Film Review: Carousel; Killer Klowns From Outer Space

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Dir: Henry King
Starring: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Barbara Ruick, Cameron Mitchell, Claramae Turner, Robert Rounseville, Susan Luckey, Gene Lockhart, Jacques d’Amboise, John Dehner, William LeMassena & Audrey Christie.
128mins | Musical, Drama, Fantasy | U

It’s circus season at Chapter Arts Centre. The release of The Greatest Showman has brought on all these classic circus related films, including,  The Elephant Man and Freaks, the latter to be screened shortly. I’ll confess, The Greatest Showman doesn’t take my fancy (how could you beat the stage version of Barnum’s life?). Yet there is a variety of classic films on display. The following two are perfect examples and also polar opposites.

Based on the Rogers & Hammerstein musical of the same name, Carousel is a sweeping venture set in New England and deep in the heavens. Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae) remains in an afterlife, adjourned with stars that look like Christmas decorations, along with a relentless glowing orchestral ambience. He has to save his wife and daughter from trouble, yet he wavered his right to have a final visit to earth when he arrived. Can he save his family from the plight he had a part in creating?

The relationship between Billy and Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones) could easily be described as toxic by today’s standards. There are clear class struggles between them and Billy can’t seem to shake his criminal, carny lifestyle (he helps run the carousel in question). The pair never seems to fit and it is hard to fall for them as a couple, even when the gods seem to be against them. His eventual death leads to his return as a spirt for one day only. Whilst he finally meets his daughter (Julie was pregnant when he died and time in heaven goes by much slower than on earth), he tries to remedy his flaws and appears to do very little for them both, yet his presence sees to do the job.

The songs are not R & H’s best. Granted, June Is Busting Out All Over, an elaborate routine for the clambake festival will be stuck in your head for days and makes for great cleaning music. The standout song (and rightfully so) is the eternal You’ll Never Walk Alone, now a football anthem and routine ballad belter for any aspiring singer. They must have known how much worth the song has since as it’s sung twice: just after Billy’s death and the finale. It fits the themes of Carousel wonderfully and leaves you roused and somewhat moved.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Dir: Stephen Chiodo
Starring: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, John Veron, Michael S. Siegel, Peter Licassi, Royal Dano & Christopher Titus.
82mins | Horror, Sci-Fi, Comedy | 12

To quote Monty Python, “And now for something completely different”.

Here lie an oddity and a more obscure choice to place into a circus-inspired season. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a baffling, low budget cult 80s throwback that has to be seen to be believed. The acting can be stilted and the premise is utterly preposterous, yet it’s the passion from the Chiodo Brothers that really makes the film stand out. Their times spent in cinematic visual effects here comes alive like a clown filled circus, or rather a spaceship full.

These Killer Klowns in questions arrive on earth, their vessel was mistaken for a comet. Only, they’re hungry for humans and turn anyone they encounter into a cotton candy cocoon! Can our plucky, yet randy young couple Mike and Debbie save the day? Or will planet earth be made into circus central?

It’s refreshing to see a horror film which doesn’t rely too heavily on gore to get its message across. Only rated a 12, there are some outrageous moments, though I doubt anyone’s getting offended anytime soon. The inventiveness of the deaths is inspired (look no further than the scene with biker!) and the mannerisms of these Klowns is both unnerving and hilarious (though they didn’t need the silly Minion voices though). Even if you don’t get scared, these are some seriously creepy masks, which are even more horrifying when the camera gives closes up, as they snarl with fanged grins and deliver bone-chilling laughs. One truly disturbing scene is when one of them lures a young girl out of her seat in a fast food joint. He makes her feel safe, pulling Peek-a-Bo faces outside the window, only to be hiding a giant mallet behind his back. We’re thankful this young girl got spared some grisly fate.

Whilst those inside the Klown suits have great comic timing, it’s John Vernon (a familiar face from Dirty Harry and Animal House) as Officer Mooney who also steals the show, with his highly cranky mood, yet oh so relaxing voice. His insults to the youngsters are stellar, “You fart!” he declares to Mike and his disbelief in everyone crying Klown are both funny and an absurd self-fulfilling prophecy. In one scene he cries, “You’ll never make a dummy out of me!”, only to be literally made into one later by a Klown who communicates through him to Officer Hanson stating, “We only want to kill ya!” (this would be an idea later seen in Independence Day). This is also before It and The Devil’s Rejects would haunt us with warped clown characters. You’ll never look at a creampie the same way again…

This film is so 80s, you almost feel a mullet growing down your neck. It has aged in many respects and has many elements of a bad film, but it still makes for good viewing. Even the cosmic theme song by The Dickies is funky, though the score by John Massari is hilarious at times, with its plodding synths and cosmic undertones. What a time to be alive!

The film is brilliant at balancing the comedic values of clowning, with horror troupes that also meshes with Sci-Fi themes, that in essence, is proven in the film’s name.

Another fine example of a party film to encounter with good friends.

Overall, a campy, cheesy oddity.

Carousel: ***
Killer Klowns from Outer Space: ****

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