Horror is a massive genre that contains many sub-genres. Body horror, found footage horror, slasher horror, possession horror, creature feature, gothic horror, zombie horror, holiday horror… the list just seems to go on for a long time. But I believe there is a new sub-genre that we have not truly considered and that would be something that I like to call “homage horror.”
Homage horror is exactly what it implies. A horror film that pays homage to either another film or a sect in the genre of horror in general. Often times these films are quite interesting and entertaining. Many fans of these films love them for their nods to the tropes and basic themes we find in horror today. At times they’re also considered “meta.” A term that I’ve heard from all the younger people I work with. I guess it’s a word that implies self-awareness in a film.
Many common “homage horror” films would be 2012’s Cabin In The Woods, 1996’s Scream, 1985’s Fright Night and even Netflix’s own Stranger Things. Stranger Things is so “homage” that its the thing that made it so popular! Imagine if Stranger Things was set in the 90’s? It wouldn’t have made it past season one.
I think many films have certain tributes to other influencing films in them but the ones I listed completely play on those recognitions. They may spin the tropes around to work as plot devices but in the end there is a basic understanding of what we’re watching. Cabin In The Woods was a film where if you weren’t a horror fan, you may either just “like” the film or passionately hate it. But true hardcore horror fans were seeing a salute to the things that give us rock hard nipples! It was a film that was dying to be made and one we all appreciated because it was full of familiarity and knew it. It was “total meta.”
There is another major bronze age horror movie that I believe is an ultimate “homage horror” film and that would be 1988’s Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
I Thought Klowns Was “Clowns”
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a 1988 film written and directed by Stephen, Charles, Edward and Stephen Chiodo. It stars Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson and Animal House John Vernon. The film has lived on as a cult film yet Leonard Maltin hated the film and declared it a BOMB. But what does he know, he also hated Gremlins! Up his ass with broken glass!
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is about a college town called Crescent Cove that is invaded by aliens appearing similar to actual circus clowns. The tools and weapons they use are all similar to clown or circus accessories. But these clowns are hungry and human is the only thing on the menu.
1988 was a pretty insane year, we had Child’s Play, a Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street film. We even had Hellraiser: Hellbound which is by far the best horror sequel ever made. The remake of 1958’s The Blob (which is interesting considering this post is related to it) , Night of The Demons, Phantasm 2 and Pumpkinhead. A slew of bad to the bone slice you in the stomach and drink your gull bladder juices kind of films. But then we have Killer Klowns! Known for its comical tone with a ridiculous theme. I mean, Killer Klowns that are aliens and use circus props as weapons? They capture humans in cotton candy pods? Oh and their spaceship is a giant circus big tent that is like a carnival fun house inside. Who the hell thinks of this? But while many people see as hilarious humor style horror, I see it as a beginning of the “homage horror” genre.
What Does This Remind You Of?
Obviously the Chiodo brothers are fans of horror and grew up watching movies like Invasion of The Body Snatchers and War of The Worlds. But Killer Klowns From Outer Space is by far, a pure and unrelenting homage to 1958’s The Blob by Irvin Yeaworth and Russell Doughten. If you don’t see this then I don’t think I can do much for you. Go hit yourself with a hammer a couple times to see if the lights come on.
Both movies feature a small town which pretty much open up on top of a make out location above town. A trope that became famous in silver age 1950’s horror films. The Blob’s main character and his girl friend are Steve and Jane. Killer Klowns is Mike and Debbie! They both making out and witness an meteoroid crash land in a distant woods. Make sense? We’re just getting warmed up suckers!
Meanwhile we go to where the meteoroid has landed and it is first discovered by an old man. In The Blob it’s this old town drunk. In Killer Klowns it’s some hillbilly named Farmer Gene Green played by Royal Dano that any horror fan knows from 1987’s Ghoulies 2. Both old farts are victims to the monster. The Blob drunk gets the ooze on his hand which then eats him entirely and Gene Green his dog Pooh Bear and then is turned into a cotton candy pod.
Back To The Helpless Romantics
Debbie and Mike make their way to the point of impact from the meteoroid and discover the Klowns and are pursued. Steve and Jane find the old man and urgently rush him to the doctors. By this point the two groups have already met up with supporting heroes. Steve and Jane meet up with a group of roadster class mates and Debbi e and Mike introduce the Terenzi brothers. Both groups are vital in the assistance of taking down the antagonist(s).
We’re also introduced to the towns police officer. The Blob has Lt. Dave and Killer Klowns has… Dave Hansen. Wait, both cops are named Dave! They’re also both the same kinds of characters. Both Daves are serious with their careers. They respect and obey the law but aren’t necessarily tight asses when it comes to laying the law on the kids of the town. They’re also the point of authority that end up being responsible for taking down their foes. Dave Hansen is much more established and is richly connected to Debbie and Steve due to his past relationship with Debbie.
Both films go in the same manner. The Blob grows and makes its way going through the town looking for victims. The Klowns invade the city and collect people for their cotton candy crops. However, in Killer Klowns we see the Klowns collecting victims in a much more descriptive manner. The Blob grows but its more implied that its eating people. Dave and Mike team up and so does Steve and Dave. Holy shit the names are making me dizzy!
Can you believe this? Already I have just laid out a few basic points and already you’re like “holy penguin shit!” this guy is making sense! How could I have never seen this before?
In both films someone discovers the gimmick in taking down the monster(s). The Blob is weakened by cold and the Klowns can be shot in the nose. Both are simple forms of killing our antagonist that are actually quite easy methods of winning for our protagonists. In Killer Klowns Debbie is captured by the clowns and in The Blob Jane is caught in the basement of the restaurant with The Blob covering it. The Blob is then defeated by freezing it completely and the Mike and Dave go into the clowns spacecraft and defeat the king clown called Klownzilla!
Both films end in the same way as well! The Blob is packed into a capsule and is dropped off in the frozen tundra of the north pole. As the “The End” title appears we get a big question mark on the screen. Implying the Blob could return and our nightmares aren’t over. In Killer Klowns, after Debbie and Steve get out of the spaceship and it explodes; we see Dave come out of a clown car that he used as protection from the explosion. As the group cheers about winning and surviving they look up into the sky and wonder if they clowns are gone. Then a bunch of pies come out of know where and hit them in the face. It’s funny but it shows maybe the clowns aren’t actually dead!
Both films also have there own their own theme song that plays for an extensive point of time in the beginning of the movie! The Blobs theme song is performed by a band called The Five Blobs and Killer Klowns theme song is by a band called The Dickies.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space may be the very first homage horror film ever made. I don’t know if it was intentional but it’s clearly true. Even the fact that the clowns turn people into cotton candy pods is a homage to Body Snatchers.
Apart from the homage aspect, the movie is a fun entry level horror movie. I find the clash between the gore and clowns a good contrast. We’re normally supposed to feel either scared or grossed out by this kind of horror. Yet its funny because a guy was melted by a bunch of pies.
I watch this movie and feel a certain sense of pride in seeing far deeper into the basic story. While everyone is laughing at Shorty punching a bikers head off, I’m sitting there feeling like a detective that knows something know one else knows. Blind fools! You’re not just seeing some goofy movie. You’re seeing the very first homage horror film ever made! STOP LAUGHING AT THE SHADOW PUPPETS! Don’t you see how this is The Blob! It’s a film with an amazing disguise! Tell the world! Tell everyone! The Klowns are The Blob! The Klowns are a homage! TELL THEM ALL!