As horror fans we are always searching for the next film that will scare us, the next “good one” to cross our paths, a valuable recommendation to fulfill our weekend night in. While festivals and premiere events have certainly kicked it up a notch by way of featuring the horror and genre films we crave, I’m going to assume most of you readers out there are as average as I am, therefore festival hopping to see each year’s hot releases is not exactly an easy venture.
The cinema gods touched down this century with the invention of streaming blessing us with accessible sources like Netflix, Amazon Video, Shudder, and Hulu to get our films immediately onto any device we desire. It can be hard weeding out the good from the bad, so each month I’ll be spotlighting a film newly released on one of our favorite streaming platforms that I believe deserves some viewer attention. I have decided to kick off my service to you streamers out there with Netflix’s latest, insane, addition: Damien Leone’s Terrifier.
“Terrifier [is] like a trip to the circus or a carnival, but from the comfort of your own home thanks to Netflix.”
Last year, Dread Central announced an ambitious endeavor to acquire and deliver over a dozen genre films as a strategic way to expand their growing label. Terrifier is one of those Dread Central Presents products already bringing notoriety to the label and to its feature villain Art the Clown, played by newcomer David Howard Thornton. Art first appeared in Leone’s anthology All Hallows’ Eve, originally played by Mike Giannelli (The 9th Circle), in his own segment which later premiered at the Telluride Horror Show Film Festival in 2016. It was picked up by Dread Central for release and now sits proudly in Netflix’s library. Though Art the Clown may be Howard Thornton’s first big gig, he has taken over the role and proves to be “a total fucking maniac!” worthy of our horrid hearts.
Think of a viewing of Terrifier being like a trip to the circus or a carnival, but from the comfort of your own home thanks to Netflix. Like an amusement park for immature kids, there are obnoxious attractions galore, and everything from the bright lights to the sugary food can be terribly jarring. However, this flick starring Jenna Kannel (The Bye Bye Man), Samantha Scaffidi (Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 2), and Catherine Corcoran (American Fango), is a valid excuse to revisit the big top and rekindle your childhood fascination with gutsy entertainment and killer clowns.
So, what makes Terrifier so terrifying? Step right up and see for yourself.
Nowadays a film needs pass through the valley of successful film litmus tests in order to please a majority of the audience. Of all the genres out there, horror is definitely the one that holds its filmmakers to a certain standard, but not necessarily a high one. As fans we can appreciate the carefully crafted Hereditary, while also enjoying Attack of the Killer Donuts. We can be hard to please and complacent given the right content. A truly volatile crowd.
Terrifier runs in the same pulsing vein as Adam Green’s Hatchet, Michael Rousselet’s Dude Bro Party Massacre II, and even the found footage anthology, V/H/S. It’s simple, fun, brings the scares, and is extremely well done. Like these films, Terrifier is creating a class all its own and that is the class of the fans. While we enjoy interpreting and analyzing a filmmaker’s purpose within each frame, sometimes we just want to watch some mindless fun. That’s where Terrifier comes in and Art the Clown gives us a fantastically creepy wave.
“Terror takes on a new meaning when you aren’t sure if you should laugh or scream.“
Terrifier is a modern film with slight hints of 80’s and 90’s slasher nostalgia without it being too obvious. Its dialogue is shockingly real as our two young female subjects, Dawn and Tara, are typical by way of speech, look, and attitude, but not overtly obnoxious, helpless, or stupid. Terrifier does not patronize its female audience and refrains from being too, if at all, offensive (this is a ‘killer clown stalks two women’ film, after all).
A welcome surprise about Terrifier, and Art himself, was how little I had to think and how much shock I could enjoy, without feeling like a truly terrible person. It’s a bona fide slasher, through and through. I had hesitated to get excited over this as I had seen the recent ‘clown’ films released on VOD and was more or less indifferent to them. They’re usually overdone with rushed writing, a typical villain, and ghastly effects. But not Terrifier. This is a new-age slasher that effortlessly aces pacing, setting, space, and direction. It is a welcome addition to that fun new campy sub-genre growing within our community. There is no rhyme or reason as to why Art the Clown does what he does, and you know what? We don’t need one.
