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Killer Klowns from Outer Space review: Newly restored and as weird as ever

Movie Reviews

Killer Klowns from Outer Space review: Newly restored and as weird as ever

Arrow Video gives us many new reasons to explore this cult classic.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a horror film everyone has heard of, but only a few of your friends have probably seen it. Thankfully, everything you need to know is in the title of this b-film that has spawned a cult following. It’s a film that may be more well known for its action figures and t-shirts and has spurred a fascination from millions over the years since its creation in 1988. It has the type of title that begs you to watch it, much like one slows down when driving by an accident. Arrow DVD is releasing a new restored Blu-ray version today and I was lucky enough to nab a review copy early.

At first glance, this film is less horror than it is a goofy comedy. The Klown design is certainly crazy, but the film is structured around five to ten-minute bits highlighting the wacky ways these Klowns kill innocent townsfolk. This isn’t a slasher film by any means and the use of blood is minimal at best, but if you’re afraid of clowns you’ll at least shriek in fear once or twice. Witness a Klown literally punch the head off a biker gang member with boxing gloves. In another scene, one of the Klowns lures in a 20 something adult with a puppet show only to have one of the puppets shoot him, turning him into cotton candy. There’s even a comedy duo of sorts with two brothers who run an ice cream truck but are much more concerned about getting laid (and even flirt with girl Klowns with huge breasts). Once you realize this film is less a horror and more of a comedy you’ll roll with each setup and the eventual horror-tinged punch line.

One of the reasons this film has held such a fascination with moviegoers is because of the production value of the film. Supposedly made for only $2 million (and grossing $15 million), this film has some impressive clown masks and plenty of creative visuals. Take for instance a scene where a Klown performs a shadow puppet show. The shadow-puppet gets more and more elaborate for comedy’s sake, only to turn into a dinosaur and eat the onlookers. The effect stands up over time even though this is pre 90s filmmaking. Written by brothers Charles Chiodo and Stephen Chiodo, these two have worked a variety of projects like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and even The Simpsons. This isn’t a forgettable low budget film by any means with quality sets, effects, and props to go with it. It’s just a shame the acting wasn’t on par.

The story is about as basic as you can get. It opens with young kids necking at a lookout only to discover a comet fly past — at least, they think it’s a comet. Soon we learn it’s the killer Klowns who get disturbed by Grant and Suzanne after they end up in their circus tent spaceship. We learn the Klowns eat humans, and may not have bothered a soul if not for the kids, but they chase them into town and realize there’s plenty of good eats to be had. The rest of the film involves a love triangle between the hot do-gooder cop John, Suzanne, and Grant as these three young good looking people run around town attempting to do something to stop the Klowns. Again, the plot really only serves to hang the 5-minute killer bits, but it ends up being the weakest, most eye-rolling aspect of the film.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space review: Newly restored and as weird as ever
It’s insane this cop is not once freaked out by this thing.

Blu-ray collectors should be pleased with this new edition, as it’s packed with extras and the restoration is exceptional. Older films like this can be tricky to restore, but it’s incredibly crisp to the point where I was wondering how Arrow Video pulled this off. The special features are exceptional as well and while I personally don’t have much interest in watching interviews with the cast it’s admirable how thorough these extras are. If you’re a fan of filmmaking in general, it’s a lot of fun to peer into the Chiodos brothers’ lives, be it their on set documenting filming this film, or their childhood films that are included in HD here. I’m a bloopers guy and was delighted to see that extra, but really there is so much here anyone can find something extra to enjoy, making the price of this collection is cheap in retrospect.

The full list of features includes:

  • Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Newly remastered stereo 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio options
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Archive audio commentary with the Chiodo Brothers
  • Let the Show Begin! Anatomy of a Killer Theme Song – an all-new interview with the original members of the American punk band, The Dickies
  • The Chiodos Walk Among Us: Adventures in Super 8 Filmmaking – all-new documentary highlighting the making of the Chiodo Brothers childhood films, from the giant monster epics made in their basement to their experiments in college
  • New HD transfers of the complete collection of the Chiodo Brothers 8mm and Super 8 films, including Land of Terror, Free Inside, Beast from the Egg, and more!
  • Tales of Tobacco – an interview with star Grant Cramer
  • Debbie’s Big Night – an interview with star Suzanne Snyder
  • Bringing Life to These Things – a tour of Chiodo Bros. Productions
  • The Making of Killer Klowns – archive production featurette
  • Visual Effects with Gene Warren Jr. – archive interview with co-writer/producer Charles Chiodo and visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr.
  • Kreating Klowns – archive interview with Charles Chiodo and creature fabricator Dwight Roberts
  • Komposing Klowns – archive interview with composer John Massari
  • Klown Auditions
  • Deleted Scenes with filmmaker’s audio commentary
  • Bloopers
  • Image Galleries
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck

Is It Good?

I spent the better part of 20 years avoiding this film, and now I know I was wrong to do so. This newly released collection reveals a fascinating slice of Hollywood history via its excellent extras and pristine restoration. It’s a film that may not be all that scary by today’s standards, but it’s a movie worth watching for its creativity and weirdness. Regardless of whether you find it scary or funny, you’ll never be bored watching this.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space review: Newly restored and as weird as ever
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Is it good?
Incredibly watchable due to the creativity of the Chiodo brothers and the pristine restoration.
The restoration is quite impressive with a very clean and clear image
A horror classic that has been talked about for ages reminds us how good production values and an insane idea can live forever
The number of extras is impressive, giving viewers an inside look at the making of a film nobody saw coming
The plot is rather basic and the acting can be downright awful, but that lends to its charm
For a horror movie it's not very scary, unless of course you hate clowns
9
Great
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