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.

Watch John Krasinski Interview Steve Carell About The Office's 15th Anniversary

John Krasinski and Steve Carell in The Office.
John Krasinski and Steve Carell in The Office.
NBC Universal, Inc.

The Office just passed a major milestone: It has been 15 years since the American adaptation of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's hit British sitcom made its way to NBC, where it ran for nine seasons. To celebrate the show's big anniversary, former co-stars John Krasinski and Steve Carell reunited in the best way possible: Carell appeared as a guest on Krasinski's new YouTube show, where the two decided to spread some positivity.

Krasinski just launched his very own news show titled Some Good News, and it's exactly what we've all been needing. During this segment, he interviewed Carell via video call, and the two shared their favorite memories of working on the beloved workplace comedy.

"It's such a happy surprise," Carell said of The Office's continued success. "After all these years people are still tuning in and finding it." The two also addressed the question that's been on every fan's mind: is there a chance that we'll see the Dunder Mifflin crew reunite in some way?

"Listen, I know everyone's talking about a reunion," Krasinski said. "Hopefully one day we'll just all get to reunite as people."

You can watch the full episode below. (Carell joins the video around the 5:50 minute mark.)

15 Facts About John Brown, the Real-Life Abolitionist at the Center of The Good Lord Bird

John Brown, circa 1846.
John Brown, circa 1846.
Augustus Washington/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Abolitionist John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859, was meant to start an armed slave revolt, and ultimately end slavery. Though Brown succeeded in taking over the federal armory, the revolt never came to pass—and Brown paid for the escapade with his life.

In the more than 160 years since that raid, John Brown has been called a hero, a madman, a martyr, and a terrorist. Now Showtime is exploring his legacy with an adaption of James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird. Like the novel it’s based on, the miniseries—which stars Ethan Hawke—will cover the exploits of Brown and his allies. Here's what you should know about John Brown before you watch.

1. John Brown was born into an abolitionist family on May 9, 1800.

John Brown was born to Owen and Ruth Mills Brown in Torrington, Connecticut, on May 9, 1800. After his family relocated to Hudson, Ohio (where John was raised), their new home would become an Underground Railroad station. Owen would go on to co-found the Western Reserve Anti-Slavery Society and was a trustee at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, one of the first American colleges to admit black (and female) students.

2. John Brown declared bankruptcy at age 42.

At 16, Brown went to school with the hope of becoming a minister, but eventually left the school and, like his father, became a tanner. He also dabbled in surveying, canal-building, and the wool trade. In 1835, he bought land in northeastern Ohio. Thanks partly the financial panic of 1837, Brown couldn’t satisfy his creditors and had to declare bankruptcy in 1842. He later tried peddling American wool abroad in Europe, where he was forced to sell it at severely reduced prices. This opened the door for multiple lawsuits when Brown returned to America.

3. John Brown's Pennsylvania home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The John Brown Tannery Site in Pennsylvania
The John Brown Tannery Site in Pennsylvania.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Sometime around 1825, Brown moved himself and his family to Guys Mills, Pennsylvania, where he set up a tannery and built a house and a barn with a hidden room that was used by slaves on the run. Brown reportedly helped 2500 slaves during his time in Pennsylvania; the building was destroyed in 1907 [PDF], but the site, which is now a museum that is open to the public, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Brown moved his family back to Ohio in 1836.

4. After Elijah Lovejoy's murder, John Brown pledged to end slavery.

Elijah Lovejoy was a journalist and the editor of the St. Louis/Alton Observer, a staunchly anti-slavery newspaper. His editorials enraged those who defended slavery, and in 1837, Lovejoy was killed when a mob attacked the newspaper’s headquarters.

The incident lit a fire under Brown. When he was told about Lovejoy’s murder at an abolitionist prayer meeting in Hudson, Brown—a deeply religious man—stood up and raised his right hand, saying “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery."

5. John Brown moved to the Kansas Territory after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which decreed that it would be the people of Kansas and Nebraska who would decide if their territories would be free states or slave states. New England abolitionists hoping to convert the Kansas Territory into a Free State moved there in droves and founded the city of Lawrence. By the end of 1855, John Brown had also relocated to Kansas, along with six of his sons and his son-in-law. Opposing the newcomers were slavery supporters who had also arrived in large numbers.

6. John Brown’s supporters killed five pro-slavery men at the 1856 Pottawatomie Massacre.

A John Brown mural by John Steuart Curry
A John Brown mural by John Steuart Curry.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On May 21, 1856, Lawrence was sacked by pro-slavery forces. The next day, Charles Sumner, an anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, was beaten with a cane by Representative Preston Brooks on the Senate floor until he lost consciousness. (A few days earlier, Sumner had insulted Democratic senators Stephen Douglas and Andrew Butler in his "Crime Against Kansas" speech; Brooks was a representative from Butler’s state of South Carolina.)

