Movie Review: “Killer Klowns from Outer Space”

It is crazy I haven’t ever talked about Killer Klowns from Outer Space on The Bib. On paper, Killer Klowns is a film that feels exactly right up my alley, which may be, perhaps paradoxically, the very reason I have went as long as I have without every writing anything down about it.

I refer to myself as a critic on Nickelbib, in spite of how it makes me feel all highbrow, pretentious and yucky when I say it. This is because, for all intents and purposes, I am a critic. I write what I think about things and I tell you what I like and I don’t like – that is a critique, and thus … you understand. I don’t like to call myself it because I believe the phrase carries both the stigma from the reader as being holier than thou and also the stigma from the critic as that perception about themselves. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with looking at storytelling, be it film, video-game, music, or literature, and doing so in a way that talks about what you like and what you don’t like.  

In general, I would like to think that I am among the more lenient of film critics, and I think that comes with the territory of cutting my teeth with the low budget cinema of the eighties. I have seen more eighties slasher movies than I care to admit, and I believe I have now become smart enough at being stupid to know how to approach the films and how to come at them with the right mindset. 

Killer Clowns from Outer Space brings a campy opening scene that sets the tone for what to expect – this is a film to check your brain at the door for. Something I appreciate though is that it still has the sensibilities in storytelling from the eighties that aren’t as prevalent in modern-day spoof or parody films. It is unabashedly goofy, but it doesn’t equate that to being an excuse for low-quality. For modern horror fans, this is the difference between a modern comedy-horror film like Corona Zombies or a modern comedy-horror like Psycho Goreman. There is a big difference between those two films – in my opinion, it is that one of them was made because someone had an idea for a horror-comedy, the other had a low-effort, low-budget concept they could exploit, selling the novelty of its own existence rather than a merit to justify that existence. I am pretty optimistic and positive about the state of horror in the modern-era, but this was something that eighties horror simply did better and why it is usually a welcome treat to go back and visit them. 

This film introduces its character and concept, and warts and all, it comes together to feel like a realized film with an identity. I found myself very drawn to the concept. Basically, aliens have invaded Earth and are wreaking havoc throughout, abducting and killing civilians in any way that they can. By itself, the idea is very straightforward and simple. In fact, it sounds like a lot of films we have seen many times over already. The added kicker in Killer Klowns from Outer Space as you can surmise from the title alone, is that these aliens are a clown-like species and that wrinkle factors into every aspect of the premise. The icky, spiderweb-like substance they leave behind is cotton candy, the pods they trap their victims in are balloons, and their spaceship looks like something you would find in the scary tunnel at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The idea is fantastic, and is exactly the kind of premise you would want for a film like this. Instead of doing referential humor or incorporating intentionally bad special effects, Killer Klowns from Outer Space takes a novel eighties concept and flips it on its head by bringing something new to the recipe. I like that about it. In a way, I think that pretty fairly summarizes why I was drawn to Full Moon Features as a kid and what I feel is largely missed from the modern Full Moon fare. What we are seeing is goofy and ridiculous, and the filmmakers are certainly aware of that, but they commit to the bit and go about their bullshit with a straight face.

Ultimately, I can admit that the film leaves a lot of money on the table in terms of the places it could have went with the concept. The filmmakers play to their strengths with the makeup design and the monster-esque special effects, but there is simply so much that you can do with the core concept beyond that. Essentially, what you have with Killer Klowns as an opportunity to use cartoon logic and cartoon sensibilities in a live-action and absurdist way. 

The characterizations and story leave a lot to be desired. Again, I will reiterate that this isn’t the type of film you would expect to be too in depth or layered of a story. What you want from Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a fun concept, memorable bits involving the clowns tormenting their victims, and a plot that neither dawdles nor feels too paper thin or superfluous. Killer Klowns does have a fun concept, and, with it, too, I think you have a handful of memorable moments to look back on fondly, but I couldn’t help but feel like everything in between the clowns was plodding and a little humdrum. 

When I look at a film like this, I compare it to a film like itself, an example of a film with a similar audacity, attempting a similar feat. The best example I can rattle off at the top of my head is Chopping Mall, a classic 1986 b-movie that I would highly recommend. That film doesn’t have a lot of story or characterizations either, but it keeps itself moving at a brisk pace and always had a lot of forward momentum behind it.

In so many ways, I think Killer Klowns from Outer Space is less of a classic b-movie and more of a classic b-movie proof of concept. It is a very interesting and unique pitch for what I think could be a horror classic. I can see the potential. Unfortunately, although the groundwork has been laid, it doesn’t materialize into what I would call a very good film. It has characters and story, but they aren’t gripping nor memorable, meanwhile, the practical effects and certain scenes standout, they are too far and few between for this to stick the landing. 

Every year, it feels like we hear new information about a proposed sequel, and now, with the video-game release, maybe something more will come of it. I think this is an idea that could have already spun a trilogy of movies by now, offering zany, ridiculous humor. I could definitely get behind something like a Killer Klowns sequel popping up on SyFy rather than the usual generic Asylum rejects. 

Rating: – 2.0 out of 5.0