Stephen Chiodo, 1988 (97 min.)
Death has never been this fun.
* * *
I remember watching this a few times over the years and enjoying it immensely. But alas, the assignment this week was to watch a film with a ridiculous title and an even more absurd premise and take it seriously. Challenge accepted!
Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Mike (Grant Cramer) are one of many couples out at the town’s popular make-out spot. (I’m assuming they are teenagers, even though the cast all look to be in their twenties.) They spot what looks like a shooting star and Deb decides it would be more romantic to check it out than to play the teen lust game everyone else is involved in. The shooting star turns out to be an alien space ship—in the shape of a carnival tent. The aliens? Clowns! Try convincing the adults about that one. Oh wait, they did try—and predictably no one believes them until clown chaos ensues and can no longer be ignored. The race is on to save the townspeople from becoming cotton candy cocoons.
While you might think that the stars are the humans, you are wrong. The clowns are captivating! Each one seems to have their own distinct personality (the Chiodo brothers really put a lot of effort in them. Thank you!). To be able to make them both lovable and terrifying at the same time is pure genius. They shoot popcorn—and those popcorn kernels turn into more clowns! They have cotton candy on their ship—filled with people! (And? They use a crazy straw to drink said people.) Super cool shadow puppets—until it eats you! Mayhem and foolishness ensues as I watched with glee. Let’s not forget the best part: the only way to kill the clowns is to pop their noses!
This is what it feels like to be a child again, I’m sure of it. How many times as a kid did you experience something so cool during the day and then ended up giving you nightmares for a week? (My daughter watched a cartoon about a talking shark when she was younger and she loved it, until nighttime when she couldn’t sleep because she was convinced a shark was going to come into her room.) It’s the same feeling throughout the movie. You can see it in the reactions of the townsfolk, and you’re right along with them. It makes you reconsider the joys of crazy straws and cotton candy, that’s for sure.
This is a masterpiece that will continue to scare children and delight adults for years to come (just like a real circus!). So what are you waiting for? Grab some popcorn (hmm, maybe not) and park yourself on the couch for a night of whimsical terror.Have You Read...?