Archive for July 29th, 2016


killer klows 1

by Sam Juliano

It’s time to take a ride on the nightmare merry-go-round
You’ll be dead on arrival from the likes of the killer klowns
…from outer space                 -The Dickies

Cult cinema has no discernible boundaries, and is primarily defined by the implications of its title.  The films within this classification are far from uniform by way of quality or genre, and neither are they confined by reputation or the temper of the original reviews.  Movies develop a cult following over time as a result of its adherent engaging in repeat viewings, quoting dialogue and even in some fortuidous circumstances the opportunity to engage in audience parroting of dialogue at events or festivals hosted by characters dressed in flayboyant garb. The term itself originated in the 70’s, labeled to provide some description for underground films and those gaining added exposuse on the midnight circuit.  Cult films can be controversial, appeal to specific subcultures or pure camp and for many provide hours of guilty pleasure.  Films like Plan Nine from Outer Space, She-Demons and The Attack of the Crab Monsters have often been framed as movies “so bad that they are good”, and many of their more enterprising adherents have gleefully taken in repeated viewings while under the influence.

In 1988 the three Chiodo brothers disavowed the slasher trend by paying homage to the alien invasion movies of the 50’s in creating Killer Klowns from Outer Space, a most curious hybrid purportedly shot in Santa Cruz to allow for an East coast suburban look- that can fit comfortably as science fiction, horror or comedy, but unfailingly overlaps just when things appear they may be staying the course.  Of course any movie with such a cheesy title invariably brings groans from those just discovering it, even taking into account the amusing coordination of the letter ‘k.’  The film’s premise borrows from 1958’s The Blob, (teenagers as the central protagonists, who are unable to convince adults of the threat until it is too late) which was coincidentally given an inferior remake in the year Killer Klowns released, though the matter of these anything-but-benign aliens desiring humans for sustenance may best be remembered from a classic 1962 Twilight Zone episode titled “To Serve Man.”  The same theme was explored in  a satirical 1980 horror film Motel Hell, which featured a deranged farmer and his sister fattening up unsuspecting victims of staged car accidents so they can be processed into breakfast meats.   The script the Chiodos have written never vacates its satirical underpinnings, but the real menace of these garishly-clad space buffoons infiltrates the most unlikely scenarios:  Ball pits, puppet shows, animal balloons, candy valentines, pies-in-the-face would all seem to be innocuous enough, but each enactment of their amusement properties bring lethal results .  Even popcorn via clown head transformation can bring about your demise, and cotton candy is the source material of alien mummification.  To be sure these clowns can’t hold a candle to the spike-toothed Pennywise in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s It in menacing countenance, but their behavior is far off the beaten track without an ounce of mitigating philanthropic intent.  Grand Guignol makes a jolting entrance when a juvenile clown literally “knocks the block” off a vicious motorcyclist who spitefully mangled his bicycle after the youngster hinted at a more restrained behavior.  But Marla Frazee’s warm and affable picture book The Farmer and the Clown this is not, and even the kiddies have adapted the murderous ways of their parents. (more…)

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