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Terrifier (2016)

Updated: Aug 11, 2022

Don't Ask This Clown for Balloons!

Score 6/10 - Standard Faire

Posted by Anthony DeRouen | August 9th, 2022

Synopsis: On Halloween night, Tara Heyes finds herself as the obsession of a sadistic murderer known as Art the Clown.

Damien Leone’s Terrifier (21016) isn’t so much a film as it is a series of grotesque killing scenes broken up by mindless stand-in sequences. David Howard Thornton, the actor who plays the murderous clown, makes this film a worthwhile watch, but he receives no help in the script department. Terrifier has grown in popularity because of Thornton’s performance and the killing scenes. In this day and age of Saw that’s usually enough for a 90-minute gore splattered fun ride.

Terrifier is not a fun movie to watch, however. In all, it took me four attempts to complete this film. I fell asleep the first three times because there is no story, there is no plot, and there’s barely enough lighting to see who’s in the scene. I will digress and say there's a difference between a poorly lit scene and strategic darkness which plays on your paranoia and anxiety. After watching Terrifier you’ll feel a more dramatic flare standing on the corner of your local town listening to people clamor on about their day. Most scenes are without ambient noise or a score. The films simply feels flat, unappealing and cheap.

The film feels very detached from a living breathing city as the streets are void of life, but this isn’t a disaster movie. the streets appear clean, and the sidewalk lighting works, so where are the people? Damien Leone made what he could on the budget he had (reportedly $35,000), but I would be remiss to say a vast majority of that was spent on the practical effects. Aside from a few nice framing and distance-based shots this was a poorly captured film.

A working script was certainly not employed here, and this alone sinks the movie. What we are left with is a rudderless, meaningless pile of slop. Why is this clown killing? Why does he torture women in slow agonzing fashion, but leaves men alone for the most part? Why are the other characters here, and what are they doing? The actor’s behavior on camera reflect the vapid nature of the film: without direction we have nothing go to on, so why should the characters?

As FilmSchool apply points out, Terrifier raises the issue of misogyny without meaning. There is some deep-seated hatred in Art the Clown’s eyes, but only for women. Why is this? There are plot holes abound in Terrifier, but if you look at the film through the prism of a film project without a legitimate script that was shot using hand-written post-it notes detailing the next murder scene then - and only then- does it make sense. Characters presented to us as the protagonists are killed off unceremoniously, and replaced by characters we know nothing of. In this context Terrifier fails dramatically, but we still have David Howard Thornton’s performance.

I can’t say how Art the Clown would have come out if someone else played him. David Howard Thornton’s credits were relatively thin leading up to the film. In some aspects this presented both David and Damien an opportunity to shine. David certainly capitalized on the chance, breathing to life a viscous, nuanced and hateful villain. Still, some of the clown’s actions are puzzling since there is no story to be found, hence no rhyme or reason to his movements or motivations. Look closely and you’ll find shades of Halloween and Silence of the Lambs sprinkled about, but the winks and nudges miss the mark by miles. IN one scene Art the Clown exhibits the behavior of a wayward child, another scene he can take a bullet to the brain and At the end of the movie we can’t say whether Art the Clown is human or demonic - another glaring plot hole - but we are excited to see what else Mr. Thornton can produce next.

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