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"Killer Klowns from Outer Space" Will Test Your Faith in Humanity

India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.


"Why are they here? Where are they from? Why are they clowns?"

— "Killer Klowns from Outer Space," 1988

Just in case the title didn’t give it away, “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” isn’t a good movie. (My apologies if you were under any illusions regarding its cinematic merit.) In fact, I’m curious as to how this film came to be. Was the person who suggested it under the influence of LSD? Perhaps it was an April Fool’s prank taken seriously—to the everlasting shame of the jokester. Still, regardless of the movie’s mysterious origins and myriad shortcomings, “Killer Klowns” is a psychedelic and deeply entertaining ride. Just keep your expectations reasonable.

“Killer Klowns from Outer Space” follows young lovers Mike (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder), who follow a shooting star only to discover a sinister circus tent instead of the meteor they were expecting. It isn’t long before the two realize their town has been invaded by murderous, makeup-wearing fiends from another galaxy. Now they must defeat the extraterrestrial harlequins before all of Crescent Cove perishes at their (four-fingered) hands.

Good horror comedies feature plausible plots, sympathetic characters, and self-aware humor, such as “Zombieland” or “What We Do in the Shadows.” Naturally, “Killer Klowns” displays none of these characteristics. Instead, we have a disjointed story with plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, annoying characters, and unintentionally humorous dialogue. Still, don’t be too disappointed; after all, there’s something refreshing about a movie which is utterly unaware of its own failures.

Clownish Curiosity

“Killer Klowns” is one of those movies which leaves viewers with more questions than answers (see the quote above). Not only do we never learn why the clowns chose to descend upon Crescent Cove—if they wanted to kill as many people as possible, why not start with Los Angeles or San Francisco? —the film never explains where the harlequins hail from or why they resemble clowns at all.

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I don’t know about you, but the last two questions bother me. Is there an ancient civilization of clowns in a galaxy far, far away, just waiting to be discovered? And if said clowns really do come from outer space, then how did they learn English? Though they never speak it—save for a brief period in which one communicates using a police officer as a makeshift ventriloquist dummy—it’s clear they understand enough to get by. Odd, considering their native language is a mishmash of sounds resembling Ewok (though much less cute).

And why, pray tell, do these extraterrestrial visitors resemble clowns in the first place? Could it be, as one of the characters suggests, that the human concept of clowns was inspired by a long ago encounter with alien tourists such as these? Or perhaps the space invaders chose to disguise themselves as harlequins in order to blend in. If it’s the latter, the clowns must be commended for their commitment to the role. Not only are their faces slathered with makeup and their hair garishly dyed, but they also sport outfits every bit as ugly as they are. Then there are the circus-themed accessories: bloodthirsty popcorn, sentient balloon animals, and cotton candy cocoons. Really, it’s enough to give even Pennywise nightmares.

Ah Ah Ah Ah Stayin' Alive (Somehow)

While the clowns are entertaining, if a bit perplexing, the humans they’ve chosen to eradicate are far less amusing. Indeed, the inhabitants of Crescent Cove are so stupid that it’s difficult to feel anything other than satisfaction when they’re devoured by a sinister shadow puppet or zapped with a handy ray gun. (Wish I had one of those.) For example, most react to the clowns’ initial appearance not with fear, but amusement or even excitement. Of course, I understand that the concept of creepy clowns is a recent invention, but these ones aren’t exactly normal. They’re seven feet tall, for God’s sake, and their teeth…Well, let’s just say it’s been a long time since any of them visited a dentist. Anyway, no rational person would want to encounter them in a dark alley (or broad daylight, for that matter). And I’m fairly certain the concept of stranger danger existed in the 80’s: making it difficult to fathom why anyone would willingly approach these creatures (unless they were blind). Given the citizens' lack of survival instincts, it’s a miracle anyone survives until the end. I guess their luck must be—wait for it—out of this world.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 India LaPalme

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