Feared and beloved by me in equal measure, the 1988 cult classic Killer Klowns from Outer Space was a staple on HBO during my childhood. Although I harbored one hell of a case of coulrophobia (and maybe still do), I watched that movie every time it came on the television — which was a lot in HBO’s leaner programming days. I learned a lot from the Chiodo Brothers masterpiece, including ignoring knocks on your front door when you aren’t expecting it because it is probably a Killer Klown that will drink your blood. It’s a good life lesson.
In celebration of the season and the news that SyFy is planning to make their own Killer Klowns from Outer Space movie, here are some facts about the horror comedy that somehow made itself a beloved staple of the Halloween season.
1. The movie was created after the Chiodo Brothers, Charles, Edward, and Stephen, had a conversation about the scariest thing they could imagine. Both agreed that driving along a lonely stretch of highway in the dark only to see a clown speeding by in an invisible car was the winner. The scene was included in the movie and added the unlucky driver being forced off the road by a klown.
2. The Terenzi Brothers in the movie were played by Michael S. Siegel and Peter Licassi, an existing comedy duo that worked throughout Los Angeles before playing the horny ice cream truck drivers in this flick.
3. The iconic klown costumes were handmade by the Chiodo Brothers and members of their crew. They utilized their experience creating Large Marge from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure on their own movie and used practical effects and matte paintings in many scenes.
4. Chris Titus’s first movie role was Bob McReid and he crossed the street in front of Officer Mooney (John Vernon).
5. The movie’s klowns could be destroyed by shooting, punching, or otherwise destroying their red noses — inspired zombie movies and their method of killing the undead. Other homages to classic horror include a teen couple making out when they see a meteor crash to Earth (The Blob) and the victims wrapped in cotton candy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
6. King Klown (AKA Klownzilla) was supposed to be stop-motion animation, like Large Marge, but budget constraints meant a practical set of effects needed to be used. Charles Chiodo put on the mask and performed the King Klown role that would haunt me for decades, along with the expectant faces of the klowns gathered around his entry point.
7. The old man that first encounters the klowns and their circus ship was portrayed by veteran actor Royal Dano. He also provided the voice for Disneyland’s Abraham Lincoln animatronic.
8. The scene where the klowns dissolve a security guard with acid-laced pies was problematic since the Chiodo Brothers decided to use real, heavy pies. The pies couldn’t be heaved at the actor without hurting him, the shot would be ruined by a pie plate stuck on him, and they wanted to see the filling drip and run down him. In a pinch, they placed a wristband with finger holes on the back of the pie plates. When the klown actors “threw” the pies, only the filling hit the security guard and the tins stayed in place.
9. The balloon dog that tracks victims through the woods required a coating of latex heated by a hair dryer to avoid popping while filming.
10. Four shapes of klown head molds were created for the film and then utilized to create the massive klown kast. Different face paint, hair, colors, etc. were used to differentiate the klowns. The masks were then fitted with built cables to allow control of the facial features.
11. Mike Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) flipped horror movie tropes by having him as the idiot that doesn’t realize things are going to Hell and her as the smart one.
12. The lead characters were named and modeled after people the Brothers knew growing up. Mike Tobacco really did keep an inflatable raft in his car and the Terenzi Brothers thought an ice cream trunk would get them the ladies.
13. The popcorn gun was the most expensive prop in the production, costing $7,000 for the compressor that really did shoot popcorn. Not even the cleaning of cotton candy gunk from a rental Jeep so it could be returned cost as much (it was $3,000.)
Header Image Source: Chiodo Bros.