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MGM Studios DVD presents
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Debbie: We have to tell the police.
Mike: Oh yeah, right. We're gonna run to the police station and we're gonna tell them there's a bunch of clowns running around the hills killing people with cotton candy.

- Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) Mike (Grant Cramer)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: August 23, 2001

Stars: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Synder, John Allen Nelson
Other Stars: Royal Dano, John Vernon, Michael Siegel, Peter Licassi, Christoper Titus
Director: Stephen Chiodo

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (some language and violence)
Run Time: 01h:26m:04s
Release Date: August 28, 2001
UPC: 027616865618
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+A-B+ A+

DVD Review

I don't mean to sound like a sentimental old fool, but campy movies like 1988's Killer Klowns From Outer Space really make me miss that era. The 1980s were the imaginative final years of pre-CG horror and science fiction, when films had to rely heavily on fairly straight-forward in-camera effect shots. There were no elaborate digital effects to smooth out the rough edges and expand the director's visual imagination. It took a certain type of clever filmmaker to turn a nominal production budget into a decent film. That special blend of talent, wit and creativity needed to create a better-than-average, low budget B film is more than evident in the intentionally tongue-in-cheek Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

The Chiodo brothers (Edward, Charles, and Stephen) are the three creative forces behind this film, and there is little doubt that their influences lie in the tacky alien invasion movies of the late 1950s. Like a lot of films in this genre, the plot setup is extremely simple and never tries to become overly complex. A mysterious meteor crashes in the woods outside a small town, and in a nice homage to The Blob, is witnessed by some kids on lovers lane, as well as an old man in a remote cabin. As the film's title would indicate, this is no ordinary meteor. It is actually some type of alien spacecraft that resembles a giant circus tent, and it's occupants are a group of psychotic, demented clowns with nothing but death and destruction on their grease-painted minds.

All-American, sweater clad hunk Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and leg-warmer wearing hottie Debbie Stone (Suzanne Snyder) discover the eerie tent, and cocoons of cotton candy containing the remains of assorted townsfolk. After being hunted down by a pair of killer clowns firing deadly popcorn guns, Mike and Debbie attempt to make their way back to town to alert the police. The police department apparently consists of only two officers: good guy Dave Hanson (John Allen Nelson) and youth-hating oldtimer Curtis Mooney (John Vernon, best known as Dean Wormer from Animal House). Meanwhile, of course, the aliens contine their killer rampage.

Part of the charm of this film is obviously the clowns. Sure, they're gawdy, with huge over-sized heads, but they are menacing killers. There is something extremely entertaining to see them use popcorn guns, cotton candy rayguns, and my favorite, balloon-animal hunting dogs as tools in their mayhem. Oh yeah, don't forget the infamous clown car. The Chiodos consistently keep the humor level high, even as the body count rises.

Don't expect master thespian level acting here. This a B-movie, through and through, and I think good acting would have actually ruined it. This is the type of film that needs hammy theatrics and an over-the-top delivery to really sell the concept. Without fail, John Vernon wins the overacting award. Don't misunderstand me. I mean that in the most positve way. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Vernon's performance is also the most memorable here, and I wanted more of his character.

KKFOS is not really a horror film. It's too inherently silly for that. But it is, without a doubt, a classic, and MGM has given reason for it's fans to rejoice with this release.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: MGM gets high marks for this beautiful 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of KKFOS. Nothing really to criticize at all; it's a visual treat. No significant compression artifacts present. Natural, consistent fleshtones prevail, and only some minor print nicks are evident, sporadically. Overall, colors are so rich and vibrant that you can almost smell the greasepaint.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mix sounds nice, and the John Massari score, in all its late 1980s synthesized splendor, sounds great. Dialogue, in contrast, is a bit flat, but always clear and audible. Minimal spatial imaging is present, though the overall sound field presentation works well, considering the this film's B-movie lineage.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Edward Chiodo, Stephen Chiodo, Charles Chiodo
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Bloopers
  2. Photo Gallery
  3. Storyboard Gallery
Extras Review: This disc is a B-movie fan's wet dream. MGM has jam-packed this disc with high quality supplemental content, and it's all great! Five featurettes, storyboards, bloopers, deleted scenes, and even a 1.85:1 widescreen trailer.

The Making Of Killer Klowns (22m)
My favorite of the bunch, this features all three Chiodo brothers discussing effects shots and editing. I can't stress how much fun it is to listen to them relive the experience of making this movie.

Komposing Klowns (13m)
Composer John Massari discusses his inspirations and motivations on scoring KKFOS.

Visual Effects with Gene Warren, Jr. (14m)
More effects talk, this time highlighting the work of Gene Warren, Jr. This featurette contains some of the more technical info, and is also the dullest in tone, which is not to say it isn't good. Warren is not the most animated speaker, especially in comparison to the chatty Chiodo brothers.

Kreating Klowns (13m)
Focusing primariy on props and set design, the Chiodo brothers are joined by mechanical designer Dwight Roberts.

Chiodo Brothers Earliest Films
A pair of early homemade films from the Chiodo brothers' childhood. A short, stop action piece in which a Thanksgiving turkey is attacked by a demon, and the epic live-action/stop-action combination, The Beast From The Egg. Both feature entertaining Chiodo commentary, and show that they had the horror film bug since they were children. Their use of miniatures and perspective is pretty impressive, considering it was done in the pre-video camera days.

Commentary
The full-length, scene-specific commentary track by all three Chiodo brothers is terrific stuff. These guys obviously love what they do, and have great affection for this film, and it shows. Plenty of fun production anecdotes and cool information that will be vastly appreciated by fans of low budget camp cinema.

Photo Gallery
A nice collection divided into seven categories: Conceptual Art, Production, Design, Poster Art, Behind-The-Scenes, Props and Advertising Material.

Storyboard Gallery
Five scenes from KKFOS, presented in storyboard format. Personally, I always find storyboards a bit dry, but it is alway intriguing to see the original vision versus the final product.

Bloopers
The 2m:50s blooper reel was kind of a letdown, as some of the bad takes aren't necessarily all that fascinating. Highpoint of the bloopers is a great shot of sweet Suzanne Snyder muttering an expletive after smashing her head on a window frame.

Deleted Scenes
There are two deleted scenes, available with or without a Chiodo brothers commentary track. As with most deleted scenes, these were apparently excised for good reason. The commentary track adds some nice background information, and is actually more interesting than the scenes themselves.

Trailer
A 1.85:1 theatrical trailer of KKFOS.

I have seen bigger, mainstream films with much less in the way of supplementals. MGM has rolled out the royal red carpet on this incredible DVD release, and any self-respecting fan needs to add this to their collection.

Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

Great campy fun, packaged with nearly 70 minutes of extras, a wacky theme song by The Dickies, boasting a dirt cheap retail price to boot. This is a true low budget, cinematic classic, and MGM has layered this DVD with a smorgasbord of bonus material.

What are you waiting for? Highly recommended.

 


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