Terrifier is another film about an evil clown, I had thought before watching this that it couldn't possibly be interesting due to the glut of these type of films, everything from It to, well to Clown. In fact just today three different people said pretty much the exact same thing to me when I described Terrifier "another film with a killer clown, how original". It didn't take long to realise that this particular one is really something special, and that is square on the shoulders of David Howard Thornton who plays the supremely creepy Art the Clown. So it is no surprise to me that he has been nominated for Best Actor In A Leading Role in the annual Fright Meter Awards. The film itself has also been nominated for Best Makeup and Best Special Effects, it delights across the board.
It is Halloween and two girls are on their way home from a night of partying. Dawn (Catherine Corcoran - Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1 and 2) is too drunk to drive so her more sensible friend Tara (Jenna Kanell - The Bye Bye Man) volunteers, but decides they first need to eat. It is around this time that they get the attention of Art the Clown; a creepily painted mime who starts to stalk the pair, following them to a local diner. This is just the start of a night of bloody mayhem and terror with Art going on a violent rampage...
This feature length film is based on a 2011 short of the same name, also I found it interesting that the character of Art has previously appeared in 2013's All Hallow's Eve that was also written and directed by Damien Leone. This seems to be completely stand alone though as far as I could tell. So this is a slasher that is a love letter to the old grindhouse movies. As such we get some truly gruesome sequences that if not for the sometimes sub par special effects would be stomach churning. As the film progresses these special effects get better and better which is really a good thing as the severed heads and disfigured faces of the first twenty minutes or so looked very unrealistic. I get that this was probably done on purpose to fit in with the grindhouse style but when everything else here is so damn sinister I felt these early moments ripped me out the film somewhat.
Thornton really is the star of the show here, his performance is stunningly unsettling. It helps that the actor has previously had mime experience, this decision not to speak at all, and to do highly exaggerated movements and facial expressions was a genius one. Art is very sadistic and seems to really find killing people hilarious. I loved how total this mime performance is, even when he is hurt or injured he silently screams in a highly visual way. He kills with a variety of traditional weapons rather than clown specific props but it works so well, whether it be a scalpel, a knife, a hammer, or even a homemade flail full of scissors and blades the attacks are often gruesome to watch. There is more of a body count than I at first assumed with no one getting a quick death. A bloody highlight being a naked character who is tied up upside down and then sawn in half vertically while someone is forced to watch.
The plot is near nonexistent yet unlike some who have criticised Terrifier for this I thought this worked well. You get the impression Art doesn't particularly care who he kills, everyone here just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has no motivation provided, no back story, he is just a psycho, that makes him all the more creepy. Aside from the prologue and epilogue this takes place over the course of one night, almost in real time. I really liked how immediate events start up, I was glued to my chair for the first half hour, unable to tear myself away from the unravelling madness. I will say though that the middle part almost seemed to drag a little. After some unexpected plot twists that really changed the direction of the movie we get a long cat and mouse sequence that almost outstayed its welcome. Thankfully this really picks up again for the final third with it getting some wind back in its sails. Even that middle part had some moments, such as when Art dresses up like a woman for one surreal scene.
There was a lot that Terrifier had going for it; the fantastic performance from Thornton, the great lighting, special effects (that really did improve), and even the location of a derelict warehouse managed to maintain being interesting. While the plot is bare bones there was still room for some twists, and with plenty of blood, plenty of kills, and plenty of creepy as Hell clown Terrifier is a real damn treat!