NEO Zone

NEO Zone

Monday, May 30, 2011

Filmmakers The Chiodo Brothers Talk Killer Klowns From Outer Space

The Chiodo Brothers, Charles and Stephen Chiodo, appeared October 9, 2010 at the Music Box Theater in Chicago. They answered a series of questions from the host and the audience, almost entirely focusing on "Killer Klowns From Outer Space". (The Chiodos have also worked on "Critters" and "Team America: World Police", among many others.)

As I cannot differentiate between the two men's voices, their answers will simply be listed as "Chiodo Brothers" (unless it's obvious who is who), under the assumption that anything one says the other would agree with.

Transcribed by Gavin Schmitt.

Music Box: Alright guys, with killer klowns and acidic pies and all this... where did the idea start? 

Chiodo Brothers: A single conversation. I was trying to figure out what the most frightening thing possible would be, and for me, it was driving down aroad at night, having someone pass you on the left, and when I turned to see who it was, it was a clown. A clown driving a car. A clown being where it shouldn't be is scary. And then we said, what if the clown wasn't in a car? And we decided if a clown came up beside you and it wasn't in a car, it would have to be from outer space. It's one of the primal fears: spiders, snakes and clowns.

MB: The film has many scenes that go from funny to scary and back and forth. What was the writing process like? 

CB: We tried to create what we call "candy-coated kills". We took ever circus and carnival motif we could but put a twist on it. We tried to do with the toilet bowl what Alfred Hitchcock did for the shower. One time we had a fan come up and tell us that we hit on his wife's two phobias: she's afraid of clowns and she's afraid of the toilet.

MB: How were you guys able to bring all this to the table? 

CB: Really old school technology. It was a low budget film, and we got our friends to do the miniature and animation effects. It was really pulling all our friends and family together. But the imagery came from our influences, like the Corman films, the AIP films. Everything was done conventionally. There were hand puppets, and there was stop motion animation. The shadow puppet gag was all stop motion.

MB: A lot of people love the look of the klowns -- the face, the costume, everything. Can you take us through the process of making one of these? 

CB: I thought they would be like these giant, looming quiet things. But then we wanted them to be more maniacal. And they're aliens. Maniacs in clown makeup attack people with knives. But these are aliens, so we wanted more fantasy. We tried to make a new life form that just happened to look like clowns, create a new mythology. Albino-type skin, but a new life form.

MB: Where did the laugh come from? 

CB: Yeah, actually, originally the klowns didn't speak at all. But as we went through various cuts, we realized we needed to give them a language. The director of the music video ended up doing the voices. They say things like "modo", and maybe saying we gave clowns a brain would be going too far, but we wanted them to have a kind of crazy intelligence.

MB: Is there ever a reaction that people have to your movies that really stands out in your mind? 

CB: You know, it's funny, to be creative artists and do something to express ourselves and to get the reaction we got tonight is just amazing. You laughed in the right places, and it was great. But yet, I was really surprised, because everyone applauded when Dave came out of the car. I was really surprised, because there's this love triangle going on there, and in the original script Dave got killed. He did not survive the blast, only the Terenzi Brothers did. And I noticed you didn't applaud them. It's interesting, our executive at TransWorld told us, "guys, it isn't that kind of movie where you have to kill the hero." So we came up with this ending where Dave crawls into the car and survives. We shot the whole thing i na parking lot after the rest of the film had wrapped. The car came down, they came out, and then we hit them with pies. But the executive was right. You want to laugh and feel happy when you leave the theater. Of course, if you look at the timing closely, he couldn't have made it. So remember, if there's an atomic bomb or something, hide in the freezer with the ice cream.

MB: I think Indiana Jones just did that. What was it like working with John Vernon? 

CB: He was great, one of the real pros we had in the show. He showed up, and John was making sure I got respect from the crew as a first-time director, and made sure I got the time i needed to work with him. He was great with comic timing. The scene where the klown squirts him with the flower in the police station, I directed it so there's one squirt and John reacted, and I was fine with that. John said, "No, let's have him squirt me once, wait a second, and then one big burst." We did that, at John's suggestion.

MB: And the ventriloquist scene? 

CB: The ventriloquist scene was really bringing to the film what we thought was scary in the first place. Clowns may be scary, but ventriloquist dummies top even clowns.

