Twenty-five years ago, the planet was invaded by “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” armed with cotton candy guns, man-eating popcorn, vicious balloon-animal guard dogs and an interstellar big top. The film was created by the Chiodo Brothers, effects artists who specialize in stop-motion animation, puppetry and animatronics, and whose Bronx accents are still strong after 30 years in Hollywood. The trio will appear at a screening this Saturday to close out the summer-long Awesome Fest.
“Clowns where they should be are scary,” says Charles Chiodo.
“Killer Klowns” is a loving parody of the 1950s and ’60s horror and sci-fi films that the Chiodos grew up on. “We didn’t know they were bad films,” Charles says. “We were 11 or 12 years old and saw ‘The Blob’ and ‘Dinosaurus!,’ and they nurtured this love of monsters in us.”
That love has translated into a career creating monsters and other practical effects. They’ve crafted Claymation segments for “The Simpsons,” the Rankin-Bass homage in “Elf,” designed the critters for “Critters” and Large Marge in “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” as well as the mouse dioramas in “Dinner for Schmucks.”
“We grew up with Godzilla and Rodan and Mighty Joe Young and King Kong,” says Charles. “And then we found out from ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’ magazine that there were people who actually did this as their job. So we started doing our own crude recreations in our basement.”
CGI initially dealt a blow to the brothers’ more archaic craft, but they’ve managed to combine digital effects with their traditional approach to create a hybrid appealing to artists who were raised loving the same films. “Filmmakers like Jon Favreau and Tim Burton like practical things on set,” says Ed Chiodo, “so it’s come around to where our practical art is back in vogue.”
One of the strangest examples of the combination of high and low tech is the Chiodos’ work on Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s marionette satire “Team America: World Police.” As Charles recalls, “We actually did an extensive test reel that had the puppets kicking and throwing lateral punches and doing dive rolls, reenactments of every action scene that Steven Seagal and Captain Kirk did. Matt and Trey saw it and said it was really cool, but they just wanted the puppets to look silly and slap around.”
‘Killer Klowns From Outer Space’
Aug. 17, 9 p.m.
2999 Street Rd., Bensalem