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"Killer clowns from outer space? Holy shit."
Mooney
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Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a 1988 horror/comedy B-Movie created by the Chiodo brothers, a team of creature effects designers. It is the only film they wrote or directed.

A spaceship shaped like a giant circus tent lands on the outskirts of a small town. The occupants are aliens that look like Monster Clowns. They begin abducting the townsfolk, sealing them in cotton candy cocoons, and then draining them of their blood. Only one man, his two delinquent friends, his girlfriend, and her cop ex-boyfriend can stop them.

A very Affectionate Parody of 1950s B Movies (particularly The Blob) with just about every alien invasion and circus trope present.

Made on a $2 million production budget, the movie bombed the box office most likely due to a lack of marketing and being passed on by major theater chains in favor of big studio films when first released. Over the years the film became popular and made more revenue off merchandising such as action figures, Halloween costumes and T-shirts.

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In spite of director Stephen Chiodo's best efforts, no sequel or television series emerged over the next 30 years, until Syfy announced in 2018 that they are in talks to acquire rights to the film to create a sequel on their network.

Killer Klowns has also earned its own Scare Zone at the Universal Studios Orlando event for Halloween Horror Nights in 2018.


"KILLER TROPES FROM OUTER SPACE":

  • Achilles' Heel: Destroying a Klown's nose kills them instantly.
  • Adult Fear: One Klown beckons a child to come to him... whilst secretly holding a mallet behind his back, clearly planning on murdering her. If her mom hadn't managed to stop her just in the nick of time — and entirely for the wrong reason at that — the little girl would have died gruesomely.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of 1950s B-Movies.
  • Alliterative Name: Killer Klowns.
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  • All There in the Manual: None of the Klowns are named within the film, not even by the humans giving them nicknames. This is understandable given the alien vibe, but the main Klowns we see do all have names which can be found in supplementary material.
  • All Webbed Up: Done using cotton candy instead of webbing. The webbing apparently dissolves the victims enough to be drunk through a silly straw.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The alien invaders are an entire race of Monster Clowns, and are consequently all pure evil. They're essentially space clown vampires, but rather than killing humans only to feed on them, they're all utterly sadistic and genuinely enjoy murdering people in increasingly gruesome ways and laughing psychotically about it.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Mike cites the term directly when he theorizes that a previous visit from the Klowns, hundreds of years ago, gave humanity the idea for clowns, circus tents, popcorn, etc. It's also suggested that they are why many people fear clowns today.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Shorty gets upset over a biker who wrecks his tricycle and "knocks his block off".
    • The rabid officer Mooney who roughs up suspects and dismisses the increasing reports of Klown attacks as a mass prank, ultimately gets done in by a Klown who wanders into his station.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Klowns. (From outer space.)
  • Big Bad: Jojo the Klownzilla, who is literally much bigger than all the other Klowns, shows up as their leader in the climax.
  • Bad Humor Truck: The Terenzi brothers' latest get-rich-quick scheme. Also devised as a way to get fat girls.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Klowns' spaceship combines this with Bizarrchitecture.
  • B-Movie: Both a straight example and an Affectionate Parody of the genre.
  • Body Horror: The victims of Klowns are turned into cotton candy cocoons. When opened up, the bodies inside them are a gooey mess.
  • Boldly Coming: The Terenzi brothers get separated from the other main characters briefly ending next to two lady Klowns. Cut away, and they come back shortly after Covered in Kisses.
  • Breast Expansion: The two "female" clowns from the above mentioned scene.
  • Brick Joke:
    • The Terenzi brothers fall into a ball pit beside two female Klowns, who leer at them while their...balloons grow. In their next scene, the brothers are Covered in Kisses.
    • A very dark one comes with the characters theorizing about the Klowns' motivations. Rich throws out the silly idea that they're just "cruising through the galaxy, and they stopped for a bite to eat." Soon after, Dave and Mike see that, yeah, that is actually why they're here, as one Klown is seen drinking from a cocooned person he deemed ripe enough for consumption.
  • Cassandra Truth: No one believes Mike and Debbie at first, but Dave does begrudgingly take Mike with him to investigate the area. Sgt. Mooney remains convinced that the whole thing is a hoax even after being confronted by a killer klown.
  • Choke Holds: Once Mooney puts Jumbo behind bars, he finds himself on the receiving end of one, delivered by Jumbo's party blower which unfurls into a hand.
  • Cool Starship: It's shaped like a circus tent.
  • Circus of Fear: What the Klowns' mothership is designed as.
  • Clown Car: Near the end the evil Klowns relocate to a closed amusement park, arriving in a tiny clown car. The security guard bemusedly watches five Klowns emerge from the vehicle, most of whom are individually larger than the car.
