★out of ★★★★★
It’s rather rare that I, or for that matter, any reviewer starts a review with “…don’t watch this film.” But, seriously don’t watch this film.
Horror has rules, axioms, and guideposts. Terrifier violates the three basic tenets of the horror precepts: 1) do you care about the protagonist(s)? nope; 2) can you put yourself in the film? nope; and 3) is there a story worth watching? nope. Terrifier is a grisly bunch of mean-spirited business that doesn’t amount to much beyond a heaping dose of intestines, brutish savagery, and foul nastiness.
Terrifier originally hit the film fest circuit in 2016 and in 2018 got a new lease on life thanks to the folks at Dread Central Presents. The premise, if stretched to call it a premise, involves two young women who head out for an evening of drinking and cavorting on Halloween night. On their way home they swing by a local pizza joint where they encounter a creepy looking clown — AKA Art the Clown. No exposition unfolds and the audience is left with said creepy clown torturing the young gals for the better part of and hour and fifteen minutes. Honestly, that’s the whole story. Well, to be fair, there’s a teeny tiny hook that brings the end of the film all the way back to the beginning of the film that employs a fairly mundane and “meh” mechanism. One that, frankly, after having to sit through and hour plus of video-nastiness, you either forget to connect the two things together, or your hippocampus is so turned off, it just says “…uh, whatever.”
Art the Clown, who is never really referred to as Art the Clown, nor does Terrifier explain Art the Clown’s provenance, is a chilling bit of business. But here’s the problem, for all Art the Clown’s peculiar movements, his freaky body cadence, and eneverated gestures, he never speaks. For such a presence, and one that’s clearly an homage to THE Freddy Krueger, you’d think Art the Clown would have a catch phrase or at least a couple Catskills-esque punch lines. Nope. Art doesn’t say a word. He just pantomimes his way through the film. From one funky gesticulation to the next funky gesticulation. The make-up, design, and general aesthetic behind Art the Clown really is something to behold. It’s an iconic and unnerving countenance, but one that, unfortunately, isn’t ever fully realized.
Art the Clown catches up to the young ladies about five minutes in to the film, and for some unbeknownst reason, he arrives at the conclusion that they will be his gore-addled prey. The ladies are equally irresponsible, equally uninteresting, and have an equal sameness about them. As protagonists, there’s nothing to invest in. Both get tortured. Both make poor choices. Both, well, end up dead. Effectively, it would be like being dropped in to the middle of a horse track in a city you’ve never visited. Which horse is better? Which horse do you like? Uh…the brown one? Save for the fact that one of the ladies has a sister, who also gets drug screaming in to the torture-porn mishmash, there’s not a lot to differentiate between either of the “protagonists.”
If your sole intention in watching horror is to peep a never-ending stream of steamy intestines then it’s OK to ignore this entire discussion. Terrifier is for you. It’s gore for gore’s sake. Lots of gore. No story. No one to root for. Just a gob of greasy gore and guts. Gore definitely has it’s place in horror. In fact, gore’s place is so firmly established that it has its own sub-genre. The pantheon of gore-related horror cinema certainly has some real winners with deep storytelling, compelling characters, and mindful tension. Sadly, Terrifier just has a Costco-sized tub of grease paint to its credit. If you really-really feel the perverted need to watch someone get morbidly split open, bag Terrifier, and nab a copy of Cannibal Holocaust from your local video haunt.
Terrifier is unrated (read: super-hard R) and is currently available for streaming on Netflix.