Written and Directed by Damien Leone, Terrifier follows the violent exploits of Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), as he menaces two friends (Jenna Kanell and Catherine Corcoran), who are trying to get home from a party. They see Art the Clown as they stand outside their car trying to decide who will be the one driving home, but they ultimately decide they need some food to try to help them sober up. While sitting in a pizza joint, Art the Clown shows up. Corcoran’s Dawn character is the crazy, outgoing one of the two and takes selfies with the clown, while Kanell’s Tara appears to be the focus of his attention and is creeped out by him.
The clown eventually freaks out the pizza shop employees, so they kick him out, and, knowing this freak is still out there, the two girls eventually leave on their own to go back to the car. They discover they have a flat, so they call Tara’s sister (Samantha Scaffidi) for a ride. Tara has to use the bathroom, so she talks her way into an abandoned warehouse or apartment building, where a pest control worker is spraying for bugs. Then, Art the Clown goes on the prowl, and violent mayhem ensues.
Art the Clown first appeared in the shorts The 9th Circle and Terrifier, making his feature length debut in All Hallow’s Eve. I have not seen any of these, so this review is not using those releases for comparison. This feature length Terrifier is the first time David Howard Thornton is taking on the role of the villain, previously played by Mike Giannelli. Although the character is called Art the Clown, I think Art the Mime would be a little more accurate. His makeup, color scheme, and behavior looked more like a mime to me than a clown. His performance is also the outstanding aspect of this film, as he flawlessly works the thin line between evil and expressive, although his light-hearted moments still come through as creepy. Although the other players do not have much to work with as far as their characters go, they also do a fine job playing their nondescript roles.
Possible Spoilers Coming. The film really has no storyline. It’s just Art the Clown killing a few people. That’s it. You can make that work well if the victims are fleshed out, building the sympathy or empathy needed to fear for their well-being, but the victims are not. You just feel like you are watching these events occur without any sort of emotional investment, not even caring if the victims survive. To be really successful and a top-notch film, I think there needs to be something drawing you in, whether it is rooting for the victims to survive or the killer to deliver the kills. This film does not have either.
There is a lot of suspension of disbelief needed to make this film work and quite a few shots that didn’t make any sense. After Art the Clown kills the employees in the pizza shop early in the movie, the girls are already back to their car. After Tara enters the building to use the bathroom, Dawn hears a news report on the radio that two people were just found dead in the pizza shop they were at. Up to this point, there had been no sirens and no traffic. I can’t imagine the girls had parked that far from the shop. How the news got the information that quickly is amazing. Okay. Maybe it’s needed to build the tension. Then, the reporter describes Art the Clown. Did they look at security footage already? Were there eye witnesses? How do they have him perfectly described? Did no one do anything about it? When an ambulance finally drives by Dawn’s car, did the paramedics really not see Art the Clown, who has just been perfectly described on the radio, on the side of the road as he enters Dawn’s car? Again, it’s not like Art is a nondescript man walking around. You will see him. You will remember him.
The rest of the film is a by the numbers stalk and slash. Characters hide around corners and in closets. Even when Art the Clown points to a woman hiding in a closet, the woman continues to watch him, giving no clue that she realizes she may need to defend herself because he sees where she is. This also lends to some weird shots when, from the outside, it looks like her eye is pressed up against a hole in the door to watch things and then she’s a good six inches back during the interior shots. When Art the Clown comes at the closet and starts to rattle the doors, you see his entire head in the view from inside the closet. In order for the perspective in this shot to work, there is no way Art’s arms would be able to reach the closet. He would’ve needed to be 10 feet away. Probably being nit-picky here, but these types of shots made me chuckle and confused.
Eventually, everyone dies, but we are left for a final jump scare at the end, just like all the slasher films from the 80s.
Score | 5 / 10
The acting is done well, considering the little they have to work with. The blood is handled well, although the centerpiece of a woman being slit from crotch to head is another suspension of disbelief moment. The script is crap. The story is derivative of every other generic slasher film (even those movies usually give you a reason to root for the victims). There are plenty of moments when I found myself rolling my eyes. At under an hour and a half, the film still seemed a bit long to me. Maybe it works much better as the 20 minute short it was based on, like how a sketch on SNL does not always work when stretched from its 5-minute bit to a feature length film.