Release Date(s)1988 (September 15, 2014)
Studio(s)Orion Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A
[Editor’s Note: This is a REGION B Blu-ray release.]
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is pure schlock, in the best possible way. The very idea of it sounds like something a group of kids from a college dorm would make on a lark, but the Chiodo Brothers managed to make it palatable for genre fans.
The title really tells you all you need to know about the movie: clowns from outer space come to Earth looking to harvest humans. A couple of teenagers try to convince the local authorities of what’s going on, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the harvested humans are slowly being turned into cotton candy and the clowns are reeking havoc on the small town.
Obviously the basis for the movie is playing upon an audience’s fundamental fear of clowns. It’s something that many people seem to be afflicted with, and while it isn’t universal, the idea of a killer clown is still a creepy notion. The movie is a piece of schlock with laughable dialogue and situations, but there are also some genuinely creepy moments in it. It was also a movie that was shaped partly by the powers that be, and not just by the Chiodo Brothers. Apparently a lot of the schlockyness was dictated after early screenings of the movie, going so far as changing the ending to something more upbeat. The Chiodo Brothers seem to be happy with this decision, despite the fact that it wasn’t their original intent.
For those who don’t know, the Chiodo Brothers are a group of actual brothers who grew up making short films and getting into the business through special effects and stop-motion animation. They’ve worked on a number of big name productions like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, but Killer Klowns from Outer Space, as of this writing, is the only movie that they’ve produced themselves. And while they continue to promise further adventures in the Killer Klowns universe, the possibility of it seems highly unlikely. Killer Klowns was not a huge success and was barely released theatrically, but it did manage to thrive on home video with genre fans. It also didn’t hurt to have a theme song written by the punk band The Dickies either, which probably brought a more fans into the Killer Klowns fold than would have otherwise.
Combining the silly dialogue, costumes, props, special effects, nods to other movies, and just the overall notion itself, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a guaranteed piece of schlock cinema. There isn’t much to say about it intellectually, but there’s plenty to say about the making of it and the work that went into it. It’s not something that was concocted by a group of teenagers, but instead by a group of professional filmmakers. It has a rabid fan base that sees it for what it is and embraces it. And during the time in the 1980’s when many 1950’s horror classics were being remade, such as The Blob, Killer Klowns from Outer Space seemed to, and still does, fit right in with that grouping, but almost by accident.
It should be quickly noted that I do not own the U.S. Blu-ray release of Killer Klowns from Outer Space, so I don’t any way of comparing that release to this one as far video and audio quality are concerned, at least not first-hand. It should also be noted that this release is Region B locked and you’re going to need a native or region free player in order to watch it.
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray presentation of the film features another excellent transfer. There’s a mostly even and well-resolved grain structure, except for a couple of scenes where the quality dips a bit (which is explained during the audio commentary). There’s a bit of a softness to it as it never looks fully sharp, but this being a low budget film, I can overlook that. Fine detail is terrific, especially when showing off the clown’s costumes and props. The color palette is strong without being overly lush, with strong reds, greens, and levels of pink. Black levels are mostly deep with a nice amount of shadow detail, but not quite perfect. However, both contrast and brightness levels are very acceptable. There are no signs of digital augmentation to be found, but there are some minor film artifacts left behind, which don’t amount to much more than an occasional line running through the frame or some black speckling here or there. The audio is presented on an English 2.0 LPCM track. While it does tend to be a very centered and flat presentation sometimes, it’s still a nice track with good fidelity. Dialogue is always well-prioritized, and both sound effects and score have some decent spatial activity from time to time. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
As with most of Arrow Video’s Special Edition Blu-ray releases, Killer Klowns features an extensive set of extras. For owners of the U.S. Blu-ray release, all of the extras found on it can be found here as well, in addition to some other added material. There’s an audio commentary with the Chiodo Brothers; The Making of Killer Klowns featurette; Visual Effects with Gene Warren Jr., which is an interview with Charles Chiodo and visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr.; Kreating Klowns, an interview with Charles Chiodo and creature fabricator Dwight Roberts; Bringing Life to These Things, a tour of Chiodo Bros. Productions; Chiodo Brothers’ Earliest Films, a retrospective look back at the Chiodo Brothers’ early homemade movies; a set of Cast and Crew Interviews (Tales of Tobacco, an interview with actor Grant Cramer, Debbie’s Big Night, an interview with actor Suzanne Snyder, Komposing Klowns, an interview with the film’s composer John Massari); two deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by director Stephen Chiodo; Killer Bloopers, an Easter Egg (found when you press the right arrow on your remote control once Killer Bloopers is selected, which is a brief moment in the film wherein a John Vernon line was censored for TV broadcast); Klown Auditions; a storyboard gallery; an image gallery; the film’s original theatrical trailer; an insert booklet with an essay on the film by critic Joel Harley, illustrated with archive stills and posters; and finally, a DVD copy of the movie, as well. There’s also a Steelbook option available if you’re so inclined.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a silly movie, but the work that went into it is there on screen, warts and all. It’s a fun movie, especially around Halloween, that you can pop in and get people cringing and laughing at the same time, which is the best kind of Halloween party movie. And Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of the film is definitely one to pick up for just such an occasion.
- Tim Salmons