Halloween may be over, but the spirit of spooky season lives on year-round in horror cult classics like Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
Originally released in 1988, this science fiction horror comedy film follows a small town that is invaded by a group of aliens that look like clowns. In the nearly 35 years since its debut, that film and its wacky visuals have lived on as a fan favorite and, in recent years, have inspired a vast assortment of official products.
Today, there are more than 30 companies making Killer Klowns merch. Fans can wear klown-decorated apparel from H&M, Cakeworthy, Hot Topic, and Fright-Rags, among others. You can fill your shelves with Killer Klown collectibles from Funko, NECA, Trick or Treat Studios, Handmade By Robots, and Toynk, or visit a section of Spirit Halloween entirely devoted to these murderous circus performers.
According to Robert Marick, the executive vice president of global consumer products and experiences at MGM Studios, the titular Klowns have found widespread appeal because of the differing relationships many of us have with clowns. “Clowns can be lovable and they kinda have a nostalgic circus side,” he says. “They can also be very haunting and scary at the same time. It is one of those unique characters that, depending on where you’re from and how you approach it, can have a very haunting, scary, or fun kind of angle.”
All three of those angles — haunting, scary, and fun — shine through in the apparel, accessories, home goods, and other Killer Klowns products that have made it to market. Because the Klowns are masked, Marick notes, MGM doesn’t have to worry about talent likenesses (basically, getting permission to use an actor’s face) for the products. This makes it easier to get the characters onto merch and to depict the klowns in a variety of styles, from frightening, screen-accurate images to adorable chibi versions.
While developing the wide slate of merch makers to work with for Killer Klowns, Marick says the team looked for companies who truly really know and appreciate the brand. He was recently on a call with a potential location-based entertainment partner, he says, who seemed to know the story even better than the MGM team did.
“You can just see it in the passion in the ideas that they come up with, and the characters that they gravitate toward,” he says, describing the ideal licensing partners. “They say, ‘Well, I wish this were to happen, or that were to happen.’ I think passion and familiarity with it is the perfect mix.”
There is certainly plenty of space to expand the story of the Killer Klowns, which is something MGM has explored in two of its most successful licensing categories for the brand. One of those is gaming — In September, MGM announced Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Game, which will be available for major consoles next year. According to Marick, the game trailer gathered more than 50 million views on TikTok and a lot of positive feedback, including a tweet from actor Elijah Wood that read “What a delightful surprise! Cannot wait for this.”
The other major category for Killer Klowns is fan experiences, which started when the brand became a part of Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights in 2018. The Killer Klowns’ presence at Horror Nights has steadily increased each year since. This year, the new element was Killer Klown-themed food, which included JoJo’s ice cream and Killer BBQ From Outer Space. “In both of those examples, we were able to really have a lot of fun, not only with the creative interpretation of what a Killer Barbecue would look like or JoJo’s ice cream, but the items on the menu,” Marick says. “Whether it be the acid pie or the actual killer pulled beef barbecue.” Based on the success of this year’s edible offerings, Marick says that MGM plans to explore the food and drink category further.
And that’s not the only space where fans can hope to see more from Killer Klowns. Marick also names publishing and paper goods as additional categories where he hopes to expand the brand. As Killer Klowns from Outer Space prepares to celebrate its 35th anniversary next year, Marick promises that there is a lot more to come, even if he can’t share the details yet. “We’re just basically getting the ground swell going,” he says. “We’re excited about the property and how big it’s becoming. And next year’s gonna even be bigger.”