10 Far Out Facts About Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space was a cinematic tightrope act. Released in 1988, the film skirted the divide between comedy and chills while also juggling elements of classic B-movies, punk rock, and the Memphis-style art aesthetic. A dream project for its creators, the cult classic looks at science fiction tropes through a funhouse mirror. Plus, it showcases some of the deadliest desserts in film history.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN, PRODUCED, AND DIRECTED BY THREE BROTHERS.

This passion project was a family affair. Bronx natives and special effects artists Charles, Edward, and Stephen Chiodo arrived on the Hollywood scene back in the 1980s. In 1982, they founded their own company, Chiodo Brothers Productions. Since then, a huge array of directors have enlisted the trio’s services. Some of their most iconic works include the “Large Marge” claymation from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and the monster effects in Critters, a 1986 horror-comedy.

One day, Stephen found himself entertaining a spooky hypothetical: In a thought exercise, the artist tried to come up with the single scariest image that he could devise. “I imagined myself driving up a lonely mountain road and somebody’s passing me on the left, and when I turn to see who it is, it’s a clown,” he recalled in 2011.

When he brought the idea to his brothers, Charles came up with a twist: What if the clown was actually an alien? And what if it wasn’t driving a car but levitating over the ground? The brothers converted this premise into a feature-length movie script. Once TransWorld Entertainment green-lit the film, Stephen stepped up to the plate and directed it.

2. THE CLOWNS' EXPLOSIVE NOSES WERE AN HOMAGE TO ZOMBIE CINEMA.

Every monster needs an Achilles’s heel, and—as Officer Dave learns in the above clip—the space clowns are no exception. Punch, kick, or shoot one of these aliens in its bright red nose and the creature will explode. At the 2011 Spooky Empire horror convention, the Chiodos revealed that this little attribute was inspired by a familiar trope in zombie cinema. “It seemed so logical,” Edward Chiodo said during a panel discussion. “Shoot the nose, kill the clown.” “How do you kill a zombie?” Stephen then asked. “Shoot the brains, kill the zombie. Same idea.”

3. MIKE’S RUBBER RAFT HAS ITS OWN BACKSTORY.

Zombie references are just the beginning. Growing up, the Chiodos were big monster movie fans. Killer Klowns spoofs a lot of their all-time favorites. The cotton candy cocoons, for example, are a riff on the pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And in an obvious wink at The Blob, the first big scene in Killer Klowns finds a pair of teenagers making out in a parked Pinto when, suddenly, a meteorite crashes by their scenic lookout point. The car belongs to Mike (Grant Cramer), who’s using it to romance his girlfriend, Debbie (Suzanne Snyder). For some reason, the young lovers choose to lock lips on top of an inflated yellow raft in the trunk. Why does Mike keep that thing there? A lot of fans have pondered that very question. According to Charles Chiodo, Debbie asks him point blank in the original script. Mike answers her with a story about how he was out rafting on Long Island Sound one night with his good pals, the Terenzi brothers. When his father heard about the incident, he flipped out, so poor Mike now has to hide the inflatable boat in his Pinto. Although this dialogue-heavy scene was shot, it ended up getting cut because, in Charles Chiodo’s words, “we had too much exposition.”

4. THE DRAG RACER CLOWN LITERALLY HAD A FEW TRICKS UP HIS SLEEVE.

Stephen Chiodo’s original thought experiment—the spark which set the whole project into motion—was realized in a heart-racing action sequence, which shows a space clown with headlights on the soles of his giant shoes levitating next to a car and then driving the vehicle off the road. To pull off that visual, a stuntman in a killer klown costume was seated on a mechanical rig that was physically connected to the automobile. A controller in the suit’s wrist enabled the man to move said rig backward and forward as needed. In addition to the stuntman’s work, this scene also uses two shots that were realized with stop-motion animation.

5. IT WAS CHRISTOPHER TITUS’S FIRST MOVIE.

Keep an eye out for Christopher Titus during the opening credits sequence: He’s the blonde teen who casually strolls in front of Officer Mooney’s police car while downing a can of beer. Today, this standup comedian is best known for his edgy network sitcom, Titus, and his one-man special Norman Rockwell is Bleeding.

Although most of his scenes were deleted in post, Titus says that he’s been asked to sign loads of Killer Klowns DVDs over the years. “The movie geeks who liked that movie really liked that movie,” he told Westword in 2013.

