After appearing in a segment in Damien Leone’s 2013 anthology film, All Hallow’s Eve, the murderous Art the Clown proceeded to get a second life as Leone would bring him back four years later to murder another batch of people on Halloween night in the gore soaked, pretty mediocre, Terrifier. It’s a film I constantly found myself frustrated with as it feels like Leone took the original shorter story and stretched it out to feature-length (be it barely 80 minutes) with more focus on letting the effects team show-off numerous gags rather than giving us anything that has any real momentum or actual plot.
Things kick off with news footage with a surviving victim of Art, who is now deformed, being interviewed that proceeds to gouge out the reporter’s eyes when it’s hinted at that his body has disappeared from the morgue and he might still be alive. Why? It’s the first of many nonsensical things here to get in an extra gore moment.
Following this is a Nightmare on Elm Street inspired montage of our killer getting “ready” before introducing us to Tara (Jenna Kanell) who drunkenly leaves a Halloween party with her friend only to have a bizarre encounter with Art (David Howard Thornton) in a pizzeria. I actually quite liked this scene as it gives us our first real look at our killer. It’s actually a pretty decent design plus Thornton gets to use a lot of exaggerated expressions, which is pretty fun.
After seeing her car tire is slashed and calling her sister Vicky (Samantha Scaffidi), Tara befriends exterminator Mike (Matt McAllister) to let her into an abandoned building to use the bathroom, Art abducts her friend, a few random victims are killed, and Leone introduces a couple of “odd” characters for the sake of trying to give the film off-beat humour including a lady that thinks the doll she’s carrying is her actual real-life child. It’s around here the film’s small budget becomes more obvious as we’re thrown into a minimal amount of locations with a small group of people being stalked and bloodily murdered by Art.
The film also skirts torture porn territory when Tara is tied up and threatened – a scene that also has one of the films’ most notorious over-the-top gore scenes involving a hacksaw. Leone has also seen fit to have even more random characters (and Vicky, finally) arrive at the abandoned building for the sake of piling on additional effects magic as things head towards a sequel inviting finish.
See, here’s the thing about Terrifier for me. I am no longer sixteen. Gore for the sake of gore does not make me love a horror film anymore. Yes, the effects team delivers some impressive stuff involving fingers and eyeballs but outside of these gags and Thornton‘s performance there is literally nothing to this. It just all feels so damn pointless.
Kannell and Scafiddi give the not-quite-amateurish turns you’d expect from a lower-budgeted slasher film so, in that respect, they’re fine. Pooya Mohseni as the aforementioned crazy lady eventually got on my nerves and McAllister is nothing if not forgettable. Like I said, this is all about Thornton as Art – a character that seems to be getting a chance to be a modern horror icon with a follow-up on the way but let me remind you that ChromeSkull from the Laid to Rest films was also an attempt and didn’t pan out.
I know I’m probably in a minority when I say that Terrifier is nothing special. I just found myself feeling restless as it went through the motions before the next big effects showcase arrived and I just had a hard time wringing any entertainment out of its 84 minutes despite a decent villain. I’m a big hater of what I call “hallway movies” where everything involving action just seems to take place in the same non-descript and dull location and that’s pretty much what Terrifier does. Some are calling this a sleeper hit whereas I mostly found it to be a “sleeper”. However, as I said, I do like the idea of Art and am holding out hope that Leone can do something more ambitious with him in the sequel. Given a bigger scope there could be something worthwhile here but this just isn’t it. (Chris Hartley, 2/10/2020)
Directed By: Damien Leone.
Written By: Damien Leone.
Starring: Jenna Kanell, Samantha Scaffidi, David Howard Thornton, Catherine Corcoran .