Terrifier (2016) is a kitschy, corny and sometimes on-purpose badly acted film, which surprisingly delivers a wicked amount of nasty fun.
The glorious comeback of the 80s is rocking. After the success of Stranger Things, the kinda-kitschy aesthetics are truly given a second life, even in the mainstream. It especially pleases the fans of goosebumps, because – if there was one flourishing genre in that period – it definitely was horror.
Damien Leone, the director of Terrifier (2016), isn’t afraid to boast about his influences. His film is a tribute to the most prominent times of slashers.
What is Terrifier (2016) about?
The protagonist of Terrifier (2016) is Art (David Howard Thornton), a uniquely sinister clown, dressed in white and black suit, and carrying a huge bag of clanking stuff. On the night of Halloween, Art becomes the embodiment of evil. The killing spree begins when he finds two girls (Catherine Corcoran and Jenna Kanell) coming back home from a party.
Art the Clown is pure evil; David Howard Thornton nails the role
As befits any kind of slasher, the maniac killer is always at the center of things. And Art is a sweet emissary of evil. He is completely deprived of human feelings, he’s insane and blood-curdling. There’s also a variety of faces that David Howard Thornton’s characters wears. There are moments, when Leone – despite romancing with kitsch – manages to turn Art into a genuinely scary existence. Bathed in blood, Art slices and dices without a single sound coming out of his mouth. On the other hand, Thornton joyfully uses the art of pantomime to ooze an even more bizarre, harrowing layer to Art.
In my honest opinion, he beats both Pennywise and Twisty (American Horror Story) in terms of scariness.
The effect is intensified by the staging too, as well the cinematography by George Steuber. Interiors of the building, where the two poor women fight for their lives, is truly haunting. Set in the heart of the city, the place itself seems like a gate to a hellish abyss, and gives Art plenty of dark corners to ominously lurk from. At times, I got the vibes of Martyrs (2008) or Hostel (2005), both in terms of the set design and the gore. Leone plays with light and bizarre music choices too, which all imbues Terrifier (2016) with unique, delightfully nauseating vibe.
However, Damien Leone becomes too immersed in the corny aesthetics. As viewers, we are more-than-used to the fact, that characters in horror movies are not the brightest bulbs. To be honest, they are usually outright stupid, as if their brains didn’t work at all. The same applies to the victims of Art. However the victims of Art are particularly unskilled in the art of survival. Even a steel bar is worthless in their hands.
All in all, Terrifier (2016) might be over-the-top for some viewers. Other will find its gore repelling, and its setting too unsettling. Yet in spite of the recent popularity of the 80s throwback, we should brace ourselves for more offspring like that. For me, a sucker for all kinds of horror, Leone’s movie is fun in its simple, ridiculous and sick way. Sick, but still distinct.
Terrifier (2016) – Culturally Loved or Hated?
Slightly cheesy, but also gore-packed and often convincingly creepy, Damien Leone’s film is a treat for horror fans.
Hate Grade: 4/10
Director: Damien Leone
Writer: Damien Leone
Cast: Catherine Corcoran, Jenna Kanell, David Howard Thornton
Music: Paul Wiley
Cinematography: George Steuber
If you liked Terrifier (2016), you might want to check out:
- All Hallow’s Eve (2013) – another flick of Damien Leone’s making, which also features a cameo from Art the Clown
- Baskin (2015) – bloody, twisted Turkish horror with equally graphic imagery
- Clown (2014) – partly a monster movie, partly body transformation horror, it’s an inventive flick that crawls under your skin
- Mandy (2018) – starring Nicolas Cage, this film is every bit of crude and violent as Terrifier (2016)
- Terrifier 2 (2020) – not done, yet, but keep an eye out for that sequel!