6. TO KEEP THAT BALLOON ANIMAL FROM POPPING, THE EFFECTS TEAM COATED IT IN LATEX.

Being teenagers in a horror movie, Mike and Debbie can’t help but do some snooping when they discover a circus-themed spaceship. The clowns soon chase them out and then use a balloon dog to track their scent. This gag proved difficult to shoot. In the scene, the inflatable pooch gets dragged over some rough forest floor terrain. As Charles Chiodo explained the DVD bonus documentary Kreating Klowns, their balloons kept popping prematurely on pine cones and other objects. So to get the shot, he gave one of the dogs a protective layer of latex and then solidified it with a hairdryer. That did the trick; Charles’s quick fix kept the balloon from exploding.

7. THE PIE SCENE WAS MORE COMPLEX THAN IT LOOKED.

Pie-in-the-face humor is a time-honored tradition, one that Killer Klowns subverts by having a luckless security guard get pelted to death with highly acidic desserts. For this famous scene, the Chiodos decided to use actual pies instead of the more conventional shaving cream-filled tins. Though more realistic, the approach had some drawbacks. “We needed the colored fillings for our final reveal and we needed the crust. And we found out that getting hit in the face with a pie [at close range] was painful,” Charles Chiodo said.

The crew needed to devise a way for actor David Piel to get repeatedly pied from a nice, safe distance away. They also had to avoid hurling the tins at him because the Chiodos also wanted some gratuitous shots of custard and cream oozing down Piel’s face. If any tins were clinging to him, they’d block all that filling from view. Once again, Charles came up with a novel solution: By feeding their fingers through a wristband on the back of each pie tin, the crew could launch the desserts forward without letting go of their metallic containers. Some actors got in on this fun, too: Cramer remembers getting to toss a pie at Piel during the scene.

8. FOUR PRIMARY “GENERIC CLOWN HEAD” MASK MOLDS WERE BUILT.

At the 2011 Spooky Empire convention, Charles Chiodo told the crowd that Stephen wanted his team to sculpt “four generic head types: one round, one triangular, one inverted triangle, and one peanut-shaped.” Once completed, these were mass-produced, with the effects artists creating two clown characters from each of the four molds. On top of that, an original mask mold was made for Klownzilla, the giant who shows up at the film's climax.

But how did the masks change their facial expressions on camera? That was made possible through a system of built-in, mechanically-controlled cables. By the way, some of the masks were later repurposed as troll heads for the 1991 comedy Ernest Scared Stupid, which the Chiodos also worked on.

9. THE DICKIES WROTE THE KILLER KLOWNS THEME SONG BEFORE THEY SAW THE MOVIE.

Just like The Blob, Killer Klowns From Outer Space opens with an original title song. However, instead of a sax-heavy lounge number, we get an energetic punk rock jam, courtesy of The Dickies. When the band was asked to compose the theme song for Killer Klowns From Outer Space, they wrote one entirely on the basis of their gut reaction to the movie’s title. At the time, the band hadn’t so much as read the script and they wouldn’t see the film until well after their song had been recorded. The Chiodos credit The Dickies with expanding their movie’s cult fan base by prompting punk rockers to check it out.

10. A SEQUEL HAS BEEN IN DEVELOPMENT HELL FOR 29 YEARS.

Will our home world ever be revisited by those murderous space clowns? The Chiodos started toying around with a second Killer Klowns movie very early on. “Look, Hollywood is a very fickle industry,” Stephen Chiodo told The Odd Podcast in 2016. “We’ve been working on a sequel since the day after we made [the first movie]. I mean we have tons of ideas on different directions we can take it.” So what’s with the hold up? The brothers have cited financial and legal setbacks as major roadblocks.

In 2012, Cramer said that one proposed sequel idea would take his character in a tragic new direction. “[One] of the Chiodos … came up with the idea that everybody thinks Mike Tobacco is crazy,” Cramer said. Set long after the events of the original movie, this hypothetical follow-up would portray Mike Tobacco as the town drunk whom everyone else believes to be crazy—until the clowns return. The Chiodos have also discussed the possibility of a four-part “trilogy” that’d be part sequel and part remake and produced for cable television.

The Very Real Events That Inspired Game of Thrones's Red Wedding

Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham, Google Cultural Institute, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Ask any Game of Thrones fan to cite a few of the show's most shocking moments, and the so-called "Red Wedding" from season 3's "The Rains of Castamere" episode will likely be at the top of their list. The events that unfolded during the episode shocked fans because of their brutality, but what might be even more surprising to know is that the episode was based on very real events.

Author George R.R. Martin has said that the inspiration for the matrimonial bloodbath is based on two dark events in Scottish history: the Black Dinner of 1440 and 1692's Massacre of Glencoe. “No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse,” Martin told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. And he’s absolutely right. See for yourself.

