Know Your Monsters: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

When I was twelve years old my dad took my friends and me to a local amusement park for their annual Halloween fright nights. Not having much exposure to the horror world at that time, I was way more scared than I let on. I could handle most of the costumed performers running around with chainless chainsaws and foam machetes, but it was the quiet ones who disturbed me. I don’t know if the park had been overstaffed that night or what the deal was, but while in line for a clown-themed haunted house, one of the performers had painfully little to do. He occupied his time by standing two feet away from the line and, well, yeah, just standing. Though I realize now it was probably just a bored teenager trying to make it to the end of his shift by staring into the void inside his mask, his stillness really freaked me out. 

To take my mind off of him, I turned my attention to the TV monitors posted up incrementally throughout the line. Slowly my dread of the real-life clown nearby  gave way to my fascination with the clowns on the screen. But I had missed the opening titles so I had no idea what I was watching. As soon as I got home I googled something to the effect of “movie about clowns invading small town and killing everyone and also they are aliens.” And thus my fandom for Killer Klowns from Outer Space was born. 

The Klowns in question were made by a team of fabricators led by Dwight Roberts, who used foam latex to bring them to life. The fabrication team and the visual effects team, led by Gene Warren Jr, worked together with director Stephen Chiodo to build a slew of marvelous practical effects that embodied a charming DIY ethos. The transformation of readily available household objects into tools of alien warfare not only helped build a lovably bizarre story world, but it also perfectly fit the scope and tone of the picture. 

As with any movie monster, I like to imagine what I’d do if I encountered these Klowns in the wild. To help figure that out, let’s take a look at the facts: 

 

Height:

Range from approx. 3ft. to 9ft. 

 

Physical description:

Clownish, but also eerily not clownish. Painted faces, vibrant costumes, distorted body parts, gross fingernails, rotting fangs, really cool punk haircuts

 

Abilities:

Superhuman leaping, ventriloquism, owl-style 180-degree head turning, hand detachment, shadow puppeteering, voice imitation, popcorn-based reproduction

Weapons/technology:

Popcorn guns, sentient balloon animals, imaginary cars, real cars, hybrid circus tent/spaceship, acidic whipped cream, regular old boxing gloves

 

Weaknesses:

No nose = no life force, hair spray

 

Tendencies:

Using impeccable comedic timing to capture human prey for eventual consumption. Travel in packs but hunt solo

 

My strategy:

Blend in. Remember in Shaun of the Dead when they all try to cross the zombie-infested street by acting like zombies themselves? I’m totally stealing that idea. Hitting the local party supply store and slopping on some clown makeup – then I’m full chameleon. If I have to take out one of my human friends with a popcorn gun just to prove my authenticity to the other clowns, then so be it. 

 

Expected outcome:

There’s absolutely no way I make it out alive, for a simple reason: I’m a picky eater. The second the other clowns tried to get me to drink the juice from the human-digesting cotton candy cocoons, I’d blow my cover. I would likely be disintegrated by a weaponized pie by while suggesting that we drive thru somewhere for chicken nuggets instead.