I am tickled to death. It has been forever since I have been so enamored with a new slasher character. After several years of seeing both All Hallow’s Eve and Terrifier pop up in my streaming recommendations, I finally pulled the trigger. Terrifier did not disappoint. The film introduces one of the most original slashers to spray blood on the screen since Freddy Kruger. Of course, I am referring to Art the Clown.
Be sure to check out our newly released Terrifier 2 review!!!
Silent but Violent
The concept of a silent killer is not a new one. Neither Michael Myers, the John Carpenter version, and Jason ever spoke a single word. Art the Clown, played by David Howard Thornton, never utters a word, but he sure has personality. The juxtaposition of Art’s horrifying make-up against his goofy pantomimes creates a chilling and entertaining dynamic.
Art’s silly little hat sits perched on his head like a cherry on-top of a murderous sundae. Damien Leone both directs the film and performs the make-up for Art. Leone produces a brilliant design that it is able to transition so seamlessly from comical to menacing to terrifying. Damien Leone, using a minimalist aesthetic, Leone avoids overdoing it. By simply using a white backdrop for Art, he allows spilled blood to continue to paint the character throughout the film.
A Murderer of Many Talents
Apart from Art’s appearance, there are other things that make Art the Clown a great slasher. First off, Art attacks his victims as viciously and violently as any slasher in the history of horror films. Likewise, he exhibits a level creativity that often lacks in other film. Art carries a huge sack filled with various implements of death. It’s like he has a bottomless ACME crate of goodies for any occasion. The horror community has been watching butcher knives and machetes forever. Don’t get me wrong, Art still loves butcher knives. However, he shows much greater range. Art doesn’t hesitate busting a cap in Tara to save himself from being beaten to death.
I would have never guessed in a million years that he would carry a pistol. Further alienating Art from his peers, he uses of intravenous drugs to incapacitate victims so the he can make them watch his craft in action. Finally, most slasher hide on the cover of night, but Art has no problem plopping down in a pizzeria to harass a couple of women before slaughtering them. He even displays his artistic talents by painting the walls of the pizzeria bathroom with his own feces. What a hoot!
Terrifier – The Movie
It would be all too easy to pick this horror film apart based on it technical merits. The camera work is not great. The overall the film has the boxed-in feeling of a soap-opera. The picture has a grainy, washed-out quality that attempts to convey a vintage patina, but it feels digital and not very authentic. The sounds effects and music do successfully build tension, but ultimately feels like a cheap afterthought. Leaning on the soap-opera metaphor again, the soundscape has similar hollow tone.
There is no plot other than a clown named Art tearing up the town on Halloween. Two girls, drunk from a party, get caught in Art’s web. Lot’s of brutality and mayhem result. Several other people get caught up in the gears along the way. Had it not been for Art’s poopy handiwork at the pizzeria, the nobody would even know his name. The acting, apart from David Howard Thorton, checks in at mid-grade at best. Fortunately, Damien Leone did not create a character driven film. Terrifier has all of the ingredients to make really bad horror movie. Amazingly, Art the clown carries the film effortlessly.
Damien Leone keeps his scope tight, which likely also helped to keep the budget tight. The majority of the film takes place in the confines of an apartment building. While the building intends to be a labyrinth, Damien Leone recycles several locations. Instead of feeling like a sprawling maze, it feels pretty constricted and tight.
Damien Leone bombards the audience with steady doses of brutality and buckets of gore. Art does more than simply kill his victims, he brutally disfigures them. Those that survive wish they were dead. Even for harcore fans, the kill scenes trigger a gag response. I one scene, Art bifurcates of Dawn with a hacksaw. It makes even the hardiest of gore-hounds wince.
Truth be known, Damien Leone showed some restraint in this one. In another, Art murders the pizzaria owner and turns his face into a burning jack-o-lantern. Later in the film he beheads a man. More accurately, Art saws the head off of its shoulder. Terrifier provides plenty of meat for rabid gorehounds. It is all very brutal, totally depraved depraved, and very realistic.
This film comes jam packed with several surprises. It surprised me when Tara, the presumed final girl, killed in a violent execution at gunpoint. The director sets her up as a strong character with a bit of vinegar and steady street smarts. On more than one occasion, she holds her own against Art. At one point, Tara almost wins the war on Art when he surprisingly pulls a gun on her. That was a surprise. Overall, there is no final girl, at least not in the traditional sense.
In another mind-bending scene, Tara’s sister Victoria comes across a body lying on the floor. She presumes that she found here sister. Instead she finds Art completely naked, except for his signature clown paint. He proudly wears the scalp and skinned breasts of another victim. He chases Victoria with an exaggerated sachet in a shocking display not seen since Buffalo Bill performed his tuck and grind in The Silence of the Lambs.
Who is Art the Clown Anyway?
In a savvy move, the producers refrain from giving Art a backstory. In some films this technique works. Other times it doesn’t. I recently did a review of Jeepers Creepers and trounced it for the same sin. In this case, the producers made the right move. However, the film does eventually answer a burning question, is Art human?
Throughout the film Art appears very human. Art the Clown goes down when he is hit by a 2×4. He hurts when a 6 inch rail spike plunges into his foot. He dies when he puts the barrel of a Colt .45 into his mouth… or does he? One of the big reveals at the end of the movie is that Art possesses a supernatural ability to rise from the dead. From the looks of things, he’ll be back! No if the producers can steadily leak his backstory over the course of a few sequels, slowly unraveling the enigma, they will have pure horror gold.
There is so much to love about Terrifier
Sometimes the best thing that a low-budget film can do is to realize its own purpose. Terrifier does this by realizing that its strength lies not in its story, but rather the insanity created by its flagship antagonist. This self-realization allowed the production crew to dramatically simplify its approach and focus on a ravenous sub-set of the horror community, the gore guzzling slasher fan. This film targets the thousands of fans that have been begging for a bad-guy of this caliber since Freddy last faced off against Jason.
By recognizing its own strengths, Terrifier overcomes several glaring weaknesses that would sink a lesser movie. That being said, there is still much room for improvement in the camera and sound departments. Leone released a great movie for hardcore horror fans and it provides hope for those that have been waiting for the next great slasher franchise.
Editors Note: After watching All Hallow’s Eve it appears that Art’s behaviors with drugs and handguns is pattern.
Terrifier (2016) - A Terrifying Work of Art - Malevolent Dark
Director: Damien Leone
Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33