Currently available on VOD, Blu-ray, and DVD is one of the most relentless horror movies of 2018, Terrifier. Horror movies featuring killer clowns are hit and miss, but this one nails the target. Distributed by Epic Pictures, this is a Dread Central Presents feature, and the horror site certainly knows how to choose a movie. The film was written and directed by Damien Leone, and it is based on a character that he has been building throughout the years, Art the Clown.
The twisted clown first arrived in Leone’s 2008 short film, The 9th Circle, then in the 2011 short Terrifier, and he was featured in the filmmaker’s 2013 horror anthology, All Hallows’ Eve. Despite his numerous arrivals, there’s not a backstory to Art, other than he seems to only kill on Halloween which seems like a suitable holiday for the occasion. While he appears to be a psycho dressed up as a clown, he does have supernatural elements. The mystery of the character’s background is not only intriguing, but his ambiguity adds to the terror of it all.
There isn’t a deep plot to this horror flick; two young women, Tara (Jenna Kanell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), are wrapping up a night of partying on Halloween, they run into Art (in this installment he is brilliantly portrayed by David Howard Thornton), and before you know it, this 85-minute film is off to the races. Thanks to the killer clown, the two young women have some car problems, and an extremely bloody cat-and-mouse slasher plays out.
Often, horror movies filled with this amount of brutal gore are likely to entice viewers to turn off the film rather than see it through. But there is an odd magnetism of this film that will likely keep audiences’ eyes glued to the screen, though they may be watching through their fingers. Leone masterfully directs this tale, and his use of lighting is nothing short of superb.
The film looks dark, seemingly only lit by the light featured in the story (light bulbs, street lights, etc.). Often, when a film is shot to look dark, the picture is too dim for the viewers to truly make out what is going on. Damien avoids this pitfall, and the filmmaker makes sure the audience can see all the happenings clearly (but some would probably wish he wasn’t this skilled given the graphic violence).
Many critics have claimed this as a throwback to ’80s slasher movies, but that’s arguable. The horror subgenre of the ’80s were largely campy pictures, filled with cheese and silliness, the violence was often not all that realistic, they featured the final girl trope, and many of them were a lot of fun to watch. Terrifier is most certainly a slasher, but the violence is all too real, and some scenes are likely to induce nausea. Aside from the victims making really stupid decisions, there aren’t a lot of ’80s horror tropes in this film.
There are a lot of words that could describe Terrifier, but fun is not one of them. That’s not to say the movie isn’t entertaining or good, it’s excellent, but the gore is too brutal and, at times, too realistic that it wouldn’t be accurate to describe it as a fun watch. But the film also features genuine suspense; the director doesn’t rely on gore alone to cause fear, which is another reason the horror movie draws viewers in.
Largely, the cast does a solid job, but it is Jenna Kanell and David Howard Thornton who shine on the screen. Thornton portrays Art the Clown, who is seemingly incapable of speech, with a style that is truly unsettling. In one moment, the killer strikes fear with his over-exaggerated gestures, and in another, his Marilyn-Manson-esque poses produce unnerving chills. Sometimes, very rarely, Art will react to a situation with humor, and these rare amusing moments are welcomed comic relief.
Jenna Kanell portraying Tara is perfect casting. Aside from acting, the talented artist is also a filmmaker, writer, producer, and a stuntwoman (a talent that was likely utilized in this feature). Jenna has the capability to truly look horrified, and that certainly adds to the disturbing scenes. Much of the story takes place in a large, creepy warehouse, and if it looks like it is perilous, that’s because it was. In an interview with Smash or Trash Indie Filmmaking, Jenna describes the surroundings of the location.
“The location was probably the weirdest thing. Just to get to the bathroom, we’d have to walk through a room full of tires, or a room full of old car parts. There were strange children’s drawings, used condoms and needles, and office spaces that looked like they’d just been abandoned. Certain areas would be inexplicably freezing…It was a creepy place. There were probably bodies hidden in there.”
If you can handle very graphic violence, then this film is a must-watch for genre fans. The ending is one that will probably surprise most viewers. Some have complained that the ending doesn’t make sense, and if you don’t pay attention to the details throughout the film, then it probably won’t. But those who catch the details will most likely understand what the ending means, and it’s a solid finale to one of the most brutal horror movies of 2018.