MB: Was the film dubbed over? 

CB: No, but it should have been. We had the worst sound mix. We found a cheaper place that would give us the same deal for two weeks as the expensive palce would for one. Then it was cut to one week, so we had one week in the bad place. The soundboard blew up, we had to loop some extra lines in there. We were sitting there, saying "raise that, lower that, this sounds perfect" and after we finish it the technician tells us that what we have been hearing is not necessarily what has been laid down. What the fuck are we doing?

MB: What about a sequel? 

CB: We've been working on a sequel ever since the first one came out, but it's a bunch of legal ramblings, with the film getting tossed from one studio to another. We are working on it, we have a great concept, and we've now been working on it so long that we debated between a sequel and a regular remake. We did both. We have content in it that will introduce it to new audiences, but there's material in there that will make it a really great sequel. The only problem is that after 22 years of ideas, we've tried to throw it all into one thing. We have three or four movies' worth.

MB: Any backlash from the clown industry? 

CB: I get letters and threats like you wouldn't believe. No, no, that's not true. But they may have shut down the Ringling Clown College because of us. We talk to a lot of people, and let me ask you: how many of you are afraid of clowns? (audience roars) How many like clowns? (bigger roar) No, that's scary! Most people have a phobia. We did meet one guy who said our movie was bad for the kiddies, so we told him, "You know what? You're kinda bad for the kiddies." He's a clown performer and he says peopel crystallize at a very young age, and he was afraid about a person who doesn't look like a person walking into your space. That first impression could stick with you for life.

MB: What was it like working with the Dickies? 

CB: They were great! It was interesting, one of our crew knew the Dickies, and he asked them, "Hey guys, do you want to write a song for Killer Klowns From Outer Space?" They knew only the title, and those guys came up with that really great song. What's cool is I think they brought i na whole different audience than we had intended. Now we get these hard rockers that love the Dickies and who love the film.

MB: I've been wondering this for fifteen years: why is Mike making out with Debbie on a raft? 

CB: Mike Tobacco and the Terenzi Brothers went out one night on the raft in Long Island Sound, the police were looking for them, and when they got back Mike's father was so mad he took a knife and stabbed the raft. Mike Tobacco entertains the ladies in the back of his Pinto with a rubber raft. We had to dub over that, because two people rolling around in a rubber raft makes fart sounds. We didn't know that, but after we heard the fart sounds we had to dub the dialogue over the top of that. That explanation is in the movie. Debbie asks why the raft is in the car and Mike tells her the story. But we had to cut it from the film because we had too much exposition. We thank MGM for giving us a great DVD to put some of that back on the disc.

MB: How many scenes did you have to cut out of the film? 

CB: Mostly in the beginning of the film, stuff with Mike and Debbie, like them in the woods and him trying to scare her. Typical horror stuff. We just wanted to get to the klowns. We figured you have to see a klown in the first reel, the first ten minutes, or you lose the audience. There is another scene, a tragedy of this being a low budget movie. They are in the tent, and they are walking a tightrope. The tightrope becomes a staircase ,and they go up above into something coming out sideways into the Room of Doors. They open a door, a klown comes out, and they shoot its head off. It was cut because of technical problems. It was a labor of love, and we appreciate how supportive the fans have been.
Gavin adds: In a private conversation that evening, the Chiodo Brothers explained that there are no female klowns. This is why the men went into cotton candy and the women went into balloons. The two female klowns who slept with the Terenzi Brothers are not actually female, but male transvestites. A possible plot for the sequel involves the Terenzis being pregnant with the klown babies. How they intend to explain the 20-plus year gap remains a mystery.

Interesting notes -

* Harrod Blank auditioned as an extra, but the Chiodos liked him enough that he played the part of seven different klowns.

* Grant Cramer would wind down after the night's filming (all filming was done at night) by playing Pong.

* After filming the nights scenes for a while, and then switching to interior shots, the cast voted to continue shooting at night to keep their sleep schedules. Suzanne Snyder said this was the only bad thing about shooting the film: trying to correct her sleep when it was all over. Shooting took about 2 months.

* Suzanne Snyder did all of her own stunts, getting bruised up, with one exception: the scene where the stunt klown (Mike Martinez) hits the hood of the car. Since there was a chance he might go through the windshield, for that brief scene they had a stand-in.

