It was simply one of those movies you just had to see to believe; over-sized aliens appearing as grotesque clowns invade anywhere town America and cause havoc with popcorn guns and cotton candy cocoons over the course of one chaotic night (which in theaters originally landed on May 27, 1988).
Spawned from the minds of Charles, Edward, and Stephen Chiodo (collectively known as the Chiodo Brothers) in their directorial debut, the trio applied their skills they had previously honed on such other creature-effects driven films as the Critters franchise. The three were at their creative prime, unleashing one of the wackiest movies to ever hit the screens up until that time.
In the film, young lovers Mike (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) are interrupted at the local lovers’ lane hot spot when they see what they believe to be a comet crashing to the earth. But upon further investigation, they discover a glowing circus tent where the comet by all accounts should have landed, and it’s then that the mayhem truly ensues.
From there the film becomes a classic case of a group of small town kids trying to save the world from evil, but this time that evil just happens to be murderous clowns. Cramer – joined by two dimwitted brothers in an ice cream truck (played by Michael S. Sigel and Peter Licassi) does an admirable enough job as the leader of the group, protecting Snyder (the de facto ’80s damsel in distress, also known for 1986’s Night of the Creeps and 1988’s Return of the Living Dead Part II) from the threat of both the aliens and one very hard-assed local sheriff (played brilliantly by John Vernon of Animal House fame).
The film is also notable for being one of the final appearances by late old-school actor Royal Dano (who had carved out a niche for playing the “old man” role in many a late ’80s horror film, including 1987’s House II: The Second Story and 1988’s Ghoulies II), appropriately appearing as simply “The Farmer.” Pop punks The Dickies also provided the theme song to Killer Klowns…, complete with an accompanying music video. Years after the film’s release, I was able to actually catch the band perform and even meet their guitarist Stan Lee in 2003 (but alas, I can’t recall them performing the track that night).
The author with Dickies guitarist Stan Lee (left) and The Damned drummer Pinch (right) after Fiend Fest in Tampa, FL on 8/12/03.
Today, the film remains a staple in pop culture, with endless midnight screenings and/or cable showings (the film will once again be featured on the upcoming schedule of Svengoolie soon), and countless masks, decorations, and various other appearances across multiple spectrums (including full displays currently seen on a national level at most Spirit Halloween stores. Not bad for a little comedy-horror flick that brought in $43 million in its original theatrical run (that’s a LOT of cotton and popcorn!).
Author Jesse Striewski (right) with wife Brooke and Killer Klown “Slim” on display at a Spirit Halloween store on 8/26/23.