DESPITE THE HYPE, PENNYWISE HAS NOTHING TO FEAR FROM … ART THE CLOWN
Main Cast: David Howard Thornton, Jenna Kanell
Director: Damien Leone
I’ve got the night off and one of my goals for the end of the year is to write a review whenever I’ve got a night off. So I woke up this morning and tried to decide what movie to review. I just finished the Insidious series on DVD last week, so maybe a Netflix movie this time?
So I got onto my list and the first movie was something called Terrifier. Now, I have no idea what it is, I don’t even remember adding it to my list. But there it is, so whatever. I checked out the trailer on YouTube first and it looked cheesy enough. There was a definite 80s slasher flick vibe, and I grew up watching as many slasher films as I could in the 80s, so, okay, I’ll give it a shot.
Immediately the movie tries to confuse me by opening as if it’s picking up from the end of a previous movie. But this isn’t called TERRIFER 2, it’s just Terrifier. So I check out the trivia on IMDb and sure enough the slasher in this movie, Art the Clown, is from writer/director Damien Leone’s previous movie, All Hallow’s Eve.
But as it turns out, Terrifier actually ISN’T necessarily a sequel. It just opens that way. Trust me, that part makes sense in the end, but I’m not spoiling it here.
Terrifier centers around two women, Tara (Jenna Kanell, The Bye Bye Man) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran, Amityville: Vanishing Point), leaving a Halloween party, too drunk to drive, so they decide to sober up with some pizza first. On the way there, they spot a creepy looking guy dressed in a black and white clown outfit, lugging a giant garbage bag over his shoulder. He gives Tara the eye, but she’s all Smell ya later, creep, and they head off.
Inside the pizzeria, however, while waiting for their slices, creepy clown dude, Art, comes in and sits across from them, still giving Tara the eye. The side-eye? The stink-eye? The come hither eye? Does it matter? Imagine Marilyn Manson in his early Spooky Kids days, sitting across from you, staring and grinning. Naturally Tara is creeped right the F out, but Dawn is still pretty drunk, so she snaps a couple of selfies with Art.
But once the clown gets kicked out of the restaurant, Tara thinks her night of creepiness is over.
It only gets worse, dude.
Note to self: never get drunk, find your car with a flat tire, call your sister to come pick you up, then head into a strange, empty apartment building in a bad part of town to use the bathroom and leave your even drunker best friend out in the car while there’s a killer clown on the loose. It ain’t gonna end well for anyone.
So, yeah, Terrifier.
Well, that was a movie.
I was right about the 80s feel. Whether that was intentional or not, I’m going to give Leone the benefit of the doubt and say it was TOTALLY on purpose. Art the Clown definitely had the feel of a classic slasher, right down to not uttering a word the entire time, as well as being able to seemingly appear in different parts of the apartment building at will, and devising elaborate kills with whatever he’s got on hand. Which brings me to the first BIG kill of the movie.
Okay, if you’re not a fan of gore, or if the notion of ANOTHER film where it’s women in jeopardy through the whole thing (let’s face it, another staple of 80s slashers), then this movie’s probably not for you. But if you think you’ve seen it all in terms of slasher horror … I like to think I’m pretty well-versed in this genre of films, but even I had to sit up and take note at the big set piece kill in this movie. I mean wow. Points to Leone for even thinking that, let alone having the guts to film it.
Granted, I didn’t think it was the least bit plausible under the conditions presented in the movie, but I will totally let that slide in favor of just how grand and over the top it was. That’s not to say I approved of it, but I gotta respect a creator who follows through on his vision to that extent.
I don’t know if I can necessarily give a lot of credit toward the acting here: 80% of the movie was women running, panting, screaming, crying “LEAVE ME ALONE!”, or David Howard Thornton (“Gotham”) hamming it up as Art the Clown. Okay, I suppose I can credit Thornton; he reminded me of the classic Kane Hodder as Jason performances–not in terms of personality, but in originality. Hodder brought something specific to the role when he took it over–hence his longer run than anyone else had–and Thornton does the same here. If Art the Clown ever returned, and he wasn’t played by Thornton, I think the difference in actors would be obvious. I haven’t seen Mike Giannelli’s performance in ALL HALLOW’S EVE, but Thornton killed it in this role, pardon the choice of words.
However, does one great performance merit overlooking the structural flaws in the story?
I can’t decide. I mean, I’ve already watched the movie, so I don’t have to recommend it to myself. Would I recommend it to YOU?
If you like cheesy 80s horror and don’t mind an abundance of blood and gore–and HUGE holes in the logic and choices the characters make–then, sure, see Terrifier. But if you like your horror a little smarter, a little more … refined and dignified … this probably isn’t the movie for you.
C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.