No one sets out to make a cult movie. Most filmmakers aspire to commercial heights even if they only have the budgets for a B-movie. They see films like Blair Witch realign box office accounting and apply all kinds of quantum physics to mimic the exponential multiplication. Very few achieve it, and the ones which do usually do it by accident, and certainly not with serious intent. Aliens, Clowns & Geeks is not afraid to be ridiculous. It joins the ranks as such brave films as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and Frankenhooker.
It is also so much more than these films, dripping with artistry, and yet considerably less, with masturbating aliens, pussy ping pong, and sphincter-pinching obelisks. Richard Elfman’s sci-fi comedy has an abundance of experimental fun and a happily reckless disregard for taste. It owes as much to Frank Zappa as it does to Frank Capra, and can in some ways be seen as a screwball comedy take on the 1955 film noir classic Kiss Me Deadly. For a silly film, Aliens, Clowns & Geeks summons serious plot twists. It captures the casual surrealism of the Marx Brothers in hyper-speed.
Though it’s not on the level as Forbidden Zone, how could it be? Elfman’s 1980 cult classic ranks way past closing time on the clock of midnight movies. Aliens, Clowns & Geeks is still completely original. Unlike other films where low budget hobbles creativity, this uses a lack of funds to its advantage. In some ways this is like Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, except done on one-thousandth of the budget and with 1/100th of the stars. Aliens, Clowns & Geeks marks the final feature film role for the late Verne Troyer (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Goldmember, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). His Clown Emperor Beezel-Chugg is a memorable turn. Narcissistic, lethal, and commanding, he is the Emperor of the Nine Planet Federation, and still gets hauled in for Illegal dwarf tossing.
The little clown who gets tossed around is played by Nic Novicki, but don’t feel too bad for him, he takes dirty pictures of nuns in porta-potties in his spare time. George Wendt plays a priest who condemns him to eternal damnation for it. French Stewart (Stargate, 3rd Rock from the Sun) gets the Fickle Finger of Fate Award for being able to maintain an Arte Johnson impression throughout a whole film as the German scientist Professor von Scheisenberg.
Mimicry is only one extra talent the actors bring into their roles. Rebecca Forsythe contorts her voice and face excruciatingly and exquisitely as Swedish lab assistant Helga. She’s studied quantum, subquantum and super-quantum dynamics, and delivers one of the greatest pickup lines in cinema history: “you would be surprised at how incorrect the calculations of many rocket scientists can be.” Her body proves to be equally supple whether during head-banging sex or in one-on-one martial arts combat.
No one quite makes the faces or shrieks the screams quite like Bodhi Elfman, who plays the lead, a jaded actor named Eddy Pine. Bohdi, the actor playing the actor, is a cartoon character masquerading as a person. His cynical Steve Buscemi-esque delivery grounds him even as the only missed opportunity in the film is a Looney Tunes sight gag where hens lay so many eggs they rise to the roof of Porky Pig’s barn.
Happily, the camera turns away when the obelisk is introduced to the film. Whether it is just a worthless novelty or the key to the universe, Eddy’s anus is “the chosen portal.” The Chinese military wants the obelisk, there’s an intergalactic battle between alien clowns and green Martians over it, and Dr. von Scheisenberg wants to melt it down for clean energy. About a foot long, and looking like the Washington Monument with squiggly sub-particle lettering, it is also known as the jamtoid key, and is worth more than a three-picture deal, but “money won’t mean nothing if the world explodes.”
Elfman, who also directed Shrunken Heads, and Modern Vampires, has a background in theater, and uses troupe mentality by casting actors in multiple roles. Anastasia Elfman brings the fire of a true believer to five characters. Helga’s sister Inga is played by Angeline-Rose Troy, who also plays Eddy’s junkie-whore mother. The noises she makes in one particular chase scene is so alien and unexpected, it brings the whole movie to another level. Steve Agee plays Eddy’s recently transitioned Burlesque dancer and bar-owning sister Jumbo, as well as the chicken-suit wearing Eddy Pine. Richard Elfman plays the clown Da-Beep. Martin Klebba is an angry clown captain.
The final character is the original soundtrack, which upstages the action in the best of ways. Aliens, Clowns & Geeks could be called a musical, but not in the same way The Rocky Horror Picture Show is, even if there is gender fluidity flowing through it. For the film, Elfman reunited with the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, who starred in Forbidden Zone. The score was written by Danny Elfman and Ego Plum. Danny Elfman wrote the theme song to The Simpsons, the music to Nightmare Before Christmas, and did the singing voice of Jack Skellington. Plum is best known for the noises he made for SpongeBob SquarePants and The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, but also plays in the band Mambo Demonico. Consisting of 75 minutes in a ninety-minute movie, the music makes the film unique. The diverse mix of genres makes the movie feel like live performance.
Aliens, Clowns & Geeks is laid out in the three-act story structure of classic comedies. It is zany, evoking the feel that logic has been usurped by the most unreasonable intrusions. The film opens on the road. The first victim is a large biker clown who is mind controlled to be some kind of monosyllabic Terminator-style obelisk retrieval machine. Eddy is taking his sorrows for a swim in the deep end of a dive bar. His network series, “Cry Me Dry,” was cancelled a day before it was set to air. Their first encounter is inadvertently suspenseful, as the clueless Eddie chalks up a seemingly random request to another day in Hollywood.
The movie then takes on a science fiction turn while keeping to an LA Noir sensibility, albeit with frenetic sexcapades (“May you procreate and spread your clown seed wide”), campy caricatures, vampy vehicular battles, and trampy throughlines. Masturbating aliens remotely manipulate blond femme fatales with X-box controllers, making the conquest of earth look like a video game. This highlights the depersonalization of battle, intergalactic or terrestrial. This very human alienation is further accentuated every time the green aliens have to get approval from corporate. There are impossibly surreal scenarios, like a ménage à trois scene where Eddy’s on the bottom and the POV shows the two girls on top. The scene ends in a nuclear explosion, topping the fireworks display of the first climax of Deep Throat. There is a head exploding scene which is more over-the-top than Scanners.
As comedy, each of the set ups have great payoffs, and the running gags never trip up, even if Eddy slips into Shakespearean soliloquies before exiting, stage left. Elfman mocks Hollywood itself, pointing out that the Beverly Hills Police Department only takes calls from celebrities while actors kiss ass on Hollywood Boulevard all day. The film even throws in visual sight gags, like a bucket of brains which is kept in a joint compound container labeled “head stuff.” One character is reading a book called “The Strawberry Fields of Heaven by Blossom Elfman.”
Aliens, Clowns & Geeks makes no apologies. You just have to go with it. Groucho Marx once advised if nothing else is getting a laugh, “drop your pants.” This turns out to be the greatest weapon of the movie. It saves the day as much as it lowers the bar. It is worshipfully irreverent, and politically incorrect. There is no shame nor the slightest consideration given to cancel culture. “Life is complicated, take if from the guy with a dick in a dress,” we are advised in the film. Even insane biker clowns may not be what they seem. Aliens, Clowns & Geeks is silly, goofy, stupidly intelligent, and absolutely what a mad scientist would order.
Aliens, Clowns & Geeks will be opening in a drive-in run, double billed with Forbidden Zone: Director’s Cut. Details will be announced.
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