"Terrifier" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Creepy clowns are a staple of the horror genre. Whether they are found in novels, film, television shows, they provide some of the scariest moments any viewer or reader has ever experienced, with some notable mentions being Stephen King's Pennywise and Twisty the Clown from the hit "American Horror Story". In 2016, Damien Leone, who was an aspiring filmmaker, decided to make a very low-budget slasher flick called "Terrifier", bringing this character he has made short films with onto the big screen. With only $35,000 and a group of practically unknown actors, Leone made a terrifying and incredibly gruesome slasher film that works on possibly every level.
The movie opens up on a small TV, which features a very disfigured woman appearing on a talk show, talking about how she survived the brutal attacks by a serial killer known as Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), who then destroys the television set and gets ready to go out on Halloween night for another night of killing. He then approaches Dawn (Catherine Corcoran) and Tara (Jenna Kanell), who are reeling from drinking way too much at the halloween party they just attended.
The girls are too messed up to drive, so Tara calls her sister, Victoria (Samantha Scaffidi) to come and pick her and her friend up. However, Tara starts to grow increasingly uncomfortable with Art following them, and the odd interactions he keeps trying to have with them. Victoria thinks she is overreacting, and keeps egging on the creepy clown to the point where he is now too close to comfort. What the two girls don't realize is that he is a murderous psychopath, and due to these interactions they have with them, it leads them on a deadly game of cat and mouse to try and escape this mentally disturbed man.
The huge thing about this film, which almost every viewer will notice about this film, is how gruesome and graphic this film is. This is perhaps one of the most graphic and gory slasher films ever made, and Leone knows he is taking it to the extreme. In fact, he is basking in the glory of how gnarly his film is. Instead of many other slasher films, which show their villain easily and quickly killing their prey, Art the Clown takes joy in slowly brutalizing and killing his victims. He wants to make them feel pain, which is gruesomely obvious as this film starts to go on. Consider the hanging girl scene. I won't mention what he does here, but if you have seen this film, you know exactly what I'm talking about. This is the first instance in what we see what this creepy clown is capable of, which sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
In terms of the violence and kills as well, you must remember they only shot this movie with less than $50,000. That was for the entire film, and Leone is still able to show this type of violence so graphically on display. Everything here is practical effects, which I think they did a very good job of crafting and creating these gruesome props to provoke such imagery. It seems real in some cases, especially the part where Art skins a woman and wears her breasts and scalp. It's terrifying and unsettling, and this is majorly thanks to the props and graphic aspect of what they were able to create.
However, this wouldn't be possible without Howard Thornton's terrifying performance. He makes this movie creepy as hell. He is just so good at really getting into the role of this clown, and he is able to fully embody all that this role requires him to do. After watching this film, you can't get his twisted smile and his little antics out of his head. Art never talks or makes a sound throughout this film, only miming his way through and conveying his expressions and feelings through that. That alone is so impressive, and Art is such a colorful and expressive character without using his voice. It's incredible watching this brilliant actor on screen, and I think he has a very long and fruitful career in playing these sorts of characters. I honesty can't wait to see what he does next.
I think one thing this movie could have done is expand more on the lore of Art or get to know the two main girls more. It seems like a very cookie-cutter slasher movie, with a demented psycho going around and killing these people with no rhyme or reason. This isn't necessarily bad; I mean, take the killing of Drew Barrymore's character at the start of "Scream". That's one of the best and most iconic moments in that film, and we had no set-up for her character or anything beforehand. While I think this movie still works incredibly well and is remarkable of what they were able to accomplish, I do wish we had more of that set-up or backstory.
Overall, this film is so impressive in numerous different ways, and I applaud Leone for what he was able to accomplish for such a small-budget indie horror film. This movie borrows so much from B-rated horror and the grind house genre, but is able to fully make it its own with this terrifying villain. I think this is one of the best small-budget indie slasher films in recent times, and I definitely can't wait to see where Leone's career goes.