- BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- Region Free
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
- French Dolby Digital 1.0
- English SDH
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
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Killer Klowns From Outer Space (Blu-ray)
MGM/UA / 1988 / 86 Minutes / Rated R
Street Date: September 11, 2012
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Reviewed by M. Enois Duarte
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Whatta ya gonna do? Knock my block off?
Armed with cotton-candy blasters, mutated flesh-eating popcorn, balloon ray guns, acid pies, and animated shadow puppets that swallow you whole, 'Killer Klowns From Outer Space' invade Earth to scare your funny-bone to death. The colorful circus freaks draw you in with their playful pleasantries before cocooning you in cotton candy and storing you away on their mother ship, which is shaped like an enormous Barnum & Bailey tent. They suck on your blood at their leisure through the most convoluted funny straws, jump out of pizza boxes like a Jack-in-the-Box, and explode into a fireworks show of confetti when you pop their noses. It's one silly laugh after another in this outrageously weird cult favorite.
In the tradition of 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes' and 'Night of the Creeps,' the Chiodo Brothers created a hysterically absurd homage to the sci-fi B-horror movies of the 1950s and 1960s. The title says it all, promising a darkly cartoonish tribute to the period while placing it in a contemporary small town setting, born of a twisted sense of humor and our childhood fear of clowns. No one specific drive-in feature serves as inspiration, but rather, it comes from the collective memories of those films and captures the spirit of the era while forging into slapstick excess. It's a romping good time at the movies, never meant to be taken serious or all that scary. Just sit back and laugh at the farcical nonsense of clowns with a street vacuum or enjoy the wickedness of seeing a child about be knocked on the head with a wooden mallet.
It's made even more bizarre when characters on screen show absolutely no fear of the invading aliens simply because they resemble clowns. Many even approach them without the slightest concern or alarm that the creatures are walking the streets at night. The space invaders are actually hideous-looking monsters with grimy, yellow teeth and the most disturbingly sinister smiles. The Chiodo Brothers come from a background in special effects and make-up (editor's shout out: Stephen Chiodo graduated from my alma mater), and they played a major role in the production design and the look of the Killer Klowns. They are precisely as we would imagine them in our worst nightmares — revoltingly phantasmagoric grotesqueries from another world that want to eat you, not bring a smile to your face. One of the movie's most imaginative and admirable aspects is in the effects and design. For a low-budget film, they're amazing!
The story, riddled with a variety of classic horror tropes and clichés, follows a young couple (Grant Cramer and Suzanne Snyder with funny names like Mike Tobacco and Debbie Stone) stumbling upon the alien invasion and setting out to warn their quiet, suburban town à la Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut in 'The Blob.' Later, Snyder becomes the archetypical damsel-in-distress when kidnapped in one of those huge circus balloons that I don't think we see anymore. With the sheriff (John Allen Nelson) convinced of the creepy threat these clowns pose, Cramer and he are on the rescue while mean-spirited Officer Mooney (John Vernon) remains a non-believer, leading to his own demise as a ventriloquist dummy. Michael Siegel and Peter Licassi as the ice-cream-selling Terenzi Brothers join the rescue mission as a pair of comic-relief buffoons.
'Killer Klowns from Outer Space,' which has grown into a wildly popular cult favorite from Halloween masks to collectible action figures, is not a movie for the faint of heart. Or at least, those who don't care for the over-the-top madcap zaniness and wickedly dark nonsense of alien clowns invading Earth. Audiences are not required a familiarity with the B-horror features it plays homage to, as the impressive visuals and make-up effects are more than enough to deliver the laughs the plot promises. All these years later and countless viewings, the movie remains a riot, one which the Chiodo Brothers will continue to be remembered for, even if they never went on to other projects of their own making. However, loyal fans will be pleased to know that a sequel is set for release sometime next year, and it'll be in glorious 3D!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment bring 'Killer Klowns from Outer Space' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc that goes straight to the movie. Special features can only accessed through a pop-up main menu. The disc is housed inside a blue eco-cutout keepcase with a new cover art that's rather cool and creepy.
