Terrifier is a Gore-Filled Good Time For Fans of Grimy Horror
By Jeb Bohn
As a kid, one of my favorite rituals was wandering the horror section of the video store in my hometown.
Naturally, my eyes were drawn to the most outlandish covers even though the movies themselves failed to deliver on the glorious box art.
Terrifier, filmmaker Damien Leone’s 2016 killer clown slasher, certainly would have drawn 11-year-old me in. After all, it definitely drew adult me in.
That leaves one question?
Did it deliver?
A warning before we dive in: there are spoilers ahead. I recommend watching the movie first if you haven’t already.
With Terrifier 2 a little over a month away from its U. S. release, I thought the time was right to take a look at the original.
So, let’s get to it.
I’m not going to go in depth with the plot because—well—there isn’t much of one. That’s not negative criticism. I think a movie like Terrifier works well when its events roll out like some crazed fever dream.
That’s exactly what this movie is, and it’s a damned fine one.
Yes, the budget is low, but if this movie got your attention, I doubt that will deter you. The acting, while not Oscar-worthy, doesn’t hold the film back.
The budget also fails to hinder the practical effects, handled by Leone (who also wrote, produced, and edited the film).
Terrifier opens with a talk show playing on a small TV; an unknown man is watching. The host (Katie Maguire) is interviewing a young disfigured woman (Samantha Scaffidi), the victim of a brutal attack the previous Halloween.
Infuriated, the man destroys the television before filling a garbage bag with what I like to call implements of mayhem.
Backstage at the talk show, the host engages in a phone call. During the conversation, she disparages the appearance of her guest. Unfortunately for her, the woman—who’s been eavesdropping—lunges at the host and violently attacks her.
This is a violent and visceral scene, and it’s just getting started.
Elsewhere, we meet Tara (Jenna Kanell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), two friends about to head home after a Halloween party. As they approach Dawn’s car, they notice a man dressed as a clown, black bag slung over one shoulder.
Meet Art the Clown.
The duo decides to head into a nearby pizzeria, noticing the strange man is now gone.
Soon after, he appears in the pizza shop, making a brief bathroom stop before noticing the pair. He takes a shine to Tara, even gifting her a ring obtained from a vending machine. The fun ends when the shop’s owner forcefully ejects Art from the premises.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s going to go well for him.
Blood and Thunder
The girl’s finish their pizza and return to the car, only to find one of the tires slashed. After Dawn states that the spare is already on the car, Tara calls her sister Victoria to pick them up.
Back in the restaurant, a disgruntled employee is cleaning the bathroom of Art’s—well, artwork. The owner doesn’t respond, and we soon find out that’s due to his current status as an avant garde jack-o-lantern.
Art reveals himself before relieving the employee of a few fingers. We’re then treated to another vicious attack as the mad clown finishes the kill.
This is where I’m going to deviate from simply following the plot. It’s kind of boring—the act of outlining everything, not the movie. The fact is that we’ve now been fully introduced to the star of the film.
David Howard Thornton portrays Art absolutely masterfully. The character has no lines in the film, nor does he utter a sound, even when attacked. Despite this, Thornton gives Art a gleeful malevolence that’s impossible not to like. Every gag is brilliantly executed and Thornton seamlessly shifts from murderous exuberance to agitation to curiosity.
A lesser portrayal would have created a much weaker outcome, given the bare plot and prominence of the role. Thankfully, the decision to cast Thornton paid off immensely.
Okay, let’s revisit the story.
While waiting for her sister to arrive, Tara talks an exterminator named Mike (Matt McAllister) into letter her use the bathroom in a nearby building. This leaves Dawn alone in her car as the dark of night stretches on.
Fear not; Art shows up to keep her company.
After relieving herself, Tara encounters Art, who hams it up before giving chase. He’s eventually able to drug her, allowing him to tie her to a chair and give her a front row seat for his next kill.
An ecstatic Art unveils Dawn, suspended from the ceiling, before retrieving a hacksaw. To Tara’s horror, he saws her friend in half, the bisection shown in its full g(l)ory.
Tara frees herself only to be overpowered by her captor before having her life ended at his hands. Looks like Tara isn’t our final girl.
Unbeknownst to our homicidal MC, a delusional homeless woman (Pooya Mohseni) witnessed the killing and quickly seeks Mike’s help in contacting the police. Mike’s a working man and he’s got no time for what he thinks are the ramblings of an insane person.
Art shows up with a hammer, striking Mike in the head repeatedly. Making a living in New Jersey after dark is a dangerous endeavor.
Cat and Mouse
Having arrived at Dawn’s car, Victoria finds it empty. Art utilizes a little cellular subterfuge to lure her inside where she finds what appears to be an injured Tara.
In one of the more memorable scenes in the film (and that’s saying something) we see that it’s actually Art wearing the chest and scalp of the homeless woman as a disguise.
Using a homemade cat o’nine tails, he attacks Victoria until Mike shows up and knocks the clown unconscious. He helps the wounded girl to an office where he calls 911.
Deciding it unsafe to remain inside, the pair head down a hallway to a door that leads outside. This proves to be the wrong move as Art appears and proceeds to obliterate Mike’s head.
R.I.P. for the working man.
Victoria manages to squeeze through loosely-closed doors into a garage, safely out of Art’s reach. Facing defeat, he does what any of us would do in such a situation: he drives a truck through the doors, striking the already injured Victoria.
Police arrive to find him feasting on a dinner of Vicky Face Tartare. As they close in, Art draws a gun and shoots himself in the head.
Even the most dedicated murder clowns need rest from time to time.
It's Just a Flesh Wound
Art arrives at the coroner’s office in a body bag, biding his time as the paramedics describe his exploits. Once they leave, the medical examiner begins checking the body when the lights begin flickering.
No, our boy isn’t dead. The coroner on the other hand…
One year later we see Victoria being discharged into the care of her parents. As they turn toward the camera, we find that Victoria is indeed the disfigured woman from the beginning of the film.
That’s a wrap.
A Cult Classic in the Making
No, Terrifier isn’t without flaw. Then again, what is?
Boasting excellent practical effects and a pitch perfect performance from David Howard Thornton, Terrifier is a must-see for hardcore horror fans.
Beyond that, I applaud Damien Leone. This film is obviously a labor of love, and the filmmaker’s passion for the genre, his craft, and his creation is evident throughout. This is an outstanding example of true independent horror, a creator free to bring his untethered vision to life.
What are your thoughts on Terrifier? Drop a comment and let me know!
If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you rectify that immediately. After all, Terrifier 2 is coming in October…