Stephen Chiodo / USA / 1988 / 86 mins
Available on Blu-ray Mon 9 Apr 2018
Epic in scale, unflinching in its radical socio-politics, and piercing in its exploration of the human psyche, the Chiodo Brothers’ 1988 masterpiece combines stylistic elements of Italian Neorealism and German Expressionism in a savage and brutal satire that many presumed to be a commentary on the legacy of the British Empire in post-Colonial Africa.
Nah, not really. Some clowns come down in a spaceship and kill people.
Quite the most stupid film you will be buying on DVD this month, Killer Klowns… is nonetheless a good laugh, full of comical deaths, decent puppetry and a primary colours soft-play set to bring back happy memories of Pat Sharp’s Fun House. Someone had a lot of fun making it.
Mike (Grant Cramer) and girlfriend Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) are making out at a hilltop hangout when they see a flash of light burst through the sky and land in a nearby farmer’s field. On investigation, they find a circus big top whose resident clowns take a novel approach to entertainment – cocooning people in candy floss before slurping their entrails through a straw. The couple escape to report the invasion to a disbelieving local police force – Debbie’s ex, Dave (John Allen Nelson), and cynical Deputy Mooney (John Vernon). It’s only when other locals begin to get bumped off that the coppers wake up and smell the cotton candy.
This skeletal storyline exists purely as an excuse for its creators to conjure up comical circus-related deaths. From flesh-melting custard pies to balloon animal hellhounds, there isn’t a circus trope that goes unused. And the Klowns’ kryptonite? Their exploding red noses, naturally. The Klowns themselves are Spitting Image grotesques, fairly effective given the age of the piece. They wobble and burble their way Mr Blobby style through the town of Crescent Cove, never afraid to employ a visual gag like a squirty bunch of flowers or spray foam before offing a member of the local populous.
The human cast make a decent fist of it too, falling into traditional action movie roles as if this weren’t the most ridiculous assignment they’d ever had. The cops are particularly good – Nelson as the dashing hero, Vernon as the bitter old hack who gets a clowny comeuppance for not heeding warnings.
You won’t have nightmares, but you will have a chuckle as every clown cliche in the book hits you like a pie to the face.