There are many paths that can lead one to reconnect with the child within. The trick to finding the right path is in knowing what fills one with glee. For some it is a game of Twister; for others it is a package of Twizzlers; and for others still, it is murderous alien clowns, intent on harvesting humans for food. On Saturday, May 19, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the cult classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space, the film’s composer, John Massari, enlisted the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra and punk rock group The Dickies to perform the soundtrack to the film while it screened for a full house at the Montalbán Theatre.
Highlights of the evening included a pre-screening Q&A session, photo ops with “the Killer Klowns,” an art show (featuring Killer Klown designs by Charles Chiodo), designer balloon creations by Buster Balloon Cadwell and a host of dedicated Killer Klowns fans.
The Q&A session, moderated by Cinematic Void’s Jim Branscome, featured the film’s stars, Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder and Peter Licassi (co-star Michael Siegel also made a brief appearance via a prerecorded video greeting). Soon after, the cast was joined onstage by Massari and the Chiodo brothers (writer-producer Edward Chiodo, writer-producer-art director Charles Chiodo and writer-producer-director Stephen Chiodo).
Stephen Chiodo told the Weekly about how the project first got off the ground, recalling an early meeting he’d had with distributors Trans World Entertainment. He’d sold them on the film using not much more than concept art and the name; originally it was simply Killer Klowns. The “From Outer Space” part was added later, allegedly to indicate that the film was more than a slasher flick. The general concept of the project, from inception to execution, centered on a delightfully grotesque cadre of alien creatures, who look like clowns and possess an assortment of carnivalesque accoutrements and vehicles, and whose manner of harvesting human beings includes capturing them in colorful balloons and encasing them in cocoons that resemble cotton candy.
During the Q&A, Cramer and Snyder marveled about the Chiodos’ degree of artistic involvement, pointing out that in addition to the Klowns themselves, the brothers had designed everything from the props to the set pieces to the film’s scenic matte paintings. They also spoke fondly of working with actor John Vernon, and each shared stories about the rabid film’s fan base, which includes horror buffs, sci-fi nerds and rock & rollers; Peter Criss of KISS allegedly has said that the band has never gone on a tour without toting along a copy of Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
Massari’s soundtrack has a story of its own. The original score was performed using synthesizers and was pure psychotronic delight. It contained elements reminiscent of ’50s sci-fi films as well as carnivalesque electric guitar riffs. It was dynamic, with a range that included subtle moments but mostly was the sonic embodiment of an unmerciful and unstoppable parade, providing a terrific complement to the Chiodo brothers’ macabre creations.
Last year, Massari launched an IndieGoGo campaign to re-record the score for a new soundtrack CD release (available at this event). These recordings feature classical orchestrations of the original music along with new orchestrations by Massari and Bernhard Eder. During the Q&A session, Massari said that creating music for this film, both originally and during his re-recording, was like revisiting his childhood, and that it was intoxicating to work on such a crazy project.
The main attraction, the musical performance, showcased Massari and Eder’s new orchestrations (which they traded off in conducting). While live orchestral performances as accompaniments to film screenings have been an increasingly popular program for the L.A. Philharmonic as well as the Pacific Symphony over the past several years, such events at venues smaller than the Hollywood Bowl are currently on the rise. In fact, on the same night as the Killer Klowns screening, Fight Club was screened with live accompaniment by the Dust Brothers at the Wiltern. And while the smaller venues may make it difficult to accommodate a full symphonic orchestra, the Montalbán seemed a perfect fit for this show’s chamber orchestra, which featured electric guitars and a theremin, as well as L.A. punk icons The Dickies, who stood alongside the orchestra to perform their theme song at the film’s opening and closing.
The Chiodos have expressed interest in continuing the adventures of their Klowns, and with clowns continuing to haunt the horror genre (It, American Horror Story) it would seem as a good time as any to bring them back. IMDb has a listing for The Return of the Killer Klowns From Outer Space in 3-D. Unfortunately, the status of the production is “unknown,” and Massari only hinted about an upcoming announcement at the event, never actually making one. Hopefully, the Chiodos, Massari and their cast of human and animatronic characters can bring their zany and monstrous circus back to town soon.