Terrifier

3 out of 5

Directed by: Damien Leone

Some horror movies just know what they want to be and don’t go for anything more than that.  There’s nothing clever, there’s no subversion: just pick your subgenre of choice and go for it.  And depending on whether or not said subgenre is to your tastes, that can be a good thing!  Especially when a writer / director like Damien Leone can bring the amount of energy and general quality to the proceedings as he does with his exuberant slasher entry, Terrifier.

Lack of cleverness, lack of subversion: check.  After a shock opening that reveals the severely disfigured victim of Art the Clown – a completely backgroundless, 100% in-it-for-the-visuals silent-stalker-killer type – we get a schlock opening that lets us know that Terrifier will have no problem going for excessive, blood-spewing, stab-happy gore.  It’s a totally low budget gag, shot with purposeful smash cut indelicacy, but it undoubtedly sets the tone for what we’re going to get.  Cue Art the Clown getting dressed for more kills of that nature, and then the setup of two girls, Tara and Dawn (Jenna Kanell, Catherine Corcoran, respectively), waiting off the drunkenness of their Halloween outing at a pizza parlor while Art creepily mugs at them from the background.  Machinations will lead them to being sequestered in an abandoned building for the rest of the flick.

And that’s… it.  Which does mean that no amount of exuberance can really stretch that out to even a short runtime of 86 minutes.  After a few rounds of Art walking through the building, covered in blood, tracking down a victim who makes the usual set of victim mistakes of hiding where the killer can pop up for a jump scare, of not calling the police, of not taking advantage of their opportunities for escape, Terrifier tires.  The generic action mentioned above aren’t a criticism, as that’s all part of the stalker genre, but once Leone has essentially established that no one’s safe, there’s not much reason left to watch except for more Art mugging and killing.  Thankfully, both of those are great.  David Howard Thornton plays Art completely soundlessly, moving with alien / animal like gestures that are more Freddy than Jason, but imbued with an extra layer of goofball weirdness that’s unique to the character.  Art’s black and white clown costume is definitely a great visual, and Leone milks it for as much as possible.  The gore, while still just a lot of rubber / latex dummies that get mashed up, is fun: Leone has an idea and just goes for it, resulting in a couple of gags where I was wondering if they would go there, and then they do.

Am I pleased that there’s a Terrifier 2 (and potentially 3) on the way?  I’m not unpleased.  It may be out of line with what’s here to ask for more plot, but Leone gets solid performances out of all of his leads, and the script that’s there is to be appreciated for not making the characters into the standard unlikeables that populate these things: they may be hapless victims, but we do get a sense of them being regular people before they’re chopped up.  The flick is competently lensed and purposefully shot; nothing feels sloppy.  So applying that to a gore flick with a bit more story to carry us through could make Terrifier 2 into something truly special.  We shall see.