There is a certain charm that certain B-List films can take on. Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space has a level of camp and fun to it that make it, arguably, one of the best bad movies ever made. This reviewer has an affinity for those films that truly take the cake with how bad they are, transcending the awful to the good. Much like the fine line that separates genius from insanity, Killer Klowns from Outer Space straddles the line between good and bad providing an appropriately strange experience that will forever stick in your mind.
The story of Klowns is definitely inspired by B-List horror films of the 1950s and 60s, with obvious nods to The Blob and Godzilla while also paying homage to the greats like Psycho. The success of these homages is subject to your own interpretation, however, as this film is not going to be up for any kind of award given its simplistic and nonsensical plot. What makes this film great, however, is that the plot simply serves as a delivery vehicle for the over the top visual effects created by an incredibly small team working for next to nothing. Every visual gag and set piece has a sense of humor and an unrestrained camp that leaves you asking yourself “What the heck am I watching?!”
The acting in this film (and the audio dub, even on a remastered DVD) is not great. The vast majority of the actors are very early on their careers and still learning the ropes, although the addition of veteran actor John Vernon hamming it up helps pull the performances together into something your suspension of disbelief can just barely accept. There are some genuinely creepy scenes (whether intentionally or unintentionally) involving the humans interacting with the Klowns that help sell this horror comedy.
The film itself was shot in the area around Santa Cruz, California in the late 1980s, and it definitely looks like there was a minimum of set decoration that occurred. Anyone who grew up in Southern California in the late 1980s and early 1990s has definitely seen this type of architecture and the types of businesses present in this film before, but somehow this adds to the film rather than detracting it (with the exception of a clown themed fast food restaurant that seems a bit on the nose, even for Klowns). The film really sets itself apart in the set design of the Big-Top spacecraft, which looks like a funhouse had a baby with the claustrophobic sets of Alien until the very end which gives way to a fun set piece.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is one of those guilty pleasures that should occupy a spot in anyone’s film collection. Not because it is good, but because it is bad. Pair with Pop Rocks and Coke for the true 1980s experience.
Honestly, few films leave me speechless by how bad they are, but Killer Klowns from Outer Space accomplishes the feat.
While I can appreciate the conversation Killer Klowns from Outer Space attempted to start up, and the homage paid towards classics like Them or The Blob, the film is so mind-blowingly bad (even by 80s standards) that I found myself unable to suspend my disbelief. For me, Klowns misses the mark; however, I did find myself chuckling at the absurdity (like cotton candy ray guns or popcorn with trackers akin to GPS).
As much as I hate short reviews, I really have nothing to say beyond seeing is believing. For me, Klowns makes 50s horror films like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and The Cat People look like epics akin to Gone with the Wind or Ben-Hur.