Saturday 7 November 2020

Dark Film Review: Terrifier (2016)

Dark Film Review: Terrifier (2016)

Review By Casey Douglass


I must admit that the vast majority of horror films I watch, get viewed once, get a “That was worth watching” verdict from somewhere in my mind, and rarely get watched again. There are exceptions of course, but that seems to be the pattern. Terrifier is my latest exception. I first watched it months ago, and when I saw that it was on the Horror Channel around Halloween last week, I realised how much I wanted to see it again. So what is it about Terrifier that hooks me? What’s the secret sauce? Art the Clown, played by David Howard Thornton.

Terrifier begins with a talk show interview with one of Art the Clown’s victims, a woman with a very disfigured face. We are then treated to a scene of Art the Clown getting ready for his planned activities, choosing his weapons, tools and flails, getting his make-up just right. The next scene is set after the interview is over, the interviewer is on her mobile, commenting about how ugly the guest was. She hears a sound behind her, and things don’t go well for her. We then see two friends, Tara (Jenna Kanell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), walking home on Halloween. Their paths cross with Art the Clown, and this ends up with them both gaining his attention in the worst possible way. The rest of the film is about the bloody trail of destruction that Art leaves in his wake. He is both opportunistic and cunning in taking advantage of situations to give himself access to his victims, and anyone else unlucky enough to get in his way.

I’m not a coulrophobe, that is, I’m not scared of clowns. I think they’re great characters in many horrors, and if I see one walking down the street, I won’t try to avoid them unduly. I mean, with Covid at the moment, you have to avoid everyone right now, but you get my meaning. So what is it about Art the Clown that I like? I think there are two big draws. One is his silence. Art is like a sinister, murderous mime artist. His actions create sounds, screams mostly if I’m honest, but when it comes to his own voice, there’s nothing. I find this both hilarious and sinister.


There are scenes where he intimidates by his expressions alone. Early in the film, when the two women are in a pizza joint, Art follows them and sits across the room. His expressions are genuinely creepy. Dawn finds it funny and her carefree (maybe drunken) humour leads to one of the most tense selfie scenes I’ve ever seen. The way Art the Clown’s eyes flick towards her as she turns his face for the photo... pure hatred. He gets his own back with a very gory selfie later in the film though! There are also scenes where his victims fight back, where all he can do is emit a silent scream of fury as someone rams a nail into his foot. Art is the master of freaky silence.

The other thing that I really like about Art the Clown is his ability to not take things too seriously, to have a bit of fun even while he is hunting people down. Which is scarier? Being chased by a murderer who is wholly focussed on snuffing you out, or being hunted by a clown who stops half way through the chase to ride a tiny bike that he just found? I know which I’d choose. Horrors that feature an antagonist that seems truly unhinged have always been more riveting for me. Sure, anyone who murders is probably likely to have some mental health problems, but there are problems... and there are PROBLEMS.


The gore, when it happens, is done very well. Terrifier isn’t a film for the squeamish, and there is one scene involving a hack-saw that made me flinch even on the second viewing. Body parts don’t stay attached (or whole) for long, and Art’s bin-bag of tools contains a few nasty surprises. The “Will help come?” notion provided by the other characters is also a deft balancing act, with music blasting headphones masking desperate screams, or the ramblings of a crazy woman not being believed. There are also moments of suspended time, such as Tara walking into a hallway and suddenly seeing Art stood like a statue, a gleeful look frozen on his face, scalpel in his motionless fingers. Everything seems to stop... and then he lunges.

I really enjoyed Terrifier. I know that I said I wasn’t a coulrophobe above, but I’m not exactly a clown fanboy either. I’ve seen plenty of horrors featuring clowns that were average at best. The combination of elements that I mention in my review just all gel together very nicely for my own tastes, and I know that I will watch the film again in the future. I’d say it is well worth a watch, if you have the stomach for it.


P.S Terrifier 2 was due to release this Halloween, but Covid got in the way, as it has with so much in life this year, which is sad news. I’m looking forward to watching it though, whenever it does eventually release.

Film Title: Terrifier

Director & Writer: Damien Leone

Cast: Jenna Kanell, Samantha Scaffidi, David Howard Thornton, Catherine Corcoran, Pooya Mohseni, Matt McAllister

Released: 2018 (UK)

Studio: Dark Age Cinema

Distributor: Signature Entertainment