Release Date(s)1988 (April 24, 2018)
Studio(s)Orion Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A+
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is pure schlock, in the best possible way. The very idea of it sounds like something a group of kids from a college dorm would make on a lark, yet the Chiodo Brothers managed to make it palatable for genre fans. The title really tells you all you need to know about the film: clowns from outer space come to Earth looking to harvest humans. In addition, a couple of teenagers try to convince the local authorities of what’s going on, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the harvested humans are slowly being turned into cotton candy and the clowns are reeking havoc on the small town, one deadly sideshow trick at a time.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space wasn’t a success and was barely released theatrically back in 1988, but it did manage to thrive on home video. It also didn’t hurt to have a kick-ass theme song written by the band The Dickies either, which probably brought more fans into the fold than many might realize. The basis for the film obviously plays upon an audience’s fundamental fear of clowns. It’s not a universal fear, but the idea of a murderous clown is still a creepy notion that other horror films continue to exploit to this day. The film itself has unintentionally funny dialogue and situations, but there are also some genuinely disturbing moments to be had as well.
There isn’t much to say about it intellectually, but for a group of filmmakers who grew up making short films and finding themselves producing special effects and stop-motion animated sequences for films like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is an admirable effort. Combining silly dialogue, costumes, props, special effects, nods to other movies, and the overall notion itself, it’s also a fun popcorn movie. And as of this writing, it’s the only film that the Chiodo Brothers have produced themselves. They continue to promise further adventures in the Killer Klown universe, but at this point, the possibility of that seems unlikely.
Arrow Video released Killer Klowns from Outer Space on Region B Blu-ray with a nice transfer and extras in 2014. Four years later, they’ve returned to the title for a new Region A release. Not only that, but they’ve secured an exclusive, brand new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative (opening with the Trans World Entertainment logo, I might add). The differences when compared to the previous release are quite apparent. This is, dare I say, the finest home video presentation of the film to date. Now properly framed to its 1:85.1 aspect ratio, there’s more information along all edges of the frame. Grain is much more prevalent but well-rendered and nearly solid throughout. Some softness still occurs due to some of the opticals, but those can be overlooked. Detail, especially on the clowns themselves, is much clearer and sharper, picking up every last wrinkle. Colors are much cooler as well; whites in particular lean more toward blue now. Skin tones are also quite good. Blacks are deep, only occasionally lightened up by the grain. Built-in crush is apparent, but shadow detail is much more satisfactory, as are brightness and contrast levels. It’s a cleaner presentation as well, free of any apparent speckling or scratches. It’s also been encoded at a slightly higher bit rate than its predecessor. As for audio options, they include English 2.0 LPCM and English 5.1 DTS-HD with optional English SDH subtitles. I find the 5.1 track to be fairly useless, only occasionally giving sound effects a boost, but more or less sticking to the front. The 2.0 track is more than adequate. Dialogue is well-prioritized and both sound effects and score have some decent spatial activity from time to time. The bottom line... this is a Killer presentation.
Arrow Video also carts over nearly everything from the film’s many previous releases, but also adds some new stuff into the mix, making for a massively satisfying supplementary package. Included is an audio commentary with the Chiodo Brothers; Let the Show Begin!, a new 11-minute interview with the original members of The Dickies; The Chiodos Walk Among Us: Their Adventures in Super 8 Filmmaking, a new 24-minute featurette on the making of their early short films; six of those early short films, including Land of Terror (1967), Beast from the Egg (1968, with optional audio commentary with the Chiodo Brothers), Africa Danny (1970), Eskimo (1971), Sludge Grubs (1972), and Free Inside (1974); Bringing Life to These Things, a guided tour of Chiodo Bros. Productions; a set of Killer Interviews (Tales of Tobacco, an interview with actor Grant Cramer; Debbie’s Big Night, an interview with actor Suzanne Snyder; The Making of Killer Klowns featurette; Visual Effects with Gene Warren Jr., which is an interview with Charles Chiodo and the film’s visual effects supervisor; Kreating Klowns, an interview with Charles Chiodo and creature fabricator Dwight Roberts; Komposing Klowns, an interview with the film’s composer John Massari); Behind the Screams with the Chiodo Brothers, 30 minutes’ worth of on-set behind-the-scenes footage sourced from VHS tapes; 4 minutes of Klown Auditions; two deleted scenes, Bad Experience and Tight Rope, with optional audio commentary by director Stephen Chiodo; 3 minutes of Killer Bloopers; four image galleries (stills, behind-the-scenes, concept art, storyboards); the film’s original theatrical trailer; an Easter egg (found by clicking right when the deleted scenes are selected) of John Vernon’s “Holy Smoke!” censored for TV line; a 2-sided fold-out poster with new artwork on one side and the film’s original poster art on the other; and last but not least, a 24-page insert booklet with the essay “Circus Bizarro: Killer Klowns, Then and Now” by film critic James Oliver, as well as restoration details. The only thing not included from Arrow Video’s previous Blu-ray release is the featurette Chiodo Brothers’ Earliest Films, which was likely considered overkill as the new documentary covers them well.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is silly, but the work that went into it is there on screen, warts and all. It’s a fun film, especially around Halloween. You can pop it in and manage to get people cringing and laughing at the same time, which is the best kind of Halloween party movie. Arrow Video’s new Special Edition Blu-ray release trumps its previous one and is definitely the one to own for just such an occasion. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons