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[K]lowning Around

Banking everything on a title born of ‘50s kitsch, Killer Klowns from Outer Space comes from the brains of the Chiodo Brothers. Their only directorial outing, the special effects team pours all of their love for ‘50s monster cycle into this klutzy, kooky, [k]lown story. It’s a mess, but so lovable.

The small town (Crescent Cove, Anywhere USA) is headed by an ambivalent sheriff (John Vernon) who won’t believe those darned kids who hang out on lover’s lane. They definitely saw [k]lowns though, the same as the teens in The Blob and a litany of others. Truer to its period, Killer Klowns smacks of a Gremlins or Critters knock-off, the latter of which the Chiodo’s worked on. Of course, those two small monster tales owed plenty to the classic cycle too.

Killer Klowns has a few spots of mayhem. Generally, it’s bouncing about, eager to get to the mayhem involving some seedy-looking alien [k]lowns. Forget the characters; none of the actors sufficiently carry Killer Klowns anyway. The [k]lowns matter, who rocketed to Earth in a circus tent spaceship.

If there’s a failure of Killer Klowns, it’s in the execution of the brazen idea

This type of mayhem allows for wild production design, at times mirroring a hokey kids TV show. Wild pillars, full of erratic colors and designs, make up the interior of the ship, less circus than bizarre intergalactic homestead. Inside, humans suffocate, cocooned inside of cotton candy shells – the humans not melted by an assault of thrown pies.

Visual effects act as the highlight. Frumpy [k]lown suits come topped with a twisted, mangled design, stuffed with animatronics. If there’s a failure of Killer Klowns, it’s in the execution of the brazen idea. Intimidating as this otherwise benign threat is made to be, there’s little life or character drawn from them. As individuals, despite clear design markings, each [k]lown is interchangeable.

For designed camp, this is the peak. There’s little take away and little to remember in the end. The creative juices in the title don’t align with the potential of this comedy horror flick. Oddly, despite an R-rating, Killer Klowns is strangely sedate. Other than a decapitation and language, it’s almost fit for kids – aside from scarring them for life by the thought of clowns wanting to drink their blood. That thought is funnier than anything in Killer Klowns.


Arrow treats Killer Klowns with digital reverence. With a heavy, thick grain structure, the encode deals with a number of challenges. Major spikes when inside darker indoor environments won’t break down. That’s a great sign of high-grade compression work. Although source grain does erode some definition, that’s minor.

Standout qualities come in one of two ways. First, there’s color. Killer Klowns is drenched with a variety of hues, both from the costumes and production work. The masses of purples, reds, greens, and others cascade across the screen with stellar energy. Second, it’s fidelity. The special effects and rubber animatronics display incredible detail. Textual qualities come from a high-res source. Detail of this degree cannot happen otherwise.

On the downside, black crush is persistent. Shadows drop off into pure black and take image depth with them. That’s a definite loss, although the lower budget limits scope and undoubtedly those shadows hide things not meant for the screen like wires or other unsightly tricks.


DTS-HD comes in two flavors: One in 2.0, the other 5.1. Differences between the two don’t stand out. The 5.1 mix barely ventures beyond the center, and certainly not into the rears. An explosion near the end produces loose, unconvincing LFE response. The mix is better off without it.

Dialog is fine and spurts of action are hindered by lack of range, undoubtedly due to age and budget. Killer Klowns isn’t begging for an audio makeover though. It’s enough to be sufficient.


The Chiodo Brothers feature in almost every facet of this disc, and first up with the “kommentary” (Arrow’s spelling, not DoBlu’s). Next is the best piece on the disc, The Chiodo’s Walk Among Us, a 23-minute piece that travels through their childhood projects and into college. The Dickies, a punk group responsible for the theme song, earn their own bonus in Let the Show Begin, a 10-minute piece.

A featurette from 2014, Bringing Life to These Things, intercuts Chiodo Brother interviews between live set footage recorded on VHS. If that sounds fun, Behind the Screams is all on-set footage, a half-hour worth. Early auditions for actors in clown suits follows in the same way, along with raw set bloopers. Two deleted scenes offer only a little value. Five older featurettes, an image gallery, and trailers send this disc home.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Killer Klowns do indeed come from space in this goofy, schlocky late ’80s piece, often calling back to a golden age of sci-fi.

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