Film Review: Terrifier

Starring: Catherine Corcoran, Jenna Kanell and David Howard Thornton
Directed By: Damien Leone
Rated: R
Running Time: 82 minutes

The past two decades have seen a lot of evil clowns enter the realm of pop-culture. In video games, there was Sweet Tooth from “Twisted Metal.” In television, there was Twisty from the third season of “American Horror Story.” We’ve also had plenty of evil movie clowns, from the reimagining of Pennywise in “IT” to Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s films. Now enters Art (Thornton), a homicidal clown that may or may not have supernatural powers.

After a night out, Dawn (Corcoran) and Tara (Kanell) are grabbing a slice of pizza when a black and white painted and dressed Art the Clown enters, with a bag of unknowns in tow. Even with his grotesque smile and creepy hand emotes, he’s made even sinister by the fact he doesn’t utter a single word and seemingly doesn’t make a single sound. His pantomiming is sometimes meant for humor, but mainly meant to menace the two young girls on Halloween. The situation sours when the girls are stranded alone at night after their bizarre encounter with Art.

There’s not much to the story and there’s certainly not much to the plot. “Terrifier” is a vehicle for Damien Leone’s crew to exhaust their violence and gore budget. “Terrifier” is shot much like the violent grindhouse films it’s paying homage to. In moments of pitch black you notice a lot of grit in the picture quality. But in brightly lit scenes and in quick shots, you really appreciate the even grittier practical effects as Art lays waste to a naked woman or an unsuspecting bug exterminator.

The director manages to milk a lot out of his script, which is set in one night at one building. It’s helped by Art’s unquenchable bloodthirst. While he’s sometimes satisfied with the simple pull of a trigger, other times a bonesaw or knife are a lot more intimate and satisfying for the clown. We see the pleasure that Art derives from the senseless, brutal murders, thanks to Thornton’s creepy smile and gleeful silence while dancing in place.

It’s almost as if Art’s muteness is a reflection of everything about this movie, all substance with very little, if anything, to say. It’s entertaining in the midst of chaos as Art navigates through an old building worth of potential victims, but its rewatchability isn’t on par with other horror films because the characters aren’t sympathetic, relatable or distinctive outside of one note jokes. That’s not any of the actor’s fault, but that blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the director. Art the Clown had the potential to be a lot more terrifying.

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