  • Covered in Kisses: The Terenzi brothers have gigantic lipstick kisses covering their faces in the next scene after they encounter the female klowns.
  • Creepy Circus Music: The score by John Massari has the feel of a demented, out-of-control circus tune to match with the tongue-in-cheek evil circus theme of the titular creatures.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Really, where do we start?
    • Anyone zapped by the Klowns' cotton-candy guns, as shown in the few times that they're torn open, is dissolved alive inside of them.
    • A biker gets his head punched clean off after harassing Shorty.
    • A security guard is melted into a puddle of glop and bones with acidic cream pies.
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot:
    • Mike and Debbie went inside the Big Top (the Klowns' UFO that looks like a circus tent) out of curiosity, nearly getting them killed in the process.
    • The Klowns also exploit the humans' curiosity to lure them into traps, such as the little girl back in the burger restaurant and then one of the restaurant's employees who was lured into the garbage dumpster by sounds made by the popcorn seeds Jumbo the Klown (literally) sprinkled in there.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: One of the Klowns uses Mooney as a ventriloquist's dummy in order to talk to Dave, apparently shoving its hand into his back.
    Klown: Don't worry, Dave, all we want to do is kill you!
  • Deuteragonist: Mike and Dave share the protagonist role. Mike is the romantic lead. He's also the one who discovers the threat and leads the early efforts to resist it, and later supplies his knowledge and deductions of the Klowns. Dave is the action hero who discovers the Klowns' weakness, leads the invasion into their tent and destroys their leader and ship.
  • Disney Death: Dave and the Terenzi brothers are presumably killed when the spaceship blows up, but they're revealed to have taken shelter in the clown car and emerge unscathed. They were originally killed, but test audiences wanted a lighter ending.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Farmer Green and his dog "Pooh Bear" become the first casualties of the film because for some reason when Green sees a falling star (in reality, the Klowns' starship) come crashing down into the forest near his home, he decides to go fetch it and maybe even create a tourist attraction out of it, believing that it's Halley's Comet.
  • Earth-Shattering Poster: A Klown's finger is spinning it like a basketball.
  • Edible Ammunition: The Klowns fire popcorn guns and use cream pies for ammo, except the popcorn eventually transforms into mini-Klown monsters and the cream pies are acidic.
  • Enfant Terrible: The newborn baby Klowns.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the end of the movie, The Klowns' ship explodes... and everyone has a "Thank goodness that's over" moment... only to be hit by cream pies. Also, there's still the issue of the baby Klowns back in Debbie's apartment.
  • E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: Mike theorizes that clowns and circuses were inspired by the Klown aliens visiting before.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The villains are killer clowns, and they're from outer space.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes places over the course of one night. It's dark and nighttime as the movie begins and ends.
  • Famous Last Words:
  • Four-Fingered Hands: The Klowns have them, which makes Slim's shadow puppets all the more ludicrous.
  • God Guise: The Terenzi brothers try to fake out the Klowns with their clown-headed ice cream truck, proclaiming it's "the great and powerful Jojo". It gives pause to the regular Klowns, but rouses a giant one to contest "Jojo's" claim.
  • Hammerspace: Frequently invoked on the part of the Klowns, producing items from nowhere between shots, and in one case, a Klown pops out of a pizza box.
  • Humanoid Aliens: The Klowns look like hideous and distorted human clowns. Their juveniles are more bizarre, being mostly heads and necks.
  • Humans Are Morons: With the exception of Mike, humans are easy, gullible prey to the Klowns' traps.
  • I'm Melting!: Near the end the Klowns dispose of a security guard by showering him with throwing pies... which promptly melt him down to a pile of bones.
  • Impossible Shadow Puppets: One of the Klowns makes hand shadows of a variety of complicated subjects that seem to bear no relation to the movements we see of its stubby fingers. At one point it makes a shadow puppet of Washington crossing the Delaware. Then it makes the shadow of a T. Rex that swallows its audience.
  • Irony: From Mooney. "Nobody's going to make a dummy out of me!"
  • Keystone Army: The spaceship blows up when Jojo the Klownzilla is killed. This may also be due to his explosion being larger and more powerful due to his size.
  • Kick the Dog: Literal example. The first on-screen casualty of the Klowns' rampage is farmer Green's pet dog "Pooh Bear". Farmer Green outlives the dog for just a minute or so, though. In the scene where Mike and Dave return to the cotton candy room to find Debbie, you can see a noticeably smaller cocoon behind them, which is supposed to be the dog's.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Jumbo is definitely the most sadistic of the Klowns. He provides 2 of most threatening scenes in the movie. He tries luring a child outside a restaurant so he can beat her to death with a mallet and when he kills Mooney, he proceeds to use his corpse as ventriloquists dummy so he can speak to Dave.
    Mooney-Jumbo: "Don't worry, Dave. All we wanna do is kill ya".
