Terrifier Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Signature Entertainment
Written and directed by Damien Leone
2017, 82 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 9th April 2018
Catherine Corcoran as Dawn
Jenna Kanell as Tara
Margaret Reed as Mrs. Heyes
David Howard Thornton as Art the Clown
With a title like that, Terrifier has a lot to live up to. Too many killer clown movies surf along on an imagined universal coulrophobia, convinced that their vaudevillian villain is scary just because he wears a greasepaint smile and a pair of Sideshow Bob shoes. Sometimes it pays off, but for every Pennywise (two so far), there's usually a dozen more rubber-mask wearing idiots, Killjoy sequels or... whatever Rob Zombie was going for with 31. Damien Leone's Terrifier talks the clown talk, but can it walk the clown walk?
Where the clown himself is concerned, grinning psychopath Art is a resounding success. Not since either version of Pennywise has there been a killer clown so openly scary, marrying Tim Curry's playful side with Bill Skarsgard's not-even-trying-to-hide-it creepiness. This isn't Art's first outing, having previously appeared in the anthology movie All Hallow's Eve, but here he takes centre stage, and actor David Howard Thornton makes the most of the opportunity with gusto. There's no supernatural element here though, as the silent serial killer stalks a handful of young women around town, cornering them in an empty old building, where his bloody behaviour makes Captain Spaulding look like Krusty the Klown.
But without Stephen King's sprawling narrative or the vision of an auteur like Rob Zombie (wherever you stand on the man), this leaves its exceptional villain to go through the motions of an otherwise unexceptional movie. Leone and Thornton try their hardest to beef up the over-familiar story with extreme gore and bizarre violence - it's the most gory slasher movie since Hatchet – but there's something desperately missing.
It feels like a cynical, shallow attempt to shock and offend, using the cheap hook of a killer clown in lieu of real scares or atmosphere. There's no denying that Thornton does a great job as Art the Clown - and the movie pumps him for all he's worth – but it's all just sound and fury, signifying nothing. Like its grinning loon, it's chillingly dead behind the eyes. At least gore hounds and stupid murderclown fans will get their cheap fix though, and it is technically much more accomplished than most low-budget slasher films like it. Although those flashes of greatness only serve to make its predictable story, boring writing and general lack of ambition all the more frustrating.
If nothing else, Terrifier is one of the most authentic modern video nasties ever made. Most of them became cult classics in spite of being kind of disappointing too.