With the current and stunning box office success of “Terrifier 2” (over $7 million grossed so far on a budget of just $250,00), I did the only thing I could do which was watch the original. I was not aware of this one till the sequel came out which was reported to have had audience members vomiting and fainting during screenings, so naturally I was intrigued at what gory chaos its predecessor had to offer. If nothing else, the clown featured on the posters is the kind of thing nightmares are made of. Still, this one is routine as slasher movies go.
“Terrifier” is a 2016 independent slasher film written and directed by Damien Leone, and it opens with television personality Monica Brown (Katie Maguire) interviewing a severely disfigured woman who was attacked by a menacing bastard known as Art the Clown. One look at her face, and you wonder why she is now quick to hide it from the world at large. Seeing her hideous facial features quickly reminded me of a scene in which a mechanic overlooks Michael J. Fox’s completely totaled Porsche in “Doc Hollywood” and says, “I can fix that.” I imagine there are plastic surgeons out there who will delude themselves into saying the same exact thing over this female’s face. Whether or not they can fix is not for me to say, but it is the first sign of just how brutal Art the Clown can be. If he does not kill all his victims, some of them may wish they were dead as he gives them a fate worse than being deceased.
Following this prologue which ends in a particularly brutal fashion, we arrive at a certain Halloween evening in which two friends, Tara (Jenna Kanell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), going home after a drunken Halloween evening in which one of them may or may not have gotten a cute guy’s phone number. They notice Art the Clown looking at them from a distance as they make their way to Dawn’s car. Next thing we know, Art follows them into a nearby pizzeria where Tara continues to fear him from a distance while Dawn goes out of her way to get a selfie with him as if he were nothing to fear. Now Art has teeth which are crying out for the nearest dentist and/or orthodontist. Seriously, anyone specializing in oral care will be quick to look at this psycho and say, “My God, don’t you even floss?!”
After Art gets kicked out of pizzeria for something other than asking for extra cheese on his supreme pizza, he goes on quite the murderous rampage as he pursues both Tara and Dawn and all those who help them or come in his way. Remember that scene in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in which Freddy Krueger told Nancy Thompson he was going to split her in two? Well Art does that and much, much, much more, and he does it all with a vicious smile which burns into your memory quite quickly.
The first thing I have to say is that “Terrifier” features one of the most fearsome antagonists the horror genre has seen in some time: Art the Clown. His makeup threatens to give Bill Skarsgård’s interpretation of Pennywise the Clown from “It” a run for his money as clowns have always been creepy, but few could be as creepy as this one. Portraying Art is David Howard Thornton, an actor who has appeared on stage, film and television, and he had previous mime experience before doing this particular horror flick. I don’t care what anyone says, acting classes do pay off eventually, and this man is proof!
As for writer and director Leone, he knows how to frame certain scenes to give us the best jump scares possible. This is worth noting as this movie essentially treads very familiar slasher territory. It kept my attention throughout even as it treaded over familiar ground more often than not.
But if there is anything which really sinks “Terrifier” for me, it’s the acting. It’s not all terrible, but there are moments in which the cast members could have really sold us on certain horrific scenes more vividly. When one character gets sawed in half, I expected a lot of Marilyn Burns “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” bug-eyed acting as that would really have been made sense considering the carnage on display. Instead, we get performances from those who look like they couldn’t be bothered enough to go completely ballistic given what they are forced to witness up close. It’s in moments like these where the movie lost it for me, and this one proved to be most damaging.
If nothing else, “Terrifier” really makes me want to check out the sequel. While this one is at best a run of the mill slasher flick, Leone has given himself something he can really build on the next time around. Considering the amount of attention and box office “Terrifier 2” is currently getting, it sounds like he has. This one isn’t terrible, but only does so much to lift itself above the common genre entry. It does, however, have one great thing: the inspired performance of David Howard Thornton.
* * ½ out of * * * *