UK Release Date: 2nd April 2018
Runtime: 81 minutes
Director: Damien Leone
Writer: Damien Leone
Starring: David Howard Thornton, Jenna Kanell, Catherine Corcoran
Synopsis: On Halloween night, a man dressed as a creepy clown enacts a murderous rampage, focused around two young women trying to get home from a fancy dress party.
When you’re about to watch a direct-to-DVD horror movie called Terrifier, you pretty much know what to expect – a gory, throwback horror. Terrifier delivers upon that promise with buckets and buckets of lurid Kensington Gore – there’s a splattery eye gouge before the title card even comes up – as well as a nasty sensibility that will please gorehounds, even if it sometimes intrudes upon the ghost train camp of the movie at its best. In its central clown protagonist, it has a slasher with franchise potential and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see a sequel in production very soon.
That protagonist is Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), who is described in a prologue as presumed dead following the aftermath of a massacre. He soon appears, though, to best friends Tara (Jenna Kanell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), who are stranded when their car gets a flat tyre following a Halloween night on the town. When Tara steps inside a derelict house to use the bathroom, she triggers a cat-and-mouse chase with Art, which seems likely to culminate in gallons of blood being spilled all over the filthy walls.
It’s clear that writer-director Damien Leone has multiple influences when it comes to Terrifier, which is adapted from a short of the same name that featured in his anthology All Hallows’ Eve. On the one hand, Art the Clown is a franchisable villain in the mould of box office-friendly slashers like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers but, on the flipside, the grimness and grunge of Leone’s grindhouse tone is more reminiscent of the flowing gore and transgressive storytelling of the video nasties.
Terrifier is at its best when it’s dealing in stalk and slash chases, accompanied by pulsating electronic music that feels like a throwback to Carpenter and Goblin. It’s in these scenes that Art is truly horrifying, with a hook-nose, black grin and tiny hat perched upon his head looking like the grotesque love-child of Professor Snape, a Mr Punch puppet and Marilyn Manson. He even rides around on a little tricycle in an homage to the Saw franchise’s creepy mascot Billy the Puppet.
Unfortunately, the film’s greatest strength also has it coming a little unstuck. Leone is unafraid to push taste boundaries with his violence and, occasionally, it feels as if the unrelenting sense of malevolent nastiness sees the movie cross the line between grindhouse silliness and torture porn. One extended scene of gleeful brutality in particular – which takes the most infamous scene of Bone Tomahawk and gives it an extra dose of gross – is so dark that it undercuts the enjoyment of everything else.
Leone does get great performances from his actors, with Thornton disappearing completely into the black grin and mime-inspired mannerisms of Art. Jenna Kanell is an identifiable and interesting protagonist, with more than a little resemblance to Neve Campbell in the Scream movies. The film, though, often loses sight of the characters in favour of cheap shocks and culminates in an ending that doesn’t really make much sense at all, even in the moment. With that said, the success of It, we will definitely see this killer clown again.
Pop or Poop?
Gorehounds drawn in by the concept of a slash-happy clown on a rampage will not be disappointed by Terrifier, which is a short and scalpel-sharp grindhouse horror. The violence is frequent, fierce and tough, marrying the high camp of the slasher classics with something far nastier and less palatable.
David Howard Thornton is memorable as the killer at the centre of it all and it’s when he gives chase that the movie comes alive with ghost train thrills and a sense of breakneck tension.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Terrifier is available on DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.