Directed by Damien Leone.
Starring Catherine Corcoran, Jenna Kanell, Margaret Reed, David Howard Thornton, Michael Leavy, and Katie Maguire.
It’s Halloween night and a psychopathic clown terrorizes the streets, homing in on three young women.
A success on the festival circuit last year, Damien Leone’s Terrifier certainly hit at the right time, coming in the wake of the hugely successful It remake, although clowns have been a mainstay of horror movies for decades, from the possessed toys of Poltergeist to Sid Haig’s iconic Captain Spaulding character in House of 1000 Corpses and even the various incarnations of The Joker that have instilled a sense of fear and dread since the 1940s. One look at the posters and trailer for Terrifier tells you all you need to know about main antagonist Art the Clown and the type of film this is going to be, and, thankfully, Terrifier delivers on every level.
In a throwback to the slasher movies of the early 1980s on several different levels, Terrifier is as fun as it is unapologetically gory and – forgive the pun – terrifying. Art (David Howard Thornton) is the greatest horror villain we’ve had for some time simply by just being a bloodthirsty maniac with no history, no backstory and, impressively, no dialogue. He appears near the beginning of the film crossing the street carrying a black sack, he then follows two partied-out young women into a late night diner and from then on he dominates the movie by slaughtering everybody who crosses his path in a variety of graphic and bloody ways that are made all the more pleasing as they are all done practically with no CGI taking you out of the moment.
And there you have it. No subplots, no subtext and no social commentary, just a homicidal mime/clown using any weapon at his disposal to gratuitously kill the people in his vicinity, including using his huge boots to execute a very messy but immensely rewarding head stomp. The acting is of a pretty high standard for this sort of film and director Damien Leone exploits the minimal locations to their limit with various camera angles and lighting tricks making the most of the limited settings, as if Art’s look wasn’t enough. David Howard Thornton is brilliant as the maniacal mime, his prosthetic make-up nodding towards The Joker’s classic look with elongated chin and pointy cheek bones but the lack of bright colours and Thornton’s expressions giving the character a totally otherworldly feel; even when he gets injured Art doesn’t make a sound although his face registers pain and little touches like that combined with Thornton’s exaggerated body language make him a much creepier stalker than Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers – or even Pennywise – despite being human, in the biological sense of the word at least.
Backed up with a pulsing synth score, dark gallows humour and a concise 81-minute running time, Terrifier is an extremely satisfying horror movie that needs no further analysis other than the question of whether or not it is entertaining, and it is. The low-budget grindhouse aesthetic may not appeal to those accustomed to bigger budget slashers or the slick Hollywood horror of It but it matters not as Terrifier uses what it has to maximum effect, taking the familiar genre tropes we already know and distilling them into the essence of horror in its purest form. It won’t win any awards (pity) but nevertheless, Terrifier is a brilliant horror movie – simple as that.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★