Cult sci-fi horror comedy Killer Klowns From Outer Space was released 30 years ago and now Varése Sarabande are releasing the entire soundtrack, reimagined by composer John Massari, performed by the 30-piece Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, with a special guest appearance by composer Bear McCreary playing the accordion and hurdy gurdy. American punk rock band The Dickies have even recorded a brand new version of the film’s theme song.
It’s been years since I last saw Killer Klowns From Outer Space, but when you have a film where said Killer Klowns invade a small town and attack people with acidic ice-cream sundaes, popcorn ray guns, and drink their victim’s blood through twisty straws, you know the accompanying soundtrack is not going to be subtle.
And indeed, the soundtrack by composer John Massari is anything but subtle. But it is a whole lot of fun, with gorgeously over the top 80’s rock guitar riffs, heavy keyboard synth, deranged accordion sounds and just a dash of atmospheric horror thrown in. And the opening track, the ‘Theme from Killer Klowns from Outer Space’ is the epitome of 80’s cheesy fun. It has everything, a moody base synth, keyboard chords, demonic laughter, warping into outrageous 80’s rock guitar and circus melody like you’ve never heard before, and probably haven’t seen since. The vocals by The Dickies are terrific and cheesy in equal measure. Can you take lines like “Time to take a ride on the lightning merry go round” delivered with soft rock intensity seriously? Absolutely not!
But you’re not supposed to either. The soundtrack, like the film itself, is fully aware of the absurdity of it all, and fully embraces it. Massari knows when to ad atmosphere and menace – the second track ‘Hidden Klown ship’ has an offbeat. moody tone with ominous rising strings but then throws in deliriously over the top keyboard chords and clanging symbols. The next track ‘Mike and Debbie’s Discovery’ is pure over the top indulgence; there is a playful, fantastical feel to the piece, with heavy percussion beats and deranged, creepy string movements that are fast paced and frantic. And the fourth track ‘Galactic Globe Theatre’ mixes circus motifs with playful percussion, horns and xylophones before hitting the listener with heavy thundering beats and rolling percussion that add atmosphere and menace.
There’s also something charmingly 80s about the whole soundtrack too and the fifth track ‘Knock My Block Off’ couldn’t be more 80s if it tried with its heavy rock guitar chords and rifts. ‘Muscle Kar Klown Jam’ features a bizarre mix of rock guitar studio session and jazzy synth keyboard rifts building into a lively, demented circus feel; it will give you a headache but it’s kind of fun too. While ‘Shadow Show’ cascades through one themes to another – the cute, playful trumpets and xylophone, to a grand version of the US National Anthem, before shifting to Arabian wind instruments and then descending into heavy beats and menacing tones. Its a bold, brazen journey of sounds that capture the deranged feel of the film.
Massari brings an energy to every track, from the cheesy mix of marching beats and menacing synth chords in ‘The Inevitable’ to the intense string movements of ‘Klown Hideout’ that is epic in a Bond villain’s lair kind of way (more Doctor Evil than Blodfeld) and some spectacular rock guitar riffs. That rock guitar really lets loose in the following track ‘Killer Klown March’, mixed with heavy drums and percussion and wind instruments that feels too over dramatic to be taken seriously but will get stuck in your head and make you smile too.
The twelfth track ‘The Funhouse’ is a surprisingly great piece of horror movie music, the moody heavy chords, eerie strings and haunting clarinet are powerful stuff. And then we’re thrown back into the action with ‘Klownfrontation’, packed with heavy, thundering percussion beat, rock guitar riffs and cheesy electronic keyboard synth chords; this is dramatic with a capital D! ‘Escape to Klown Kathedral’ is utterly deranged; with its clownish organ music and thundering beats, you could imagine this playing over a black and white silent movie. The pure 80s cartoonish chase music is very OTT and fun. This all climaxes in ‘Final Klownfrontation’, which has all the familiar heavy percussion beats, rock guitar riffs and cheesy electronic keyboard chords that are loud, bold and intense.
The album also treats the listener to some addition remixes and stripped back orchestral pieces and they’re rather spectacular when the cheese is dialled back. ‘Knock My Block Off (dream remix)’ is a distorted version of original version while the deranged organ version of ‘Escape to Klown Kathedral (Theatre Organ Version) is fantastically gothic in a Danny Elfman-esque way. Perhaps my favourite track on the album is ‘Sketch for Sampled String Orchestra’ which is packed with slow, atmospheric strained string movements and faster, frenzied beats, a great little gothic piece at nearly seven minutes long.
The ‘Killer Klowns From Outer Space (Original Demo Circa Fall 1987)’ is filled with the same deranged, synth heavy heats and chords of the original; it’s an over the top cacophony of dramatic chords, silly synth beats, clownish motifs and darker undertones. Finally the soundtrack ends with ‘Tell Me What is Real’, full of heavy industrial beats, rock guitar riffs and intense keyboard chords for a fun, cheesy, rock extravaganza, plus some gruff, soft rock vocals from The Dickies.
I think I’ve rarely had as much fun listening to a movie soundtrack as I have listening to John Massari’s re-released score for Killer Klowns From Outer Space. It’s a pure 80’s cheese rock extravaganza, mixing horror undertones with deranged clownish overtures and it’s just a delight to listen to. It might give you a headache at times, but it’s one you certainly won’t forget and will leave a smile on your face.
The soundtrack is available from Varèse Sarabande digitally in the US now and on CD from the 25th May. You can purchase it here in the UK from the 1st June 2018.