The Massacre of Glencoe

The West Highland Way in 2005, view from the summit of the Devil's Staircase looking south over the east end of Glen Coe, towards Buachaille Etive Mòr with Creise and Meall a' Bhuiridh beyond
Colin Souza, Edited by Dave Souza, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

In 1691, all Scottish clans were called upon to renounce the deposed King of Scotland, James VII, and swear allegiance to King William of Orange (of William and Mary fame). The chief of each clan had until January 1, 1692, to provide a signed document swearing an oath to William. The Highland Clan MacDonald had two things working against them here. First of all, the Secretary of State, John Dalrymple, was a Lowlander who loathed Clan MacDonald. Secondly, Clan MacDonald had already sworn an oath to James VII and had to wait on him to send word that they were free to break that oath.

Unfortunately, it was December 28 before a messenger arrived with this all-important letter from the former king. That gave Maclain, the chief of the MacDonald clan, just three days to get the newly-signed oath to the Secretary of State.

Maclain was detained for days when he went through Inveraray, the town of the rival Clan Campbell, but still managed to deliver the oath, albeit several days late. The Secretary of State’s legal team wasn't interested in late documents. They rejected the MacDonalds's sworn allegiance to William, and set plans in place to cut the clan down, “root and branch.”

In late January or early February, 120 men under the command of Captain Robert Campbell arrived at the MacDonalds's in Glencoe, claiming to need shelter because a nearby fort was full. The MacDonalds offered their hospitality, as was custom, and the soldiers stayed there for nearly two weeks before Captain Drummond arrived with instructions to “put all to the sword under seventy.”

After playing cards with their victims and wishing them goodnight, the soldiers waited until the MacDonalds were asleep ... then murdered as many men as they could manage. In all, 38 people—some still in their beds—were killed. At least 40 women and children escaped, but fleeing into a blizzard blowing outside as their houses burned down meant that they all died of exposure.

The massacre was considered especially awful because it was “Slaughter Under Trust.” To this day, the door at Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe has a sign on the door that says "No hawkers or Campbells."

The Black Dinner

In November of 1440, the newly-appointed 6th Earl of Douglas, who was just 16, and his little brother David, were invited to join the 10-year-old King of Scotland, James II, for dinner at Edinburgh Castle. But it wasn’t the young King who had invited the Douglas brothers. The invitation had been issued by Sir William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland, who feared that the Black Douglas (there was another clan called the Red Douglas) were growing too powerful.

As legend has it, the children were all getting along marvelously, enjoying food, entertainment and talking until the end of the dinner, when the head of a black bull was dropped on the table, symbolizing the death of the Black Douglas. The two young Douglases were dragged outside, given a mock trial, found guilty of high treason, and beheaded. It’s said that the Earl pleaded for his brother to be killed first so that the younger boy wouldn’t have to witness his older brother’s beheading.

Sir Walter Scott wrote this of the horrific event:

"Edinburgh Castle, toune and towre,
God grant thou sink for sin!
And that e'en for the black dinner
Earl Douglas gat therein."

This article has been updated for 2019.

15 Game of Thrones Products Every Fan Needs

Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Though Game of Thrones might be coming to its official end, that doesn’t mean that your fandom can’t—or won’t—carry on. Whether you’re a years-long defender of House Stark or have been rooting for House Targaryen since the beginning, there’s a candle, collectible pin, coffee mug, card game, and pretty much anything else you can imagine with your name (and preferred sigil) on it.

1. A Song of Ice and Fire Book Series; $46

Bantam's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' book series

Bantam, Amazon

If you’ve never read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the series is based, plenty more Westerosi drama awaits. And just because you’ve seen every episode of the series 10 times doesn’t mean you know which way the books will turn. (The TV show diverged from their narrative a long time ago—and dozens of the characters who have been killed off on your television screen are still alive and well in the books.) Plus, as Martin has yet to complete the series, you may just catch up in time for the newest book.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Map Marker Wine Stopper Set; $50

Nobody solves a problem like Tyrion Lannister … and his thought process usually includes copious amounts of wine (Dornish if you’ve got it). Something tells us you’re going need some vino yourself to get through the giant, hour-long hole left in your Sunday nights once Game of Thrones officially ends. Make sure you don’t let a drop of it go to waste by keeping one of these six wine stoppers—each one carved to represent the sigil of the most noble houses in the Seven Kingdoms—handy.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

3. Winterfell Coffee Mug; $25

If coffee is more your speed—we get it: the night is dark and full of terrors—this simple-yet-elegant Winterfell mug is an easy way to communicate to your co-workers why you’re typically a little bleary-eyed on Monday mornings.

