Released March 15, 2018
Unrated (borderline NC-17 for graphic violence, nudity, and language) – 1hr 22min
Directed by Damien Leone
Starring David Howard Thornton, Jenna Kanell, Catherine Corcoran
On Halloween night, a psychotic clown stalks and murders pretty much anyone he encounters. That’s about it.
This film is exclusively for gorehounds and die-hard nostalgics of 80’s slashers. Everyone else need not apply.
Terrifier is writer/director Damien Leone’s third attempt to make his character Art the Clown happen. This is a feature-length adaptation of a short film he made in 2011 and Art likewise figured prominently in his 2013 anthology All Hallows’ Eve, which also featured the original short. He really, REALLY wants horror fans to embrace Art the Clown like we would one of the legends, such as Michael Myers, Jason, or Freddy – so much so that he has, in a sense, released the same story with him in it three times.
And I use the term ‘story’ lightly, because there’s really not much going on here beyond the brief description. Art does look really creepy with his gaunt facial features, wild eyes, and prominent teeth – a nightmare interpretation of a joker from a deck of playing cards. He acts really creepy (in addition to the grotesque murders he’s constantly committing) as actor David Howard Thornton brought considerable experience in pantomime to the role, giving Art a sense of playful whimsy in between many sinister outbursts of butchery and mutilation. Yet, he has no backstory, motive, home, or anything to ground him to the same fictional world that his victims reside in. Perhaps the intent is to create an aura of mystery around him – ‘who or what is he and what does he want?’ – but Art doesn’t possess a single dimension beyond his appearance and actions to even warrant those simple questions. This makes 80 minutes of following Art and his acts of mayhem a real fucking chore.
In the first half though, Terrifier truly does pin down that 80’s vibe. With a really effective synth score that emulates the era (which seems rather trendy at the moment, but I ain’t complaining), there’s a definite sense of tension and suspense in a couple of the hide-and-seek moments between Art and his intended prey. There’s also characters doing bafflingly stupid things, like attempting to sneak away before proceeding to make all the fucking noise that is even possible to make, but that’s staying true to the formula too. Yet, at the halfway mark, the movie blows its depraved wad in an admittedly surprising move, but in its efforts to shock and surprise, it’s never able to recover the lost momentum, having to import unfamiliar characters to continue the carnage for over half an hour before sputtering to an extremely predictable conclusion.
In my opinion, Art the Clown isn’t ready for the big leagues yet. There’s just not enough to him to make him interesting for even 80 minutes. Imagine going to a Halloween attraction and hanging out in the same creepy room for that length of time – despite being a professional-grade horror film, that’s what Terrifier feels like.
Although that first half is significantly better, I give this a