The Chiodo Brothers make a clown out of Blu-ray with a mildly impressive but in the end, only passable 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode of 'Killer Klowns.' Compared to its standard def counterpart, this high-def transfer shows some improvements, particularly in resolution and clarity. The 1.85:1 frame is awash in a fine layer of grain, giving it an attractive film-like appearance. Yet, the overall picture doesn't show a great deal of sharp definition, looking fairly soft for a majority of the time. There are some pockets of good detailing and visible textures, but they are far and few in between.
Contrast and brightness are stronger and more stable, but the image is generally flat and never really pops off the screen. Blacks are also fuller but mostly look like a dark grayish tone in several sequences. Most surprising is a color palette the feels somewhat subdued and drained in many spots with flesh tones that fluctuate between sickly-pale to reddish, though primaries come in decently well, with greens looking best of all. Considering its low-budget origins and age, the video isn't half bad, but it's neither all that impressive. If given a proper restoration, the results could be rather spectacular however.
The audio is also in a similar boat as the picture, exposing several issues in the source. For what it's worth, this DTS-HD Master Audio stereo soundtrack does a nice job in generating a wide image, particularly when it comes to John Massari's musical score. Even though it's not very extensive, dynamic range is clean and sharp, allowing for the many action scenes to come through clearly. Discrete effects spread into the other two channels smoothly.
Where we meet a few snags are in the vocals. Although intelligible from beginning to end, conversations feel flat, lifeless and canned with some noticeable hissing in a few conversations and a bit of reverb. Background activity seems distant and separate from on-screen action. And finally, there's no low-end to speak of, adding to the overall lackluster and somewhat hollow lossless mix.
Special features are ported over from the DVD, except for two still galleries.
- Audio Commentary — The Chiodo Brothers chat and converse amongst themselves while giving listeners lots of great anecdotal information. Several remarks are on creative decision, budgetary restraints, themes and some history behind the story and the origins of several ideas. They sometimes revert to narrating and explaining on-screen action, but their lighthearted conversation makes for an amusing and entertaining listen.
- The Making of Killer Klowns (SD, 22 min) — Combining BTS footage from the original production with a more recent interview of the Chiodo Brothers, this featurette functions more like a discussion and look back at the making of the movie than a straightforward doc. Nonetheless, the piece offers plenty of good info on the cast, stunts and special effects while also remarking on several of the story's themes, influences and filming challenges.
- Komposing Klowns (SD, 13 min) — As the title suggests, this segment is nice chat with composer John Massari on creating the fantastical, circus-like music.
- Visual Effects (SD, 15 min) — Another informative interview, this time with Gene Warren Jr. talking about his involvement and taking a closer look at the final sequence with the "Klownzilla" monster.
- Kreating Klowns (SD, 13 min) — Charles Chiodo and special-effects creator Dwight Roberts talk about some key aspects of the production and challenges the filmmakers had to overcome.
- Chiodo Brothers' Earliest Films (SD, 7 min) — Precisely as it sounds, the siblings look back fondly at their early work from their youth while commenting in the background.
- Deleted Scenes (SD) — With optional commentary from the brothers, two removed scenes are collected and make a decent watch.
- Killer Bloopers (SD, 3 min) — Several flubs, blunders and gaffes can be enjoyed, some amusing while others okay.
- Vignettes (SD) — Two very brief clips showing that use to be Easter Eggs on the previous DVD, showing auditions for the Klowns (4 min) and an alternate take with Officer Mooney (7 seconds).
- Trailers (SD) — The original theatrical preview finishes the set of supplements.
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From the Chiodo Brothers, 'Killer Klowns From Outer Space' is a farcical tribute to the sci-fi B-horror movies of the 1950s and 1960s, but intentional exaggerate the nonsense to the level outrageous slapstick silliness. Cliché-ridden and hysterical absurd, the film comes with a very dark, twisted sense of humor that's bizarrely lighthearted and animated. The alien creatures invade Blu-ray with an improved but not entirely impressive picture quality and a sadly average audio presentation. Supplements are carried from the previous DVD, but the loyal, rabid fans will want to own this wildly popular cult favorite for the price.
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