Buy it: HBO Shop

4. Hodor Door Stop; $12

A 3D-printed Hodor door stop, inspired by 'Game of Thrones'

3D Cauldron, Amazon

An important part of being a Game of Thrones fan is accepting that showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have no problem killing off your favorite characters, often in brutal ways. One of the series’ most memorable deaths was that of Hodor, Bran Stark’s personal mode of transport, who we loved despite the fact that the only word he ever uttered for six seasons was “Hodor”—and who we loved even more when, in the final moments of his life, we learned why that was the case. Pay tribute to the gentle giant, and his backstory, with this 3D-printed door stop.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Tarot Card Deck; $25

A 'Game of Thrones' tarot card deck, from Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books, Amazon

Channel your inner Maggy the Frog and see what the future holds for you and your loved ones (your enemies, too, if the mood strikes you) with Chronicle Books’s gorgeously packaged tarot card deck. The tarot tradition and Game of Thrones mythology blend seamlessly together in this box of goodies, which includes an instruction book and illustrated cards featuring your favorite characters and most beloved scenes from the show.

Buy it: Amazon or Chronicle Books

6. Fire and Blood Candle; $12

Mad Queen or not, show that you still stand behind the Mother of Dragons by filling your home with this House Targaryen-inspired votive candle. Best of all: Just wait to see the look on the faces of your guests when they ask “Mmmm … what’s that smell?” If you’d prefer not to answer with “fire and blood—doesn’t it smell delicious?,” there are other scents available: one called "Moon of My Life My Sun and Stars," another called "Be a Dragon," and one inspired by the Iron Throne itself (which must smell like victory).

Buy it: HBO Shop

7. Clue: Game of Thrones; $50

Margaery Tyrell with the battle axe in Cersei’s bedchambers. Rewrite the rules—and brutal deaths—of Game of Thrones with this special edition of the classic board game, which tasks you with figuring out who murdered whom, using what weapon, and where the incident took place. A double-sided playing board lets you choose whether you want to set the game in The Red Keep or Meereen.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

8. Game of Thrones Monopoly; $24

'Game of Thrones Monopoly' game board

Hasbro, Amazon

Who wants to be the Lord or Lady of Winterfell when you can become the preeminent real estate mogul of all the Seven Kingdoms? This special-edition Monopoly board puts a distinctly Westerosian twist on the classic game, with silver tokens to represent the sigils of each of the main houses and a card holder that plays the series’ haunting score whenever you press it.

Buy it: Amazon or Best Buy

9. House Stark Hoodie; $60

If you really wanted to dress like a Stark, you’d have a master blacksmith on hand to help customize your armor—or at least turn your IKEA rug into a luxurious cape. If you’re far less crafty, there’s always this full-zip hoodie featuring an embroidered direwolf on the front and an outlined illustration of the same on the back. The minimalist design is a way to show your fandom in a way that, to the untrained eye, might just look like you’re a fan of wolves. But the rest of us will know better. And approve.

Buy it: ThinkGeek

10. Deluxe Iron Throne Funko Pop! Set; $130

Funko's Iron Throne Pop! set of five

Funko, HBO Shop

Though it seems unlikely that a few of these characters will ever sit on the Iron Throne (either because they’re dead or have gone mad), a fan can always hope. And buying them as part of this five-piece set is an easy way to collect them all. If you don’t see your favorite character here, Amazon has got plenty more squat-headed figures to choose from, including Arya, Brienne of Tarth, Rhaegal (poor Rhaegal), and Ghost (poor Ghost). If you ever happen upon a headless Ned Stark Pop!, grab it; this hard-to-find figure can sell for more than $2000 on eBay.

Buy it: HBO Shop

11. Iron Throne Bookend; $60

After devoting more than eight years of your life to seeing Game of Thrones all the way through, maybe it’s you who deserves the Iron Throne. You can’t sit on this 7.5-inch replica, the base of which features sigils from all the noble houses, but you can show off your fancy George R.R. Martin book collection … or all that dragon fan fiction you’ve been working on.

Buy it: Best Buy or the HBO Shop

12. Game of Thrones Music Box; $13

'Game of Thrones' music box

Shenzhen Youtang Trade Co., Amazon

Channel your inner Arya by psyching yourself up with the iconic Game of Thrones theme song whenever you feel the need to hear it with this hand-cranked music box.

Buy it: Amazon

13. Iron Throne Tankard; $70

Show your guests who's boss at your next dinner party—or raucous feast—as you take your place at the head of the table and guzzle your mead (or giant's milk—we don't judge) from this Iron Throne-themed tankard, completed with sword handle.

Buy it: HBO Shop

14. Game of Thrones Socks; $8

It gets cold in the North. Keep your tootsies warm with this six-pack of stylish ankle-cut socks.

Buy it: Target

15. Living Language Dothraki; $16

A copy of the Living Language Dothraki language course

Living Language, Amazon

By now, you've surely learned at least a handful of common Dothraki words and phrases. But if you wan to become fluent in the (fictional) language, this language course is one way to do it. Now: Finne zhavvorsa anni?

Buy it: Amazon

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