Arrow Video Blu Review: Send in the Klowns: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

"Don't worry Dave. We're just here to kill you."

If you took a survey on what scares people the most, clowns would be high up on that list. There is just something about those jolly painted faces that frightens the hell out of a lot of folks. Stephen King tapped into this fear with his demon clown story It which just had a wildly successful film adaptation. While It is decidedly dark and unsettling, Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) takes the idea much less seriously, and pokes fun at a few horror conventions along the way.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space was the first and only film directed by the Chiodo Brothers, who are well known for their prowess with special effects. They created puppets and effects for Critters (1986), Ernest Scared Stupid (1991) and Team America: World Police (2004). Their creativity and artistry is in full display in Killer Klowns and the movie is filled to the brim with crazy character designs and bizarre set-pieces. The budget for the film was quite small, but it's hard to tell from the fully realized costuming and set design.

The plot concerns the crash landing of an unidentified object in the woods outside of a small town. Upon inspection by a unlucky farmer it turns out to be a spaceship that looks suspiciously like a circus tent. Inside tent are "klowns" which are aliens who bear a striking resemblance to Earth clowns (but much uglier and scarier). Unfortunately for the residents of the town, these creatures want to kill or capture humans for some unknown reason.

One of the best things about this flick is the dedication it has to the core concept. The klowns have guns that shoot popcorn, can make balloon animals that come to life, and kill people with various goofy methods to include giant hammers and shadow puppets. Everything is tongue-in-cheek and silly for the most part, though there are a few creepy moments thrown in for good measure. All of the practical effects are fantastic, particularly with the klowns who are played by humans and have extremely detailed animatronic heads. Their spaceship is insane too, with bright colors and wacky designs that make it feel believable. Unlike many other effects-focused horror films, the story surrounding it is paced well and the viewer isn't twiddling their fingers in boredom between the monster scenes.

John Massari provided most of the incidental music for the score and it's more of a standard ominous style that contrasts in an interesting way with the frivolous on-screen antics. Killer Klowns, the catchy rock song that everyone fondly remembers, was provided by The Dickies, an underground punk band. As an aside, they wrote it inspired just from the title of the film alone, sight unseen. As it turned out, it fit perfectly and became one of the most iconic things that people love about the movie.

As for the Arrow Video transfer, this is a restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative, so it looks crisp while maintaining the film grain. The colors really pop and it makes it much easier to see all the finer details in the elaborate backgrounds. Overall, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a fun and occasionally unsettling cult film that is well worth a watch for B movie enthusiasts or horror fans. 

--Michelle Kisner

Disc Features:

  • 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