Art the Clown, who has been featured in several previous films by director Damien Leone, is a scary dude. I mean, he would be if you’re scared of clowns. Terrifier, Leone’s newest film featuring Art, will scare the hell out of some people based on this alone. People like my wife. To her, there are very few things creepier than a clown. To me, it’s all kind of meh. I’ve never felt one way or another about a guy in clown makeup.
Now, one thing that definitely freaks me out is serious facial disfiguration. This is perhaps something that I shouldn’t publicly admit, since there are real people who are affected by this, and they don’t have any say in the matter. But you start a film with a woman with her face burned off, as Terrifier does, then I’m going to freak out a bit. And so that’s what I did.
On a technical level, the movie is top-notch. The scenes look as though they’re lit by natural light, a few bulbs here and there. Of course, it takes a lot of skill to make a movie look dark while still allowing the audience to see everything that’s going on. Also, the practical effects are impressive as hell. A lot of work went into making the kills believable.
The story, though — well, there isn’t much to speak of. It’s Halloween night. Dawn (Catherine Corcoran) and Tara (Jenna Kanell) are leaving a party when Art walks by. Dawn drunkenly flirts with the guy, pretending that Tara has the hots for him. What could go wrong? What, indeed. This is one of those setups where the violence could easily have been avoided if the main characters hadn’t been completely stupid and made dumb mistakes at every turn. But, you know, this is horror, so…
Things get pretty fucking brutal pretty fast. Terrifier is less than an hour and a half, so very little time is spent on character development or plot. It’s just wall to wall violence.
I’m not usually too affected by violence in movies, but this film fucked me up a bit. There was a scene toward the middle that made me wonder for a second whether I even wanted to continue watching anymore. It was by far the most brutal scene in the film, and it was very hard to watch. Rarely do I have such a visceral reaction to on-screen violence, but here we are.
Which is to say that Leone doesn’t try to make the violence palatable, watered down for a PG-13 audience. The camera doesn’t turn away as Art does terrible things to people. But one wonders if perhaps this is exactly the way it should be. Maybe there’s too much cartoony violence in films. Maybe we need to look into the heart of our dark desires every once in a while. Watching a movie like this reminds us of the real power of violence.
Terrifier is in many ways like an 80’s slasher or a Saw film that doesn’t have to answer to a ratings board. In a typical slasher, we’d see the knife heading toward the flesh, but the camera would cut away before penetration. This kind of cartoonish, safe violence is far worse than the stuff in Terrifier because it softens things, making violence seem less terrible than any rational adult knows that it is.
Yes, in the end we’re talking about a killer clown slasher film with only a hint of character development and a relatively silly plot, but Terrifier is a movie that’s bound to affect nearly everyone who watches it on some level. If you’re not scared of clowns, the violence is sure to get to you. And if the violence doesn’t get to you, man, I’m more than a bit worried for you.
This was my first viewing of a movie from the Dread Central Presents line of genre films distributed by the Epic Pictures label. Dread Central, one of the premier horror movie sites on the planet, was on the verge of going under last year until entering into a partnership with Epic Pictures. If this is any indication of the quality of the films they’ll be releasing, then it’s going to be a hell of a ride.
Terrifier is out now with a limited theatrical run and is available on demand and digitally. The author was provided with a review copy for the purposes of this review.