Send in the scary clowns

The Chiodo brothers (from left) Stephen, Edward, and Charles, surrounded by the titular aliens in their 1988 cult classic, "Killer Klowns from Outer Space."
The Chiodo brothers (from left) Stephen, Edward, and Charles, surrounded by the titular aliens in their 1988 cult classic, "Killer Klowns from Outer Space."
Posted: August 16, 2013

Clowns used to scare the daylights out of me. (OK, they still do.)

They were uncanny, creepy creatures with the darkest and scariest of souls, - why else, I reasoned, would they need to hide behind so much garish face paint?

Seems the Chiodo brothers felt the same way. Born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island, the dynamic filmmaking trio is responsible for the 1988 cult classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space, a delightfully schlocky horror comedy about a race of vicious, bloodthirsty invading aliens who look like circus clowns - but with very sharp teeth.

It will screen Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Parx Casino Picnic East Grove in Bensalem. All three brothers - Stephen, Edward and Charles Chiodo - will appear for a Q&A session after the screening, the closing event of the summer-long Awesome Fest.

"I think most people were afraid of clowns as a kid," Edward Chiodo said Wednesday in a phone interview. "You feel uneasy around them. You're small, and they're really big" with their big hair, the red nose, and the oversized feet, "and they get in your face while all the adults stand around laughing at you."

The brothers, who have collaborated on movies since they got their hands on a Super 8 camera in grade school, moved to Hollywood in the early 1980s to establish a special-effects company. They conceived Killer Klowns during a late-night brainstorming session.

"We asked ourselves what was the scariest image you can think of," Chiodo said. "Stephen related, 'It's me driving down a lonely mountain road. I pass a car and I look over to see a clown's driving.' "

Stephen, who had joined the phone call, recalled that "then Charlie said, 'What if the clown's floating in midair? Maybe he's from outer space.' " The rest is B-movie history.

The film was quickly picked up by a production company on the strength of its title, Stephen said. "I think they thought the title alone would get them a lot of good marketing."

The Chiodos were infatuated with 1950s creature features and filled the film with dozens of references to B-classics, including special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts.

The opening sequence comes straight out of The Blob, the 1958 classic starring a very young Steve McQueen.

Killer Klowns, which has the evil aliens land in a ship that looks conspicuously like a circus big top, doesn't have the most challenging storyline. It does have a high body count.

"We kill hundreds and hundreds of people," Edward Chiodo said. At the same time, "it's a movie you can watch with your family," he insisted.

More comedy than horror, Killer Klowns is too over-the-top to be taken seriously, Stephen Chiodo said. "We didn't want to do the visceral, bloody-horror thing. Guys with knives carving people up, or aggression against women."

"But a monster?" Edward Chiodo chimed in. "A monster can do whatever it wants. It's fair game. It can eviscerate people. As long as it's a monster."

Or a clown.


Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or tirdad@phillynews.com

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