* Many of the special effects were very low-tech. For example, the scene where the cast is running away from the monster... this is a simple shot where they are running in the background and a small toy is placed an inch from the camera, making it appear larger.

* The klowns could rarely see where they were going, and could almost never hear. There were loud motors in the klown heads controlling facial expressions, so the grinding of the motors was all that could be heard. Also, the heads were very, very warm and sweaty.

* Talks of a sequel have been in the works for a while. They went nowhere because the film's original owner, TransWorld, went under and nobody knew who had the film's rights. Actors were not getting residual checks. Eventually MGM picked it up, and released it on DVD. In a short time, they sold 700,000 copies, making a considerable profit. The chances of a sequel are better now than ever. The cast is interested and the Chiodos have a script. They just need funding.

* Grant Cramer had an interesting relationship with assistant property master Mark Barofsky (who is now deceased). Mark insisted on calling Grant "Gram". There was a day or two on set where Grant was sick and had to leave on short notice. He would nod to the director and then run off the set. He would then return a few minutes later. This happened repeatedly. After shooting was over, Grant's agent called him up and said, "Grant, we have a problem. The rumor is that you have a coke addiction, and it's so bad you have to run off the set in the middle of shooting to get more coke, and they have nicknamed you 'gram'." It apparently took a bit of convincing to play down that rumor.

Original article by 
Gavin Schmitt

Friday, May 20, 2011

Alien Menace (Atari 2600) Story


An Original Story for the Atari 2600 game Alien Menace by: Eric (Mindfield) March

They were all dead.

Somehow, it was different when it was the enemy. That was the job -- killing the Kryll. One or a hundred of them, it didn't matter; they all looked the same when their corpses littered the ground, and you were glad to see it. It meant you were earning your paycheque. But that was on their world, sectors away; a universe apart on every concievable level. When the smoke cleared and your shift was over, you dug yourself out from the rubble and took your ship back to the home you knew waited for you. Back to Earth. Back to your family.

Everything was fine as long as things stayed that way. Sure, there was always the danger that you'd be wounded or killed in action. Nobody said working for the OMC was a safe job. We were marines, with all of the perks and dangers that went with the title. The Outer Marine Corps provided well, though. Heavy armor and even heavier ordnance. The Kryll were no match for our technology. What they lacked in weaponry they made up for in every other area: Speed, cunning, determination, and most alarmingly, numbers.

Krylian, their homeworld, was a good three times the size of Earth, and the Kryll seemed to fill every land mass almost to overflowing; there were tens of billions of them. Their cities, primitive by comparison, sprawled across the planet to the point where there simply wasn't any more land to build on. That's how we found them -- or rather, they found us. They had grown so numerous that their world faced famine and death unless they found new habitable digs to settle on. Obviously they weren't very good urban planners or they would have done that long ago.

But that's how their problem became ours. It had begun as peaceful talks with their assembled consuls. They wanted to emigrate to Earth. We would have none of it; Earth was pretty crowded as it was, and we certainly had no room for Kryll in the numbers they were talking about. The Kryll disagreed, though. Earth still brimmed with untouched wilderness, desert and forest land that, properly terraformed, could serve the purpose ideally. The Kryll had no love for nature; theirs was a life of survival and it left no room for such trivialities as art or beauty. It was at that point that the talks broke down and the Kryll recalled their emissaries, seeming to withdraw all of their interest from Earth.

We should have known better. By our standards, the Kryll weren't what we would have called an advanced species, but they were desperate. Desperation makes for an unpredictable and very dangerous adversary. That one fateful day, our routine mission through their sector met a not-so-routine Kryll sortie bent on our destruction. We were caught off-guard. Their fighters were poorly armed, and we managed to make quick work of them, but not before I lost three of my best wingmen. We limped home to report our misadventure.

That's how it all started, now three years past. The war waged steadily, but all we managed to do is staunch the flow. Their numbers were such that they could build ships and weaponry just as fast as we could destroy it. Worse, they just seemed to grow more desperate every day, and the more of our fighters they downed the more they were able to study and ultimately reproduce our own technology. By the day they became more fearsome foes while their numbers didn't diminish appreciably. They became a cancer, yet we have been little more than a daily chemo treatment. Our only saving grace was that they had yet to figure out how to reproduce a StellarDrive engine. Their range was limited to their own sector without it. It was only a matter of time before they did, of course -- that inevitability was what drove our own technologists to devise better weaponry so that we might defeat them before this happened. We figured there was time yet.

