Damien Leone brings back to the screen Art The Clown in Terrifier, somewhat a sequel to the 2013 All Hallows Eve, a very low-budget horror anthology that received bad reviews but achieved a solid fan-base at the same time.
As you can see from the photo, I quite enjoyed All Hallows Eve, although that’s mostly due to a couple of gory scenes, a few unintentional laughs and the fact that I consider it, overall, a sort of guilty pleasure of mine: never I thought of it as a good movie I’d recommend. 5 years later, I can happily say that Terrifier improves upon the original quite a bit.
Here, the story is as simple and basic as a plot can be: a maniacal clown named Art, terrorises two teenagers – although I’m not sure they’re meant to be teenagers – on Halloween night and brutally tortures and kills whoever gets in the way. The storyline is straightforward and benefits from the feature-length narrative, as opposed to the episodic nature of the anthology All Hallows Eve.
One of Art ‘s target is Tara (Jenna Kanell from The Bye Bye Man… ugh!). Even though she doesn’t show better acting skill than in the horrendously amusing The Bye Bye Man, her character in Terrifier is much more likeable, proving that Leone put real effort into writing a story, much more than he did with his previous flick. Besides, Tara doesn’t make many stupid decisions as one would expect from a slasher flick starring a psycho clown: to be honest, I can only think about one. Kudos!
Furthermore, Terrifier is very watchable in terms of execution and production values: even though the movie is purposely made to look low budget – a la Hatchet (in fact, there’s also one murder that is basically copy-pasted from Adam Green’s latest entrance in the franchise) – it doesn’t seem as cheap as the segments in All Hallows Eve. The camera-work is on par, since the film doesn’t shy away from showing gruesome attacks and extremely gory sequences in all their glory, if you will.
As previously mentioned during the plot summary, Art The Clown is the perpetrator of the killings: without saying a word throughout the runtime (more or less 80 minutes), his presence and mannerism is frightening and uncomfortable to look at. He really steals the show, making for a great antihero, a sick individual that shows no morals nor remorse for what he does. His actions are mean-spirited to the core, gruesome as rarely I’ve seen in American movies and incredibly merciless. Yes, if you’re solely used to PG13 horror flicks or think that Hostel is tough to sit through, I suggest you avoid Terrifier.
Played by David Howard Thornton (who replaced Mike Giannelli in the role of Art) doesn a fantastic job, considering he only had his physicality to work with. Besides, the filmmakers brilliantly enhanced every single scene revolving around Art: the score, albeit not very original, heightens the clown’s malevolent actions and the use of light and dark give him an even more dreadful onscreen presence. Plus, unlike in the first movie, here Art is mostly just a very mean, nasty and sick individual without any ‘supernatural’ power, which makes him (and the story itself) scarier and less laughable.
Besides the villain, the other show stealer for me is the practical effects, by Italian makeup artists Michele Gianchetti and Elisa Vecchio, who are simply great at what they do. I nearly stood up to applaud the special effects in this film, since the gore is realistic and convincing… and there’s loads of it. Gore-hounds are not going to be disappointed by Terrifier! Italians know and love their gore!
Despite sounding very enthusiastic about Terrifier, I can’t help but find it very flawed. To begin with, the first 30 minutes or so are full of unimportant, boring dialogues between Tara and her very unlikeable friend – I know, this is a slasher and characters aren’t very important in slasher flicks, but that’s okay when you have a constant banter between multiple protagonists. When the viewer is forced to deal with one annoying drunk teenager and her depressed/dull friend, that is simply not interesting. Fortunately, Art appears every now and then even during the first act, to prevent it from being a snore fest.
Yet, when the only likeable character begins to be compelling and the viewer starts to root for her, the filmmakers decided to remove her from the film. Per se, this is a ballsy choice… as long as you replace her with other interesting protagonists. Instead, half way through the movie the audience have none to care for until the end. Sure, Art is great as a villain, but you’d hope to also have someone who can stop him.
My biggest issue with the movie, however, is the ending. I know endings can be very subjective, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you think otherwise, but the last 5 minutes of Terrifier pissed me off quite a bit: out of 34 horror movies I watched so far this year, Terrifier features one of the worst grand finales, in my opinion.
Ultimately, I’d still recommend Terrifier to gore-hounds and fans of independent, hard-core horror filmmaking. Personally, I was entertained throughout – besides the first 25/30 minutes – and I enjoyed the movie for what it is: a sick, mean-spirited slasher flick about a sadistic clown who tortures and kills everybody he comes across.
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My review is also available on IMDb – Terrifier