia of yet.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space might be the rare 80s movie that won’t get remade since so many people claim to have a clown phobia. I mean, I’m sure if I met these clowns I’d become coulrophobic with a quickness, but the movie isn’t scary. Since an alien clown invasion isn’t likely, I can enjoy this as a good ol’ dumb comedy. 3.5 stars.