I don’t think a basic rundown of the plot is too necessary here, as the title of this supposed 80s classic says it all. There are some clowns (or things that appear to be clowns) who come from space, and terrorise people, and that’s pretty much it. This film has two rather big balls (excuse the obscenity) in its court. Firstly, the special effects are great for the time, and never really look cheap (except for when a Klown is speeding down the motorway trying to knock a car into a ditch, that looked a tad ropey). Aliens that explode in a shower of fireworks, and shadow-puppet monsters that leap off the walls to devour pensioners, and ideas such as these things are all brilliant.
Secondly, and more importantly, there are some very imaginative ideas at work here. What the film makes clear is that these are not people or monsters disguised as clowns; they are genuine extra terrestrials who just so happen to look like our earth clowns. We’ve been led to believe by countless science fiction and horror films that if man ever were to encounter aliens, they would undoubtedly be of the dome-headed or acid-spitting or otherwise terrifying kind. So it’s a nice idea to have these creatures with an incredibly comic, completely ridiculous genetic make-up. On the negative side, it’s very boring and tedious to have to sit through scene after scene of the protagonists trying to convince the police that space aliens really are invading their small town, while the cops inevitably think they’re crazy and try to lock up our heroes while neglecting to protect people from the invading threat. The audience knows perfectly well there really is an invasion, so why waste precious screen time showing us people trying to convince sceptics of what we already know? This is something I’ve noticed in many a film, not to mention nearly every single episode of The Outer Limits, so it’s not a crime this film alone is guilty of. Still, it’s a device I really wish would be abolished. Killer Klowns has a reputation for being a cult classic, for being one of those “so bad it’s good” films, and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. We seem to have a collective tendency to imagine the 80s as a time when everything – fashion, music, etc – was of a considerably embarrassing quality, but films of a similar vein to this, such as Gremlins, provided tight scripts and competent acting to accompany the rather over-the-top storylines. It’s easy to forget that this was the same decade to spawn classics such as Aliens and Terminator when viewing something like Killer Klowns, which boasts terrible acting to accompany the terrible script. So, while a film like Gremlins is undeniably silly, it’s still a good, solid film, and therein lies the difference. You could herald Killer Klowns as a classic for its schlock content, but it’s my personal belief that this would be to over-egg matters, because it goes way past the point of being fun for being bad, to the point of just being so silly you can’t engage with it or care about anything that happens. I have to admit, I was disappointed. I wasn’t expecting anything too brilliant from a film with such a title as this, but at the same time I thought I might have an enjoyable hour and a half. Popcorn laser guns and people trapped inside candyfloss cocoons and a spaceship shaped like a circus tent … how could that not be amazing? So, it’s a real shame that this film sounds much more fun than it ever proves to be.