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review added: 8/13/01



Killer Klowns from Outer Space
1987 (2001) - Trans World Entertainment (MGM)

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Killer Klowns from Outer Space Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B/A-

Specs and Features

86 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), audio commentary with the Chiodo Brothers (Edward, Stephen and Charles,) The Making of Killer Klowns featurette, Komposing Klowns featurette, Visual Effects with Gene Warren Jr. featurette, Kreating Klowns featurette, The Chiodo Brothers' Earliest Films with commentary, 2 deleted scenes with optional commentary, blooper reel, storyboard gallery of 5 scenes, 8 production stills and concept drawing galleries, theatrical trailer, Easter eggs, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned


"What are you going to do with those pies, boys?"

Well it's about frickin' time. The Bits' staff has been very, very vocal with MGM about getting this film onto DVD ever since we found out that the studio had the rights to Klowns. And even before that, we had every independent DVD company we had access to hunting down the rights to get this thing released. And now here it is... staring back at me in all its pancake make-up glory. Was it worth all the effort and the long wait? Of course. The movie alone is worth the price of the DVD (which is quite cheap by the way, making it a no-brainer).

Killer Klowns is a cult throwback to the old 1950s-styled "red menace" horror films, like The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It always begins the same way: some over-aged teens are making out up in scenic Make Out Point (here dubbed "The Top of the World"), when a meteor shower lights up the sky and said teens, hopped up on eager to satisfy hormones, go hunting for the landing point. Meanwhile, back at the landing point, an old fogy and his dog go a-looking for the same meteor with dollar signs in their eyes. But in these films, the meteor is never really a meteor at all. It's a space invasion, this time of the clown kind - or rather Klown Kind.

These aren't your jolly, rollie-pollie clowns, by the way. Sure... they have the same bag of tricks: balloon animals, cotton candy and shadow puppets. But there's a dark twist when the balloon animals hunt you down, the cotton candy enshrouds you to create an edible gelatinous goo and the shadow puppets eat you alive. Throw in a popcorn gun that shoots alien spores and a giant Clown Puppet named Klownzilla, and you have the makings of a major cult phenomena.

I don't know why I love this flick so much. The writing is often times weak and even sillier that it deserves to be. The acting, in most cases, is even weaker. And the pace and editing could really have been tweaked (the best example being the infamous shower scene, taking place over a 20 minute period of the film off and on). But Klowns does have its charms. From the incredibly cheap, yet wonderful, special effects to the clown design and implementation, I don't think there's a better "spoof" of 50s horror out there. It's so much a classic that I think if it weren't for the bad 80s clothing and hair, it could actually pass for a classic 50s flick. All I really need to say is, if you haven't seen the film... see it. If you hate it, you're at least not any worse for it. But if you love it, you'll be in good company.

MGM gives us the long overdue Klowns with (surprise!) a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer. The blacks aren't all that solid, and there are a few spots of artifacting here and there - but it's certainly a better transfer than some films I've looked at lately. Colors seem to be dead on, bright and well saturated with no bleed. And the sound is a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 that gets the job done with no muss and no fuss.

Just having the film on DVD would be a blessing in itself. But thankfully, MGM listened to fans of the film and went ahead with a loaded special edition. To start with, there's a running commentary with the Chiodo Brothers - Edward, Stephen and Charles - who directed, produced and wrote the film. It's a good commentary, though not great and not as insightful as I would have hoped. I thought they would spend more time on the clown designs, but they spend more time discussing the cult phenomena and the potential of doing a sequel. Next up is a set of featurettes. The first, The Making of Killer Klowns, is a joint interview with all three filmmakers about what they did and how they did it. It's a pretty remarkable featurette, considering that the Brothers seldom cross over into territory they visit in the commentary. There's also a short featurette entitled Komposing Klowns, with the film's composer John Massari. He discusses how he got the gig and what thoughts went into the different themes. It's nice because Massari really shows a love for the film and the themes he discusses get illustrated with clips from the film. The Visual Effects with Gene Warren Jr. featurette showcases some of the matte painting and miniature design work that went into the film. And finally there's Kreating Klowns, which discusses the make-up effects.

Also on the disc are a pair of The Chiodo Brothers' Earliest Films. This area shows us some quirky films made by the boys in their teenage years and incorporates some techniques used in the film. The films are shown silent (as shot) with commentary from all three brothers. You'll also find two deleted scenes with optional commentary (which are often seen in TV cuts of the film). They include an explanation of our heroine's fear of clowns and a tightrope scene cut due to lighting issues. Rounding out the extras are a blooper reel, a poorly executed storyboard gallery of 5 scenes (all the boards are crammed into one screen with no ability to zoom in on individual shots), 8 production still and concept drawing galleries (which are incredibly fun and show the designs of the clowns and sets) and the original theatrical trailer. It's a lot of stuff and all of it's pretty cool. Notably absent is the music video of the theme song by The Dickies. It was on the original video release and the laserdisc, but sadly it's not here. So if you have the original disc, hang onto it. Oh... and clever Easter egg hunters might find a few of hidden goodies as well.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a wacky and fun film for kids of all ages. For a low-budget film that's 14 years old, it still holds up nicely. And I can't wait to see the Chiodo's come back to the material in either a new movie or TV series. Whatever they do, I'll be there with clown shoes on.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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