It’s Halloween night, and the young women of Miles County are about to experience a night that’ll be the death of them. Art the Clown is in town, and no one will stand in the way of his twisted carnage.
There is truly little other plot I can build on to further enlight this film. In true grindhouse body horror fashion, story is traded in for extra buckets of blood in 85 minutes of manic mayhem. Terrifier’s titular antagonist, the ghoulish Art the Clown, simply arrives, targets the first unsuspecting scantily clad girls he meets and follows the slasher formula to a tee. And is there anything wrong with any of this? The film may by an act in ticking genre boxes, but for a low budget horror flick with limited release outside of its Netflix run, Terrifier packs a decent punch in terms of pacing, gory moments, and an excellent central acting performance.
What the script lacks in plot development or originality it makes up for in other departments. Director/writer Damien Leone reincarnates Art (a character from his past short films) for a feature length assault, but still leave us breathless thanks to the breakneck pacing. Art stalks one victim after the next with relentless abandon, rarely giving viewers a break. This adrenaline-rush speed makes up for a lot of the mediocre acting from the rest of the cast and adds urgency to the sequenced lulls, keeping us on the edges of our seats.
The special effects are also eye-catching for a low-budget effort. Helped to no end by the grainy saturation quality of the camera (an homage to 80’s B-Grade slasher films), Terrifier bathes its viewers in blood and gore, with bodies ripped apart, hacked open, and even adorned as garments. While some of the violence is outlandish, it’s all dreadfully memorable. Hats off to Leone in particular for delivering what has to be one of the most awful horror film deaths I’ve ever seen.
Furthermore, Terrifier squeezes in some interesting thematic moments throughout, focusing heavily on women’s roles in the actions and psychological scarring of men. Or maybe I’m just reading into it, and David Howard Thornton (as Art) truly just goes for broke as an utterly bloodthirsty, batshit crazy freak. Thornton’s performance is spellbindingly grotesque, embodying silent menace and manic glee in mimed silence, and is the absolute high point of the film.
As great as certain elements of Terrifier are, however, there is no doubting that it’s derivative and formulaic. Sticking to the elements that served an entire generation of grindhouse cinema so well, Leone hardly moves a muscle in trying anything new or adding something unique to the canon. It’s not the worst faux pas – authentic camerawork and other cinematographic tributes make the film stand out from other Netflix offerings – but something unpredictable would have been nice.
Part and parcel of emulating that genre is awful acting. There is nothing positive to pick out from the rest of the acting crew, with the three lead females adequate for their thin roles. The standards aren’t surprising really, given the lack of material to work with. Characters arrive for sacrifice with little motivation and are killed off with little consequence. All part of a slasher’s film’s fun, but true nonetheless.
An interesting addition to the Netflix autoplay, Terrifier is an instant classic for gore hounds and a solid watch for horror aficionados. Everyone else? Maybe keep looking.
Catch Terrifier on Netflix now.
Pulpy grindhouse fun that leaves sense at the door to the slaughterhouse. Some will love it – most won’t. Catch the limited release on Netflix! 5.5/10.