Review of “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988)

trailter from YouTube

This is our latest Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering. God lord. I think I need another glass of wine.


While our heroes, Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and Debbie Stone (Suzanne Snyder), are parked along with half the local high school at the “Top of the World,” they see a fireball streak across the sky. It seems to have landed not far from them. Debbie wants to find it. Mike has other things on his mind.

In the meantime, local farmer Gene Green (Royal Dano) is reading a magazine on his porch with his dog, Pooh Bear. Farmer Green also sees the fireball and believes it’s Halley’s Comet.* Believing he’s finding the meteorite will make him rich, he takes a shovel and bucket, and (fatefully) Pooh Bear and heads to the woods, where he finds what appears to be a circus big top, lit up from inside. Now, who would put up a circus in the middle of the woods?

The farmer is the first casualty. Poor Pooh Bear receives a net thrown over him. The perpetrators are klowns dressed up like clowns with red rubber noses, masks, and big shoes. But why do they kill?

Mike and Debbie also find the big top and enter it. They stumble across a labyrinth decorated in bold Romper Room colors and explore. Ultimately, they discover a room where rabbit-foot shaped sacks of what appears to be bright pink cotton candy hang in a storage room. They debate whether this is how cotton candy is stored. (Uh—no.) To prove his point, Mike rips off a piece to reveal a human face. Debbie screams.

When they are discovered, a klown shoots them with a bazooka-looking weapon full of popcorn. But it’s not just any popcorn.

Mike and Debbie go to the cops. Debbie says she has a friend on the force. She doesn’t mention Officer Dave Hansen (John Allen Nelson) is an old boyfriend. No one believes them, but Dave agrees to drive out with Mike they saw the tent. He drives Debbie home. What follows is one of the longest obligatory shower scenes in any movie.

When Dave and Mike arrive, they find only a giant hole in the ground—no circus tents in sight.

Where would a klown go to hide? An amusement park, of course. The security guard challenges the klowns when they climb out of the klown car. They have come armed.

The hapless security guard continues, “What’re ya gonna do with those pies, boys?”


This is absurdist, gruesome, and satirical. Many elements of the opening are time-honored elements of horror flicks, e.g., The Thing. Men in Black uses many of the same elements to parody.

Everything about clowns and the circus becomes sinister and deadly—yet remains goofy. In one scene, the klowns drive a wildly-colored vacuum truck, picking up their victims. In another context, this would be comical or weird. In the present context, it is ghastly.

One little girl, ignored by her family while they are eating in a restaurant, is enticed by a friendly klown to come outside. The scene induces dread. Will she be lured to her horrible death under the noses of the adults around her? The movie’s play is for the absurdist. The viewer chuckles.

In another scene, a klown amuses soon-to-be victims with hand shadow puppets on a brick wall. His hands are awkward, yet he pulls off convincing shadows, much to the oohs and aahs of his audience. He even manages a reproduction of George Washington crossing the Delaware.

The klowns appear to be immortal. They get up after being struck by a car. Gunfire slows them but doesn’t kill them. They do have a kryptonite vulnerability, and it isn’t yodeling.

However, this movie isn’t for me. I can appreciate the premise, and I loved the absurdity, but I found the acting wooden and the dialogue…ick. Plenty of people disagree with me, however. Most professional reviewers looked at it favorably, and it’s become something of a cult classic.

In fact, the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films nominated it for two Saturn Awards in 1990, one for Best Music (John Massari) and one for Best Costume (Darcee F. Olson).

I generally love dark, absurdist stuff, even if the effects are off and the acting is less than Academy-worthy. If I had to put my finger on one deal-breaker in the film, it was its predictability.

According to Wikipedia, toys from the movie have been available. Universal Orlando has used themes from the film for its Halloween Horror Nights event. A game is available, about which I’m afraid to say I know nothing.

I have been unable to find a copy of the movie for free or even for rent. YouTube will sell you a copy for a mere $14.99. If you are interested in watching it, I recommend checking if your library has or can get you a copy. Yes, I’m cheap.

*Halley’s Comet last swung by in 1986. It, um, doesn’t appear as a fireball. Just sayin’.

Title: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Directed by
Stephen Chiodo…(directed by)

Writing Credits
Charles Chiodo…(written by) and
Stephen Chiodo…(written by)
Edward Chiodo…(uncredited)

Cast (in credits order)
Grant Cramer…Mike Tobacco
Suzanne Snyder…Debbie Stone
John Allen Nelson…Dave Hansen
John Vernon…Curtis Mooney
Michael S. Siegel…Rich Terenzi (as Michael Siegel)
Peter Licassi…Paul Terenzi
Royal Dano…Farmer Gene Green
Christopher Titus…Bob McReed (as Chris Titus)

Released: 1988
Length: 1hour, 28 minutes
Rated: PG-13

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

6 thoughts on “Review of “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988)

  1. I don’t think it would be for me either. For starters I would react to the setup/premise as somewhat silly. I understand it was comedy but I think it would ruin the Thing for me, which I consider a good movie.

    1. It departs from The Thing quite rapidly. I rather liked The Thing, especially the old black-and-white version: “Keep watching the skies.” It was creepy.

      But no, my guess is that you wouldn’t think highly Killer Klowns.

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