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.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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15 Facts About Pee-wee's Big Adventure On Its 35th Anniversary

Paul Reubens in Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985).
Paul Reubens in Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985).
Warner Home Video

He may be a perpetual man-child, but Pee-wee Herman has been around for more than four decades (the character made his first appearance in 1977). His first feature film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, debuted in August of 1985. Since then, millions of people have no doubt pondered the question, "Does the Alamo have a basement?" The answer is, yes! Read on for more fascinating facts about Pee-wee and his big adventure.

1. Pee-wee's Big Adventure was originally supposed to be a remake of Pollyanna.

Paul Reubens in Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985).Warner Home Video

Before the inspiration struck for the quest for Pee-wee’s missing bicycle, the writers planned on more or less remaking the Disney classic Pollyanna. Pee-wee would arrive in a new town in need of some fresh perspective, and by the end of the movie, he would have endeared himself to even the most curmudgeonly of the citizens.

2. The movie changed when Warner Bros. gave Paul Reubens a Schwinn.

Cast and crew members often take bicycles around studio lots to get from point A to point B. Reubens was given a 1940s Schwinn to ride while he was at Warner Bros. working on the movie script; he loved it so much he decided to retool the whole Pollyanna concept.

3. Pee-wee's Big Adventure is a retelling of Bicycle Thieves.

Paul Reubens in Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985).Warner Home Video

After the idea of Pee-wee as Pollyanna bit the dust, the script ended up turning into a “surrealistic reworking” of Bicycle Thieves, an essential example of Italian Neorealism that was given an Honorary Oscar and regularly shows up on every “must-see” film list. But Pee-wee’s Big Adventure has its own champions ...

4. Pee-wee's Big Adventure made Roger Ebert’s list of “Guilty Pleasures.”

Though he never officially rated the movie, in 1987 Ebert confessed that it made his list of Guilty Pleasure movies:

“The movie is not just a strange little man acting goofy. Pee-wee has created a whole fairytale universe as consistent and fascinating as Alice’s Wonderland or the world of the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is one of those movies like The Wizard of Oz, I think, that kids can look at in one state of mind while the grown-ups enjoy it on a completely different level.”

5. Paul Reubens fought to get a 26-year-old Tim Burton to direct Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

Although Paul Reubens had a long list of directors he wanted to work with, the studio chose one not on the list. Rather than go along for the sake of getting the movie made, Reubens put his foot down and refused to proceed. Shortly thereafter, one of Reubens’s friends mentioned a short film called Frankenweenie (the precursor to the feature-length movie that came out in 2012) by Tim Burton. Reubens was friends with Shelley Duvall, who was in the Burton film, so he gave her a call. She agreed that Reubens and Burton would make a perfect match, and the connection was made. “It was the biggest piece of luck early on in my career that I could have had,” Reubens later said.

6. Pee-wee's Big Adventure was Tim Burton and Danny Elfman's first collaboration.

Not only was Pee-wee's Big Adventure Tim Burton’s first big movie, it was also Danny Elfman’s. Elfman wasn’t actually scoring films at the time, at least not on the scale that he is now. But Burton knew him through his work with Oingo Boingo, and Paul Reubens knew him from music he had written for a film called Forbidden Zone. After meeting with Burton to chat about the project, Elfman went home with a tune in his head.

“I did a demo on a four track tape player, playing all the parts, and I made a cassette and sent it to him and never expected to hear from him again," Elfman told Entertainment Weekly in 2015. "But that piece of music became the main title of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and it got me the job. I was really shocked.” It was, of course, the beginning of a longtime collaboration and friendship.

7. Elizabeth Daily, a.k.a. Dottie, is the voice of Tommy Pickles.

In addition to acting in front of the camera, Elizabeth Daily is also a talented voice actress. If you don’t know her as Tommy Pickles in Rugrats or Buttercup in The Powerpuff Girls, you’ve probably heard her in a number of small roles in Wreck-It Ralph, Happy Feet, and many, many more. She was also on season 5 of The Voice.

8. Tim Burton has a cameo in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

Tim Burton made a cameo in Pee-wee's Big Adventure, which you can watch below:

9. Warner Bros. thought Pee-wee's Big Adventure was weird.

After seeing the finished product, the studio wasn’t so sure it wanted to put much more money behind Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Finding it all a bit bizarre, they decided to roll the film out slowly and on a regional basis. When it proved to be popular with even a limited audience, Warner cranked up the publicity machine. By the time all was said and done, Pee-wee had earned nearly $41 million at the box office.

10. Phil Hartman co-wrote the script for Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

Reubens and SNL legend Phil Hartman originally developed the Pee-wee character when they were in the Groundlings together. HBO picked up Pee-wee for a comedy show in 1981, which is what eventually led to the movie in 1985. Hartman was Reubens’s writing partner throughout all of that, and also for Pee-wee’s Playhouse, where he made occasional appearances as Kap’n Karl.

11. Pee-wee’s bicycle from Pee-wee's Big Adventure was sold on eBay in 2014.

Though Pee-wee estimated his bike’s value at “a hundred million, trillion, billion dollars” in the movie, it didn’t quite fetch that much when it was sold on eBay in 2014. It did, however, sell for $36,600.

12. There were at least 10 bikes used in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

Warner Home Video

Missed out on the auction? Never fear—there could still be an authentic Pee-wee bike in your future, since at least 10 bikes were built for use in the film. The Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh had one of them on display for a while.

13. Pee-wee's Big Adventure wasn’t the first time Paul Reubens did the “Pee-wee Dance.”

He performed it on The Gong Show in the late 1970s, but the choreography goes back even further than that. The dance, he has said, was actually inspired by a dirty joke his dad used to tell. “The joke was something [like] you put one thumb in your [Reubens points at his backside] and one in your mouth, and then you switch.”

14. The idea for Pee-wee's Playhouse came up at the Pee-wee's Big Adventure premiere.

Executives at CBS approached Reubens’s manager at the movie's premiere and wanted to know if “Pee-wee” was interested in doing a cartoon show. But Reubens had another format in mind, and asked how they would feel about something live-action.

“I was thinking about how important all those kids’ shows were to me when I was a kid, and how much I feel like they affected me, and that just seemed really exciting to me," he said. "I was really excited by the idea that doing a real kids’ show could potentially affect kids in an amazingly positive and great way.” Pee-wee’s Playhouse debuted a year later.

15. Large Marge almost got the axe from Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

It’s one of the most memorable scenes in the entire movie, but it almost didn’t make it to the screen. “I almost cut the best thing before an audience saw it,” Burton said in Burton on Burton. “It was a special effect and those are the first things to go.” IFC lists the scene as #5 on their list of "25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies."