Studio: Dread Central Presents
Director: Damien Leone
Writer: Damien Leone
Producer: Phil Falcone
Stars: Jenna Kanell, Samantha Scaffidi, Catherine Corcoran, David Howard Thornton, Pooya Mohseni, Matt McAllister, Katie Maguire, Gino Cafarelli, Erick Zamora
A demented serial killer dressed like a clown slaughters victims drawn to an abandoned building on Halloween night.
Expectations influence how much enjoyment anyone can get out of a film. An individual’s mood at the time of viewing does too. So what sort of anticipatory disposition should someone have before giving “Terrifier” a go? Well, you’d better be buttoned up specifically for straight slasher movie slaughter, because the movie doesn’t have any more significant substance on hand.
Art the Clown makes the jump from writer/director Damien Leone’s 2013 anthology “All Hallows’ Eve” (review here) to embark on a feature film killing spree in “Terrifier.” Art hasn’t shaken his short film origins though, as he finds himself employed in a simple setup fighting to fill a full-length frame against natural instincts.
There isn’t a whole lot of story to summarize. Two friends run afoul of Art on their way home from a Halloween party and end up as mice to his cat in an abandoned old building. Various other victims arrive one at a time to go under Art’s blade as well, which is essentially all there is to it.
For a short while, the film can hook viewers on its lo-fi grindhouse vibe of unashamedly gritty gore. If nothing else, Leone takes his throwback tone to unrated extremes ripped right from the VHS era. Copious carnage features crushing, stabbing, slashing, splitting, sawing, and that’s just when it comes to heads. Leone saves his most creative kill for a wishbone sequence rivaling “Bone Tomahawk’s” (review here) in terms of squirm-inducing gruesomeness. Some of the slayings look silly. Other effects look terrific, like an unsettlingly grotesque makeup job on the disfigured woman who opens the movie. Whether individual instances work or not, there is certainly no shortage of murderous mayhem.
A questionable taste factor comes into play on more than one occasion. “Terrifier” sidesteps some of those criticisms by virtue of having pretty tight practical FX for a small flick made with very few zeros in its bankbook. By and large, “Terrifier” is better lit, shot, and edited than most microbudget movies of its ilk. I might be better able to appreciate its down and dirty simplicity if there were beefier steak to go along with its limited sizzle.
“Terrifier’s” goal to provide a pure exploitation era bloodbath can only motivate a certain number of minutes, and that number is not 84. If an editor pared down the film to include only scenes with dialogue, I’m not sure there would be more than ten minutes of content. Staying engaged thus comes down to how much you want to watch a Final Girl limp from one long hide-and-seek sequence to an even longer hide-and-seek sequence.
Trading one leading lady for another at the midpoint further highlights how pointless the pincushions, I mean protagonists are. The thin script exists merely to move bodies between rooms as cheats to get another kill onscreen while simultaneously extending the runtime with redundancy.
Acting from the cast of unfamiliar names gets the basic job done. I wouldn’t single out any particular performance for praise in a traditional sense, although everyone at least embodies an actual character who does more than robotically recite dull lines. They read as real enough people by average standards for fright film fodder.
Art the Clown has a recognizable look, and a pinch of personality played up by pantomiming. But his characteristic silence, distinct lack of backstory, and singular focus on homicide doesn’t allow any deeper dimension. He is certainly no Freddy, Pinhead, or even Leatherface. Art is largely left to languish as a slasher with a unique appearance, yet few other identifiers to really remember him by.
An admirable technical effort on the cinematography and staging side of things earns the film a few points. The movie is splattery, but not sloppy. Ultimately however, if you’re not getting on board “Terrifier” for the visual violence of its blood-soaked brutality, there’s no reason to take its unnecessarily extended trip at all.
Review Score: 40