Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988, Stephen Chiodo)
Encouraged by a fellow reviewer, I decided to watch KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988), an alien invasion movie, made by brothers numerous enough to carry out an invasion of their own (there are three Chiodos credited: Charles, Edward and Stephen). I liked the movie a lot, as it turned out.
Any movie that mocks a given cinematic convention cannot cling too much to only one emotion, or the comedy dies out quickly. And since the basic mechanism of this particular movie lies in the “Clown arrives – Victim reacts – Clown kills the Victim” triangle, it’s the reaction part that the Chiodos tweak endlessly, to a fresh effect each time.
The clowns don’t change, it’s the victims that surprise us with their reactions to them. Some are amused, some wondrous, others show violent disdain. The fact that each and every one of these people dies (or gets cotton-candied all over) is less important than our curiosity, successfully inspired by the script. How will these folk react…? And these…? And these…? The movie keeps us guessing, and it’s quite telling that so many of the actual killings are shown only briefly, with a crude cut taking us to the next scene. It’s not about the shock, it’s about the anticipation of the next stunt.
The dialogue is designed to mock the well-established (think Euripides) tradition of briefing the viewer about the plot developments. Like here:
DEBBIE: I’ve never seen anything like this before! Have you?
DEBBIE: That’s because nobody has!
DEBBIE: Popcorn!? Why popcorn…?
MIKE: ‘Cause they’re clowns, that’s why.
What the movie does really well, though, is keeping the lines funny by themselves, not only funny as a parody of a specific type of lines (an old man approaches the circus-tent-spaceship and wonders: “Maybe I can get me some free passes”).
Come to think of it, any motif that makes it both to Ingmar Bergman’s universe (SAWDUST AND TINSEL), and to that of Stephen King's (IT), has to be some hard-core-unheimlich stuff, as Freud would probably put it. So send in the klowns, anytime!