“We saw this shooting star and we decided to go look for it. But instead of finding the shooting star we saw this... this circus tent. And that's when we went inside, and that is when we saw those people in those... those pink, cotton candy cocoons. Dave, it was not a circus tent. It was something else.” – Debbie Stone
It may not be horror, per se. It isn’t really sci-fi, but damn, those Killer Klowns are fun.
I remember seeing a Starburst cover back in 1988 with the Killer Klowns on it – it was the first time I had seen them, and thinking “what the……” well, you can guess the rest.
The fact that the movie came with the advertising “In Space, No-one can Eat Ice Cream” just pointed toward the crazy insanity that was to follow. As soon as I saw the film available, a battered old VHS copy from a video rental store, I bought it. Despite the generally poor condition of the tape and the tracking which was never quite right – I loved it. I said there and then that it would be a cult classic and man, I was right.
It’s a surreal, sci-fi comedy with horror elements and evil clowns.
Now, when I say “evil” I actually mean EVIL. These dudes make Pennywise look like an amateur.
Nobody likes clowns – right? Yes, they’re meant to be funny and amusing, but I and just about everybody I know, want to know what’s really going on behind that stupid perpetual grin make-up? I’ve never had a traumatic encounter with a clown as far as I know – but still, I’m wary about them. There’s something sinister about a clown. In fact, other than “It”, there’s another movie about clowns that I’m going to need to re-check one of these days – anybody heard about a film called Paperhouse? Three homicidal lunatics escape from a high security mental ward, murder the clowns at a circus, adopt their clothing and makeup and terrorise some kids in a house. Yeah – freak out time!
As ever – I digress. After one of the best theme songs of the eighties, by The Dickies (take a look for yourselves)
The film opens up like any number of fifties sci-fi films with a small, presumably middle American town, kids are up in the makeout spot on the hill, bullying cop played by John Vernon is on patrol and a shooting star soars to a landing in a nearby forest. A farmer is first to the scene, encountering a circus tent.
It’s not a circus tent (and this is where the surrealism and the craziness intermix) it’s an alien spaceship. The aliens look not just like clowns, but the worst evocation of clowns seen in the most skewed nightmare you ever had. They have ray guns with fire deadly popcorn (no, I am NOT kidding). They trap you in a gooey candyfloss where they can store you for who knows what. They can even trap you inside a balloon.
Are you trying to escape from them on foot? No problem – the Klowns can make a balloon tracking dog which comes to life.
Escaping by road? Still not a problem. Not on one of their little tricycles. Everything they do has a hilariously deadly effect, be it a shadow dinosaur that can eat you – but then the fanged Klowns themselves are carnivorous so there seems little escape in any direction. It’s up to a handful of kids in an ice cream van to save the town, and maybe the world. The answer though is as plain as the noses on the clowns’ faces.
Okay, you’ll have guessed by now that this is in no way a serious horror film, it’s an ingeniously inventive slapstick pastiche of horror movies, and drive-in alien invasion movies like The Blob. Once seen, it’s never forgotten though, it’s a weird comedy classic that never gets old. Check it out here.
Next film up - Something Wicked This Way Comes.
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