But we underestimated them. They weren't dumb. They had scientists of their own, and the war had done them the favour of handing our technology over to their scientists to be reverse-engineered. It might have been a mystery to them in the beginning, but any puzzle can be solved given enough time, thought and perseverence. Their desperation made them work all the harder to achieve that end. It followed then that the arrival of several hundred Kryllian battle cruisers in our sector caught us all completely unprepared. They materialized just beyond the Moon. There was no warning, no time to mobilize. Their attack pummeled the Earth from every direction. Their lack of familiarity with terrestrial geography made their targets random, but their numbers ensured a devastatingly effective strafe run. It was all I could do to dodge plasma bolts that made my hair stand on end and my skin feel like it was being peeled whole from my body. I was saved only by my proximity to my fighter. I hopped in and bolted like a rabbit with a gun to its tail. Pitching and yawing through enemy fire, I made my way to a nearby gorge where I landed and took refuge in a shallow cave until the dust cleared.

It seemed like forever, and yet but a heartbeat. When it was over, the silence crashed in like mute waves. It was absolute. It sounded like death. I got back into my fighter and flew out of the gorge, back to the base. Suddenly I didn't feel so lucky; the base lay in utter ruins. Neither structure nor craft survived the barrage. It lay flattened and smouldering, looking nothing so much like the shockwave from a nuclear bomb had swept over, leaving a path of charred debris and twisted metal in its wake.

They were all dead. All of them. My CO. My platoon. My friends.

My family.

It was overwhelming. There was just too much to process. My soul just couldn't handle it. I felt something inside of me fade and die, like an ember consuming its last meal. Smoky debris lay all around me, in front of me, beneath my feet -- inside me. The world tasted like ashes. I looked up. The cruisers had departed -- presumably moving on to other locations, other targets. The sky was clear. The stars twinkled between streamers of acrid smoke. Stars that brought death upon the world this night. Throughout my life there were always choices to be made, paths to take. You pick the one you think will lead you to where you want to be. Sometimes it's the right path, others, not. Now it seemed as though every path I had taken, every path that lay before me, all merged into one. One path. One choice.

I walked back to my fighter, oddly serene in the face of such shocking tragedy. I didn't need the instrumentation of my craft to plot my course. It was already set. My actions now were predetermined. There was no going back -- there was nothing to go back to. There was only now, and the hope of a future. It was mad, of course. To think that I stood any chance at all was absurdity of the highest order. It didn't matter. None of it mattered anymore. I was all that was left. The decision was never mine to make. The path was clear.

I would kill every last one of them. 

Alien Menace (Atari 2600)

ALIEN MENACE for the Atari 2600

You pilot a Star Fighter over what is left of your Home-world. The attack came so fast that you are the only fighter that was able to get airborne, no one else survived!!!

It's just you and them. Wipe out the ALIEN MENACE and take your revenge!!

Alien Menace is a hack of River Raid. Shoot everything for points. Shoot the U.F.O's that have landed for an additional bonus. Watch your fuel. Re-fuel by passing over the fuel towers.

 I walked back to my fighter, oddly serene in the face of such shocking tragedy. I didn't need the instrumentation of my craft to plot my course. It was already set. My actions now were predetermined. There was no going back -- there was nothing to go back to. There was only now, and the hope of a future. It was mad, of course. To think that I stood any chance at all was absurdity of the highest order. It didn't matter. None of it mattered anymore. I was all that was left. The decision was never mine to make. The path was clear. I would kill every last one of them.

A special contest version of Alien Menace was used at Digital Press Videogames for a meeting of N.A.V.A..

The Contest Cartridge rules were a little different from the normal game:
-Disable Game Select so only the first game can be played.
-Disable A-B switches.
-Player only gets one ship and no extra lives are awarded.

                                     Video of the Alien Menace Contest Cartridge in action.

A Special label was made for the three Contest Cartridges that were made.

Actual Contest Cartridges