  • Laughably Evil: This is naturally the space Klowns' shtick. They kill people by using normally comedic circus-like magic tricks, but with lethal results—showering people in acid pies, cocooning them in cotton candy, consuming them with shadow puppets, making ventriloquist dummies out their corpses, etc. Evil Laugh optional, but advised.
  • Large and in Charge: Klownzilla.
  • Living Shadow: One of the Klowns entertains a crowd with Impossible Shadow Puppets before creating a T-Rex one and devouring them with it.
  • Living Toys: The Klowns create balloon-animal dogs that actually bark and follow scent-trails much like police dogs.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Jojo the Klownzilla, who blows up the entire Klown ship upon dying.
  • Long Neck: Possibly applicable to the Klown-spawn that arise from the popcorn on Debbie's discarded sweater, although we never seen what the necks are attached to so they could be snake-like instead.
  • Love Triangle: Between Debbie, her current boyfriend Mike and her ex-boyfriend Dave. Word Of God says Dave probably wins.
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam: What Mooney thinks is happening regarding the clowns attacking the town (and furthermore, he thinks that he is the target—that the hoax is somehow aimed to force him to quit being a cop). He even decides to believe that Dave is part of it when he radios in asking him to request for backup from the state police. Needless to say, the truth is more horrifying...
  • Make-Out Point: "Top of the World," where all the local teens go to make out in their cars beneath the stars. It's near where the Klowns land. Christopher Titus makes his film debut as one of the unfortunate teens.
  • Monster Clown: The Klowns are hideous, yet no one seems to notice, treating them as ordinary clowns if they notice them at all.
  • Monster Misogyny: The Klowns are mostly seen killing men, and the only notable female they attack is Debbie, whom they trap in a balloon instead of turning her into cotton candy. They take her back to their ship, but it's never clear what they intend to do with her. Fans have come up with theories such as 1) they wanted Debbie as fresh stock, 2) they wanted Debbie to breed and give birth to more children or 3) they were going to convert her into a female Klown.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • Mooney tries a little Police Brutality on a Klown "prisoner", thinking it's a prankster in a costume. It ends badly, and he gets turned into a Dead Guy Puppet.
    • A gang of bikers decide to pick on Shorty by wrecking his bike. He decapitates the offending biker.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The Klowns are in fact, Monster Clown Vampires From Space.
  • Off with His Head!: A biker gets his block literally knocked off by Shorty, which is the punchline to the biker's incredulous question.
    Biker: What are you gonna do, knock my block off?
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: All of the five main characters survive, Dave and the Terenzi brothers even get a Disney Death when they're shown to have survived the explosion of the Klown spaceship after all. At the same time, their entire hometown (or a very good portion at least) has been wiped out by the Klown invasion, which is ignored with a pre-credits pie gag. While in the ship, Dave does suggest trying to free more people, but then the Klowns show up and they have no time to save anyone but themselves.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're alien beings who visually resemble grotesque, somewhat reptilian clowns, and they use ray-guns that envelop victims in cocoons of cotton candy that dissolve them, implying that what the Klowns drink is less "blood" and more "liquefied flesh".
  • People Puppets: Mooney after being killed by a Klown.
  • Pie in the Face: The Klowns throw acidic pies at a security guard, which reduces him to a pile of bones and whipped cream, ending with Shorty sticking a giant cherry on top. Interesting to note that the pies used were not the traditional pie tin with whipped cream, but actual fruit pies that hit the guy with quite a bit of visible force. Also, they had to put hand straps on the tins so they weren't flying with the pies and covering the actor.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Shorty knocks a grown man's head clean off with a single punch. Justified because the Klowns are actually extraterrestrial monsters.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: One of the Klowns allows himself to be taken prisoner, apparently just to toy with Mooney. Once Mooney starts getting aggressive, he returns in spades.
  • Police are Useless: Zigzagged.
    • Mooney is a completely useless cop who spends his time harassing local college students for drinking in the park. When the klowns arrive, he's absolutely convinced that they're a hoax perpetrated by the entire town and refuses to look into the mounting reports, despite the fact that no matter how ridiculous, this should be at least a cause for concern.
    • Dave is understandably dubious about Mike and Debbie's claims, but agrees to investigate. Once he gets a load of what's going on, he becomes an action hero.
    • The rest of the state police do show up at the end, but they are too late to actually help anyone, arriving just in time to see the spaceship explode and the survivors escape.
  • Police Brutality: Mooney first arrests two college boys for public intoxication, then starts beating them up, forcing Dave to intervene.
  • Precision F-Strike: "It's gonna take a lot more than a lame prank like this to get Curtis Mooney to throw in his badge, so fuck you! Over!"
  • Rabid Cop: Officer Mooney has to be almost physically restrained from beating up a couple of punks brought in for public drunkenness. He later takes a flashlight to the head of one of the Klowns, which turns out to be not such a hot idea.
