If he smiles at you, run! Good advice for dealing with clowns, and especially in “Terrifier!”
Terrifier is a 2016 horror slasher about a silent yet deadly killer clown named Art, an intimidating yet charismatic figure first seen in director Damian Leone’s debut anthology film, All Hallows Eve (2013). Due to the movie’s success with fans, and the clown’s growing popularity, Leone was able to earn $100,000 through crowdfunding to make a film centered around Art, raising double the initial amount needed to make this slasher throwback. Terrifier is now a fan favorite, with a sequel currently in post-production.
The plot of Terrifier is pretty basic; an enigmatic clown chases young girls around a creepy building. It’s simple, but it works. Our protagonists are friends Tara and Dawn, who, after leaving a party on Halloween night, unwittingly attract the attention of Art. The acting is fine enough from the cast, nothing Oscar-worthy. The actors are playing people scared out of their wits, and it’s passable. The best performance comes from David Howard Thornton as Art, the terrifier himself, and star of the picture. Most killer clown films would flaunt the bright colors and the soulless joviality of these deities. The most recent depiction being Pennywise the Dancing Clown from the IT films. Leone created Art to be the opposite of the Stephen King monster.
By all appearances, Art is a crazy human being in a clown suit, but he is someone who feels grounded in our world. You almost get a sense that this is someone who could walk into your house. Whereas Pennywise flaunted bright carnival colors and dialogue, Art’s dressed in black and white in Terrifier, clearly standing out against the darkness. He is entirely mute. He doesn’t make a sound in the entire film, not even after taking damage. This trait comes from Thornton’s experience as a mime, and adds a layer of unpredictability not seen from a lot of slashers. He exhibits human pain, but he maintains his wicked sense of humor despite the abuse he takes, which I believe to be the driving force behind his actions.
Terrifier is made creepier and more unique by the atmosphere and tone. The entire movie is shot in a dark and dirty style that makes the viewer feel like they need a tetanus shot after watching, adding a different element from most films in the genre. Whatever camera lenses, editing, lighting, and set design they used, the atmosphere goes well with the setting and makes the violence and grime feel more horrendous. I would compare it to the atmosphere in the movie Hereditary (2018). Although these are different films, they are similar in that the tone and atmosphere provide discomfort and uneasiness felt throughout.
There are many classic horror tropes, but Terrifier still finds a way to be both original and unpredictable. But, because it contains these tropes, this causes some characters to fall victim to foolish character mistakes. There are not many, but there are enough to draw the viewer’s ire, as most have outgrown such foolishness. Fortunately, it doesn’t ruin the film or detracts from the tension. There are plenty of scares in Terrifier to keep even the casual viewer’s attention. If you are squeamish, though, you may need something more tame for your tastes.
Many films might increase the carnage level with each death, but Art does not discriminate and mutilates all his victims creatively and without mercy, which is sure to please gore enthusiasts going into this romp. No one, and I mean no one, is safe from his savagery. This is sure to keep viewers guessing who will survive this bloody rampage. I give Terrifier four out of five stars, and recommend it to anyone who loves the slasher genre. Perhaps watch it on an empty stomach, though. As someone who has sat through the most gruesome of Saw films, even I lost my appetite while watching this.
Be sure to check out the trailer for “Terrifier!”