Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1987)

Clowns on screen have never frightened me, not even Pennywise, although on the page he was a different proposition. Killer Klowns from Outer Space isn’t a film that’s trying to scare you. It’s more of an adult cartoon playing things for grotesque laughs, but it does take the question it asks very seriously: what if alien clowns came to earth to turn people into candyfloss snacks?

Mike and Debbie are making out in the woods near Crescent Cove when they see something fall from the sky. They discover a circus tent spaceship and the bodies of two local people dissolved in a wrapping of candyfloss. The town’s Sheriff doesn’t believe them, so they try to convince his Deputy, Debbie’s ex-boyfriend Dave. Clowns from the spaceship arrive on the streets and start to turn everyone into candyfloss balls, which they collect for food. Mike, Debbie and Dave, along with two friends in an ice cream truck, find the spaceship and face off against the clowns’ giant leader.

But this film is not about plot—it’s about the series of set pieces where clowns approach unsuspecting humans and find amusing ways to dispatch them. The awesome mixture of set design, costumes and puppetry creates a surprisingly real and coherent world that is straight out of a B-movie, but could actually be happening. It’s a one note tune, for sure, and I did get bored in places, but there are also weird wonders here, and I can imagine anyone who saw this too young, perhaps because of a mean older sibling, or lax babysitter, might be scarred for life. It’s not a good film, but it’s also amazing, and I don’t want to think about any of these clowns knocking on my door in the middle of the night.