In response to those events, Brown led a group of abolitionists into a pro-slavery settlement by the Pottawatomie Creek on the night of May 24. On Brown’s orders, five slavery sympathizers were forced out of their houses and killed with broadswords.

Newspapers across the country denounced the attack—and John Brown in particular. But that didn't dissuade him: Before his final departure from Kansas in 1859, Brown participated in many other battles across the region. He lost a son, Frederick Brown, in the fighting.

7. John Brown led a party of liberated slaves all the way from Missouri to Michigan.

In December 1858, John Brown crossed the Kansas border and entered the slave state of Missouri. Once there, he and his allies freed 11 slaves and led them all the way to Detroit, Michigan, covering a distance of more than 1000 miles. (One of the liberated women gave birth en route.) Brown’s men had killed a slaveholder during their Missouri raid, so President James Buchanan put a $250 bounty on the famed abolitionist. That didn’t stop Brown, who got to watch the people he’d helped free board a ferry and slip away into Canada.

8. John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry was meant to instigate a nationwide slave uprising.

On October 16, 1859, Brown and 18 men—including five African Americans—seized control of a U.S. armory in the Jefferson County, Virginia (today part of West Virginia) town of Harpers Ferry. The facility had around 100,000 weapons stockpiled there by the late 1850s. Brown hoped his actions would inspire a large-scale slave rebellion, with enslaved peoples rushing to collect free guns, but the insurrection never came.

9. Robert E. Lee played a part in John Brown’s arrest.

Artist Thomas Hovenden depicts John Brown after his capture.
Artist Thomas Hovenden depicts John Brown after his capture.
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Shortly after Brown took Harpers Ferry, the area was surrounded by local militias. On the orders of President Buchanan, Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee entered the fray with a detachment of U.S. Marines. The combined might of regional and federal forces proved too much for Brown, who was captured in the Harpers Ferry engine house on October 18, 1859. Ten of Brown's men died, including two more of his sons.

10. John Brown was put on trial a week after his capture.

After his capture, Brown—along with Aaron Stevens, Edwin Coppoc, Shields Green, and John Copeland—was put on trial. When asked if the defendants had counsel, Brown responded:

"Virginians, I did not ask for any quarter at the time I was taken. I did not ask to have my life spared. The Governor of the State of Virginia tendered me his assurance that I should have a fair trial: but, under no circumstances whatever will I be able to have a fair trial. If you seek my blood, you can have it at any moment, without this mockery of a trial. I have had no counsel: I have not been able to advise with anyone ... I am ready for my fate. I do not ask a trial. I beg for no mockery of a trial—no insult—nothing but that which conscience gives, or cowardice would drive you to practice. I ask again to be excused from the mockery of a trial."

Brown would go on to plead not guilty. Just days later, he was found “guilty of treason, and conspiring and advising with slaves and others to rebel, and murder in the first degree” and was sentenced to hang.

11. John Brown made a grim prophecy on the morning of his death.

On the morning of December 2, 1859, Brown passed his jailor a note that read, “I … am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with blood.” He was hanged later that day.

12. Victor Hugo defended John Brown.

Victor Hugo—the author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who was also an abolitionist—penned an open letter on John Brown’s behalf in 1859. Desperate to see him pardoned, Hugo wrote, “I fall on my knees, weeping before the great starry banner of the New World … I implore the illustrious American Republic, sister of the French Republic, to see to the safety of the universal moral law, to save John Brown.” Hugo’s appeals were of no use. The letter was dated December 2—the day Brown was hanged.

13. Abraham Lincoln commented on John Brown's death.

Abraham Lincoln, who was then in Kansas, said, “Old John Brown has been executed for treason against a State. We cannot object, even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed and treason. It could avail him nothing that he might think himself right.”

14. John Brown was buried in North Elba, New York.

John Brown's gravesite in New York
John Brown's gravesite in New York.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1849, Brown had purchased 244 acres of property from Gerrit Smith, a wealthy abolitionist, in North Elba, New York. The property was near Timbuctoo, a 120,000-acre settlement that Smith had started in 1846 to give African American families the property they needed in order to vote (at that time, state law required black residents to own $250 worth of property to cast a vote). Brown had promised Smith that he would assist his new neighbors in cultivating the mountainous terrain.

When Brown was executed, his family interred the body at their North Elba farm—which is now a New York State Historic Site.

15. The tribute song "John Brown's Body" shares its melody with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

It didn’t take long for Brown to become a martyr. Early in the 1860s, the basic melody of “Say Brothers Will You Meet Us,” a popular camp hymn, was fitted with new lyrics about the slain abolitionist. Titled “John Brown’s Body,” the song spread like wildfire in the north—despite having some lines that were deemed unsavory. Julia Ward Howe took the melody and gave it yet another set of lyrics. Thus was born “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a Union marching anthem that's still widely known today.

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