PG-13 Dir: Stephen Chiodo | Arrow Video | 1h 30min
Plot: What’s it about?
Arrow Video knows its audience. The British film distribution company knew that people wanted to have a new 4K scan of Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Arrow obviously believed that this would be one of their bigger releases this year, and have gone the extra mile with an amazing assortment of supplements and the best video presentation the film has ever been given.
The plot of the film is as unlikely as you might imagine. At a make-out spot in a small town, a couple making out in their car witness what seems to be a meteor fly overhead. Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and Debbie Stone (Suzanne Snyder) decide to investigate where the meteor landed. When a nearby farmer, Gene Green (Royal Dano,) sees the meteoric activity he believes it to be Haley’s Comet. Seeing a prospective fortune in tourism he takes his trusty hound into the woods and heads toward the crash site. Arriving at the crash site he finds what appears to be a big top circus tent. Trying to enter the tent, he comes face to face with a Killer Klown from Outer Space. The Klown succeeds in killing him and preserving him in cotton candy. Mike and Debbie find the circus tent and upon investigation realize that it is some form of space station and that the Klowns are killing townspeople. They barely escape and visit the police station. Debbie explains the story to her ex-boyfriend, Officer Dave Hansen (John Allen Nelson) and his older jaded companion Officer Curtis Mooney (John Vernon.) Mooney dismisses the story, but as more reports come in of nefarious Klown activity, Dave helps Debbie and Mike to save the town from the evil aliens.
This is easily one of the goofiest “horror” films ever made. The Chiodo Brothers are not truly interested in frightening their audience. They are far more interested in powers that the Klowns can possess and the creative ways for the clowns to attack the townspeople. I have not ever watched this film with an audience, but I imagine that more laughter is heard versus screams. This is not a bad call. It is probably what has led to a steady cult following over the years for the film and its release in every format imaginable.
I remember that I first watched this film very late at night, possibly on TNT. I thought it was hilarious and strange. Now that I am much older, it does not quite appeal to me as much as when I was an adolescent. Some people will write the film off as idiotic, but I personally think that approach is pretty cavalier. This film is actually not stupid. Improbable is a much better word. The film is incredibly creative in its approach to the material. For example, the clowns have these guns that shoot popcorn at people, and those popcorn serve as tracking devices. Calling this very creative idea idiotic misses the point. In fact, one aspect of the film that works heavily in its favor is that the Chiodo Brothers have thought of everything. The amount of detail they have put into the film to make these Klowns act like clowns is fantastic. From the cottony candy human cocoons, to the popcorn guns, to the clown car, every detail rings true.
All of the performances are enjoyable by the main cast, but the best part of the film is a performance by venerable actor John Vernon as the hard ass Officer Mooney. Every line he says is a classic. My personal favorite was: “Killer clowns from outer space? Holy shit.” This line is said in such a sarcastic tone that it made me laugh out loud. He steals every scene he appears in.
Whether this film appeals to you is going to come down to personal preference. For those of us who grew up catching it late at night on cable television and enjoying its weird and wacky charms, it’s a no-brainer.
Video: How’s it look?
Arrow Video have provided a great looking transfer of the film using an MPEG-4 AVC codec of a brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negatives. The video quality of this release is very high quality. This film itself is not going to win any awards for cinematography, but it does have a very unique look thanks to the charm of the production design. While this film may not just scream that it needed a 4K scan, the results are much better than any previous release. My old MGM DVD has definitely been made obsolete by this new transfer and the film could not possibly shine any brighter than it does here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS-HD MA track that came with the previous Blu-ray release is also present here, as is the original LPCM Mono track. This is the rare case where the mono track sounded better to me than the surround track. I switched between them frequently, and the best way to watch this film is listening to it in Mono. Arrow have done a great job of leveling the sound fields in the Mono track and removing any hiss. Clarity is very good and the score by John Massari sounds very good in this presentation. Well done.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary by the Chiodo Brothers – the Chiodo Brothers give a lively and enjoyable commentary for the film. These three brothers have a great bond with one another and it shines through the track.
- Let the Show Begin! – an all new interview with punk band The Dickies that performed the film’s theme song. Pretty cool feature about how it came together.
- The Chiodos Walk Amongst Us – a short documentary on the Super 8 filmmaking that the Chiodos did in their childhood. I did a lot of these type of stop-motion films as a kid, but it is impressive how many techniques they learned at a young age.
- Chiodos Brothers Early Films: There is no audio present on any of these.
- Land of Terror (1967)
- Beast from the Egg (1968)
- Africa Danny (1970)
- Eskimo (1971)
- Sludge Grubs (1972)
- Free Inside (1974)
- Bringing Life to These Things – a 2014 feature that gives a tour at Chiodo Productions. This is pretty interesting to see where they get everything done and I couldn’t have agreed more with their opinions on how ridiculous CGI looks.
- Killer Interviews:
- Tales of Tobacco – a 2014 interview with Grant Cramer who played Mike Tobacco. A good interview if you are curious about what being a small time actor in the Eighties was like.
- Debbie’s Big Night – a 2014 Interview with. Suzanne Snyder. She has aged well and remembers the film fondly.
- Making of Killer Klowns – archival Interview with the Chiodo Brothers with a good amount of behind the scenes footage they shot during the project, including footage that did not work for the film such as an alternate opening.
- Visual Effects with Gene Warren Jr. – archival Interview where Stephen Chiodo interviews the effects man behind the film with a lot of the art for the film interspersed in. Pretty cool.
- Kreating Klowns – archival Interview with Charles Chiodo and creature fabricator Dwight Roberts.
- Komposing Klowns – a good archival interview with composer John Massari.
- Behind the Screams with the Chiodos – behind the scenes footage recorded on a home video camera.
- Klown Auditions– audition footage of the Klowns.
- Deleted Scenes: (available with optional commentary)
- Bad Experience – a scene where Suzanne Snyder’s character relays why she fears clowns.
- Tight Rope – the characters walk a tight rope in the middle of the chase scene towards the end of the film.
- Killer Bloopers
- Image Galleries – A quartet are featured.
- Behind the scenes
- Concept art
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is another fine entry into the Arrow Video catalog. This film has been a cult classic for years and deserves to be on this label that cares so deeply about restoration and preservation of niche films. The amount of supplemental material on the disk is staggering. Taken as a whole, this package presents a new 4K scan of the film and a complete understanding of how the Chiodo brothers entered the film business from their earliest home videos on. The story itself is told throughout the features that are on the disk and it is a very nice story. I think that fans of the film will be ecstatic and other people will just be puzzled by this release. Kudos to Arrow for giving fans what they wanted and putting together one of their best overall packages of this year.