  • Ray Gun: The Klown's main weapon of choice is a ray gun that wraps people in a cotton candy cocoon which turns them into a drinkable gelatinous goo, sort of like a spider's CapriSun pouch, if you will.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Where the Klowns come from and why everything they do is clown-themed. Mike suggests that they visited Earth centuries before and provided the basis for the human concept of clowns, but it's left unanswered.
  • Sexy Jester: The Terenzi brothers seem to think the two female clowns are this but most viewers wouldn't agree.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Dumbo when the Klowns appear beneath Debbie's window holding a small trampoline and wearing fire helmets.
    • Officer Mooney appears to be based off of Sgt. Jim Bert from The Blob (1958).
  • Shower Scene: Debbie takes a shower and apparently spends a good half-hour in there while the popcorn klown larva gestate. Given the PG-13 rating, it's not played for fanservice.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Largely balanced. The film is played surprisingly straight for such a silly premise which the filmmakers wisely didn't take too seriously. The klowns are very often Laughably Evil, but the movie keeps some genuine scares for even non-coulrophobes.
  • Standard Snippet: The main riff of the title theme by the Dickies is based on "Entry of the Gladiators" by Julius Fucik, and it gets used more fully toward the end of the song.
  • Starfish Aliens: Though the adults are humanoid, the clowns seem to start life as popcorn, then grow into snakes with clown heads.
  • Stripped to the Bone: Acidic custard pies.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: The Terenzi brothers are resistant to help Mike and Dave, but display sudden interest when they mention that Debbie's in danger, and the Terenzis ask if Debbie has roommates. Mike lies and goes along with it, saying yes, she has two roommates, with big boobs, and affirms that they like ice cream when the Terenzis ask.
  • Sweater Girl: Mike and Debbie wear sweaters for pretty much the whole movie.
  • Technicolor Death: The only way to kill a Klown is by popping their noses, which makes them spin around in a green light show before exploding. All in all, killing a Klown is just as dangerous as blowing up dynamite within a blast radius you risk being in, but just letting the Klown live is an even worse choice.
  • Terror at Make-Out Point: The first place the Killer Klowns go to so they can harvest humans for their blood is the teenage make-out spot. When the heroes later inspect the place, they find only cars full of cotton candy and a pair of glasses.
  • Threw My Bike on the Roof: A group of bikers bully Shorty who arrives on a mini-bicycle by destroying it and laughing to each other. Unfortunately for them, he is actually a vampiric extra-terrestrial monster, so he decapitates the biker in question. The rest of the gang wisely take off after that.
  • Tightrope Walking: Exploring the Klowns' tent/ship, the characters encounter a passage where they must walk a tightrope in a fog; they manage, but wobble enough to show it's not easy. The weirdness of the scene increases when they reach the end of the passage, where the rope is bent into steps which lead to the next doorway.
  • Title Drop: Mooney overhears Mike and Debbie's story and sarcastically comments, "Killer clowns from outer space? Ho-ly shit!"
  • Title Theme Tune: "Killer Klowns From Outer Space" by The Dickies.
  • To Serve Man: The Klowns capture people and trap them inside cotton candy cocoons (killing the victim in the process) so that they decompose into a sweet red liquid for the Klowns to drink.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Only two female Klowns are seen.
  • The Unintelligible: Zig-zagged with the Klowns. While they have a bizarre alien babble whem speaking to each other, when interacting with humans, they approximate English to a point of intelligibility. (For example, Shorty can be understood to be saying "put up your dukes" before boxing the biker.) And when Jumbo puppets Mooney and makes him talk, it seems to be his own sentiment, somehow gaining a voice through Mooney.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The first time a Klown encounters people in town, it pretends to be an animatronic to avoid notice. After that scene, the Klowns drop all pretense of hiding, which is just as well, since no one in the entire film reacts to their grotesque appearance. When they're noticed at all, they're treated as looking like normal clowns, though their destructive actions certainly get attention.
  • Visual Pun: The Klowns' "Big Top" tent/spaceship, when it takes off at the end of the movie, is revealed to actually be shaped like a big spinning top.
  • Wall Crawl: Implied when Dave returns to the police station, and sees Jumbo's colorful footprints on every wall of the cell block.
  • What Are You in For?: Asked of a Klown by a fellow prisoner after the Klown allows himself to be locked in the town jail.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Klowns would, but the movie's creators wouldn't. One girl who was at a burger restaurant gets lured out by a Klown who planned on smashing her head in with a mallet. Her mother stops her in time, making Jumbo angrily shriek.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The spelling of "Killer Klowns" in the title.
  • You Are Too Late: Mike takes Dave back to see the circus tent which is gone. Oddly enough, the huge hole it left behind does not count as any evidence of anything strange to Dave, who promptly handcuffs Mike for filing a false report.

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