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Terrifier (Movie Review)

Terrifier (Movie Review)
07.17.2017by: Cody Hamman
8 10

PLOT: Art the Clown stalks the streets of New York City on Halloween night, killing anyone who crosses his path.

REVIEW: Over the last ten years, writer/director Damien Leone seems to have been endeavoring to build his own horror icon in the form of Art the Clown. Originally played by Mike Giannelli, Art made his debut in a 2008 short called The 9th Circle, silently creeping out a young woman as she sat alone in a train station. He returned in the 2011 short Terrifier, chasing down a different young woman after she witnessed him committing murder at a gas station. Leone then built the 2013 anthology film ALL HALLOWS' EVE around those two shorts, sandwiching a new short with a quick reference to Art between them and having his clown creation torment a babysitter in a wrap-around segment.

Leone has now brought Art the Clown back again in his own feature film, which shares the title of the 2011 short that was included in ALL HALLOWS' EVE but tells a whole new story based around the homicidal clown. There's a new actor beneath Art's hideous makeup, he's now played by David Howard Thornton, but the character hasn't been altered at all for this film: he's still just as creepy and dangerous as he heads out onto the streets of New York City on Halloween night with murder on his mind.

The music and style of ALL HALLOWS' EVE had clearly been influenced by the horror films of the 1980s, and the homage to that decade carries over into TERRIFIER. Although the story is set firmly in modern day, featuring smart phones and selfies, the imagery captured by cinematographer George Steuber has been manipulated to make the film look like it's something straight out of a bygone era, and the music by Paul Wiley helps enhance its old school charm. When you factor in the city setting and the moments of extreme gore, I found that the '80s film that TERRIFIER most closely resembled was the notorious "video nasty" MANIAC.

"Maniac" would certainly be a fitting description of the terrifier Art himself. Although Leone has told several stories about the clown by now, he has wisely never given us any insight into who or what Art is. He is clearly some kind of unstoppable supernatural force, but there is no origin given, no explanation, and I don't want or need one. Art just is. And he loves to make a mess with flesh and blood.

The clown's primary targets this time out are a pair of young women who are just trying to get home from a Halloween party. Fate causes them to cross paths with Art, and from that point on he is determined to add them to his list of victims. He pursues them through the night, killing anyone he happens to meet along the way.

Everyone in TERRIFIER gives a solid performance, from Jenna Kanell and Catherine Corcoran as the party girls to Pooya Mohseni as the crazy homeless woman who thinks a doll is her child, Samantha Scaffidi as the sister of Kanell's character, who is drawn into the Art situation when her sister calls her for a ride, and ALL HALLOWS' EVE's Katie Maguire, who shows up in this film to play a different character whose luck is just as bad as her ALL HALLOWS' EVE character's. And then there's Thornton, who manages to make Art very uncomfortable to watch with just his movements, a look, a smile. 

I don't suffer from coulrophobia, I don't find clowns to be inherently scary like many people do, and I can't say that the most famous creepy clowns of cinema have had much effect on me. But Art, he is unnerving. If Leone really is seeking to create a new icon out of Art, he and the actors he has chosen to bring the character to life have done everything right to make that happen. If enough horror fans are able to catch TERRIFIER (and seek out ALL HALLOWS' EVE as well), I could see Art the Clown being embraced by the horror community in a major way. He's got a memorable look, he's scary, and he kills people real good.

TERRIFIER is a very simple film, providing 84 minutes of stalking and slashing that occurs largely within the confines of one location. Leone directs the hell out of that simple scenario, though, milking every possible bit of tension from each moment. It's a thrilling, brutal, gory '80s throwback that I recommend checking out, especially if you have a fondness for the same decade of films that this movie obviously holds in high regard.

Extra Tidbit: TERRIFIER had its New York Premiere at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Scary Movies X festival, July 14th.

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