A Masterful Main Attraction
A show is not an attraction without its big star. Whether you’re there for the elephants, the roller coasters, the games, or the artists, a carnival would not be complete without some sort of draw. Leone presents Art the Clown and he is absolutely… terrifying!
Clowns are hard to villainize, especially one that’s nonverbal. They are characters done over so many times in the horror genre its hard to keep track of which characters are meant to be scary and which exist for a punchline. Art the Clown, however has taken us back to those childhood fears where a man covered in face makeup can be just as effective as a red hot mega demon from hell. His movements and body language is, while humorous, treacherous and isolating. He hams up his activity in complete silence often mocking whatever the situation, be it his or his victims’, at hand. Terror takes on a new meaning when you aren’t sure if you should laugh or scream.
We always wait to see the monster on screen but Art, being the true entertainer that he is, is a supreme scene-stealer. He honestly makes Pennywise look like a figment of Walt Disney’s imagination. Art has character, one of the few traits both circus clowns and horror villains commonly necessitate. He has his funny moments, but is not overly comical the way a flop version of this film would have him act. but not a dead-beat slasher either. Every facial expression, hand gesture, humorous quirk, and attack is as fun and exciting as his next. He knows how to make a crowd cheer him on and hide behind their hands as he unveils each amusing act.
“Terrifier is extremely effective with its use of blood and body mutilation as a technique. The special effects are intense, but so believable.”
This carnival star is completely sadistic and his kills are extremely sexual in nature. It’s creepy and may be that one offense I had mentioned earlier that some female audience members might not appreciate, but those of you who do might interpret a dormant meaning behind Art’s murderous rampages. The great thing? If you don’t even feel like going down the street of interpretation, because you don’t have to. Terrifier can be watched and Art can be enjoyed as just a weird, homicidal lunatic because he likes to kill just for the hell of it. And he loves every bit of each kill, right down to the last drop of blood.
Speaking of, did I mention Terrifier is pretty bloody? If not, just know you’ve been warned: it’s a gruesome one. Not a fan of circus crowds? I’m sure not. Not a gore hound? Neither am I- So hear me out when I tell you, Art knows how to put on a sickening show, but Leone has complete control over what’s seen…and what’s not seen. Don’t fear the overbearing, stifling crowd just yet. Terrifier is worth the discomfort.
When you think of a circus or carnival if your mind does not immediately emulate the sweet aroma of peanuts, cotton candy, and hot peanuts then you may be subject to a visit from Art. The sights, sounds, and tastes of such attractions are key to success, but binging on too much sugar and butter can certainly ruin a good time. Terrifier is exceptional at delivering the goods (special effects) in moderation without making us wretch. Well, those of us with a strong stomach.
I, myself, enjoy gore but to a very particular point. I don’t mind an abundance of it, but it’s not a necessity for me to consider a film is scary. I rarely need to look away and can easily deem something cheesy when the gore becomes the only substance of a film, however, Terrifier is extremely effective with its use of blood and body mutilation as a technique. The special effects are intense, but so believable. Each one of Art’s kills are absolutely brutal with amazing prop work that creates images that stick in your head for a while after the scenes have switched over.
“Terrifier was a surprise treat that does not require much attention, but you can bet your ass Art the Clown will demand it anyway.”
Terrifier shows us exactly what we need to see while being horrifically gory at the same time. Showmanship is a attribute that could have easily degraded Terrifier down to another wannabe film, but each gory scene was impeccably shot with all types of viewers in mind. The boundary is pushed, for sure, but other scenes are tastefully censored with a careful angle that doesn’t take away from the horror.
So, whether you are hanging out with a few friends, who can handle some pretty crafty handsaw work, or taking a night in by yourself, and you can handle the creeps Art will assuredly give you, I definitely recommend giving Terrifier a chance. I’m very glad I did not let this one leave my town behind and that I allowed myself to venture past my snotty comfort zone by the magic of streaming.
Terrifier was a surprise treat that does not require much attention, but you can bet your ass Art the Clown will demand it anyway. This film is everything a tasty, exciting, and fun trip to the carnival was and still could be for us horror fans, it just dialed up the number of women we see get sawed in half.
Once you’ve found the time to stream it, us know what you think of Terrifier and my very new favorite slasher, Art the Clown!