Killer Klowns From Outer Space – An Introduction

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Here is the transcript of Darrell Buxton’s introduction to Killer Klowns From Outer Space from Friday 9th October.

Hello and welcome to QUAD for this month’s Fright Club, the colourful and outlandish KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE.

An unease concerning clowns is cited by many people as being one of their biggest fears. It’s a comparatively modern phenomena. Humans have been terrified of spiders, snakes, creepy crawlies, death and taxes for centuries, but the concept of Coulrophobia is so recent that this term for being scared by red-nosed circus comics was only coined in the 1980s, apparently based on the Ancient Greek word ‘kolobathristes’ or “one who goes on stilts”.

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Robert Bloch, the legendary horror writer renowned as the author of the novel ‘Psycho’, penned a famous non-fiction essay in the early 1960s entitled ‘The Clown At Midnight’. Bloch’s piece compared contemporary horror films to the classics he had grown up watching, finding the newer films lacking in terms of atmosphere, dread, and suspenseful threat, substituting cheap shock value and violent content. It’s a point of view that still finds favour with some today  – I don’t agree with it myself, and we’ve screened plenty enough blood and guts gorefests here at QUAD to make you realise that we love the gruesome and slashy as much as we admire the quiet subtleties of a chilling supernatural drama, but even if you don’t fully buy into Bloch’s thesis, his example of an image that he finds truly unsettling, the ‘clown at midnight’ of the title, seems to have entered popular consciousness.

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Although there were several silent and early sound horror films based around circuses and carnivals, the creepy clown was never really used in a big way as a figure of abject terror until recent years. Perhaps the closest we had for a long while was Batman’s outrageous nemesis ‘The Joker’, the creation of writer Bill Finger and developed visually by Bob Kane and/or Jerry Robinson, with his insane features based loosely on the character of Gwynplaine from the 1928 silent historical drama THE MAN WHO LAUGHS. Then there’s Niall MacGinnis in whiteface at a children’s party, conjuring up a whirlwind from the depths of Hell in one of the scariest scenes of 1958 British supernatural classic, NIGHT OF THE DEMON. From Krusty in ‘The Simpsons’ to Pennywise in Stephen King’s IT, via Captain Spaulding in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, Twisty from ‘American Horror Story’, and king of the burger Ronald McDonald, the white-visaged, rouge-lipped, excessively grinning big-top bogeyman has however suddenly emerged in the modern era as a major totem of terror.

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Two films which became video rental hits during the late eighties seem to have spawned this boom in comic chilldom. CLOWNHOUSE was the debut feature production by director Victor Salva, nowadays better known as the man behind the JEEPERS CREEPERS movies and the very strange fantasy drama POWDER, not to mention his notoriety as a convicted and time-serving sex offender, his crimes actually having involved one of CLOWNHOUSE’s young cast members. clownhouse-posterDespite the controversy, the film is a very effective and creepy piece, offering an early role for the great Sam Rockwell, and featuring a trio of escaped lunatics who murder the clowns Bippo, Dippo and Cheezo, adopt their identities, and scare the life out of a young coulrophobic boy.

Also around this time, KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE popped up on the shelves of video stores everywhere, becoming an instant marketplace winner. You’ve probably noticed that all those other crazy clown movies I mentioned have one thing in common. Their clowns are not, I repeat, not, from outer space. Whereas the ones we’re bringing to you tonight… ah, I see. You’re way ahead of me…

KILLER KLOWNS was made by the Chiodo Brothers, Stephen, Charles, and Edward, a team of special effects wizards adept at everything from puppetry to Claymation, whose work appeared across a series of wild fantasies including the likes of CRITTERS, SCREAMERS, ELF, ERNEST SCARED STUPID, right up to TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE and beyond. If you recall the shockingly funny ‘Large Marge’ sequence from the Tim Burton/Paul Reubens collaboration PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, that was a fine example of the Chiodos’ work at its best. After toiling on other people’s projects, they decided to make their own movie, and KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE was the result. The title gives the game away  – it’s a film all about clown-like aliens who descend to Earth in a circus tent spaceship, to terrorise the inhabitants of a typical small town. The Chiodos utilise various items and props associated with the fun world of the fairground, turning the candy striped, the sugary, the garishly-hued, into tools of torment and torture. Popcorn, balloon animals, custard pies and candy floss all take on a more sinister slant than usual, and the whole thing is a grand, inoffensive horror romp with a great sense of the absurd. It’s all topped by a killer cartoony theme song by pop punk purveyors extraordinaire, The Dickies, which I guarantee you’ll be humming on your way home tonight.

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There’s been talk of a proposed sequel for the past couple of years, called THE RETURN OF THE KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE IN 3D. As yet unproduced, though it would be nice to see the Klowns back in action soon. For tonight, though, get your revolving bow ties spinning, put your size eighteen floppy shoes on, have your squirty flower at the ready, and sit back to enjoy these jesters from another planet in their original adventure. Finally, our disclaimer: If someone throws a bucket of water over you during the course of the night, or if your car falls to pieces while you’re driving home, QUAD takes no responsibility – don’t blame us. Enjoy!

Screenings coming up on The Fringes at QUAD, Derby

Join us again on the Fringes on Friday 16th October as Feel Good Film Club presents a preview of the new documentary THE BLACK PANTHER – VANGUARD OF A REVOLUTION.

Then on the 23rd October join Satori Screen for a rare cinema outing for Satoshi Kon’s PAPRIKA while also from the 23rd, All The Right Notes presents a cinema run for the Killing Joke doc The Death And Resurrection Show.

DEAD AND BREAKFAST VII – featuring THE THING, CANDYMAN, BEASTS – DURING BARTY’S PARTY, STUDENT BODIES, WE ARE STILL HERE and ZOMBIELAND. Fright Club’s annual all night horror marathon arrives once again to chill you from dusk til dawn.

 

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