A few months ago, Terrifier made waves, partially because its release was aided by a promotion from Dread Central. Its main villain, Art the Clown, had made an appearance previously in writer/director Damien Leone’s All Hallows’ Eve (the incorrect punctuation is the film’s, not my own), but that was just a short feature in an anthology film. Terrifier specifically focuses on Art the Clown, who is painting the town red on Halloween night by getting dressed up in his creepiest carnival attire while lugging an extensive bag of weapons around in a garbage bag. And three women are in for an unfortunate night in Leone’s brutal film.
While Terrifier technically takes place on Halloween/the early morning hours of November 1, essentially the whole thing could have any date and it wouldn’t really matter since much of the film lacks a compelling atmosphere. Besides a pizza place, most of the plot takes place inside an abandoned building and parking garage, eliminating any Halloween imagery besides the costumes that Tara (Jenna Kanell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran) are wearing and the occasional glimpse of decorations. Ultimately, Terrifier resembles a torture porn film very quickly once it adopts the dingy dungeon-esque digs.
The opening moments of the film are somewhat creepy, though, thanks to David Howard Thornton’s portrayal of Art the Clown. His initial stalking starts with seemingly innocuous but unwanted facial gestures toward Tara and Dawn in the aforementioned pizza place, and coming from a pretty horrifying-looking clown, what should be playful becomes sinister quickly. These moments are the best that Terrifier has to offer, because once the chase starts, the film becomes pretty miserable.
A lot of that is due to a lack of storyline; while Leone’s inspiration is clearly Halloween (even the soundtrack apes Carpenter’s), his plot is more generic and uninteresting. Art the Clown lacks a motive, but that’s not the problem: it’s that over 50 minutes of this 80 minute film are devoted to characters being chased and murdered by the misogynistic clown. While Leone focuses on brutality, the viewer becomes far too accustomed to the same old shtick: girl escapes, gets scared, then runs away again, until eventually Art the Clown wins. It’s trite and far too telegraphed through Terrifier, and only the gore effects stand out.
The film’s final twist is also unnecessary besides wrapping around to the inconsquential opening kill. It’s unclear why Leone wanted this unrelated scenario in the film, especially when Art the Clown’s immortality is presented during the conclusion to hint at a sequel anyway.
Terrifier is an overly flawed movie, clearly made on a budget that focused more on blood and guts than a proper plot or good actors. While some fans might find its allusions to better slasher films fun, it simply reminds that Terrifier could have been a much more interesting film at the hands of a more experienced director. And its Halloween setting is, unfortunately, squandered.
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