We first saw a little bit of Art the Clown in All Hallows Eve, Damien Leone’s feature debut, and here we see Art in his feature-length and hideous glory. Leone, who penned and directed, has a sharp instinct for movement, and that stands out to me above many things about Terrifier. From the outset you find yourself watching the peculiar and unsettling movements of Art, and the tense and fearful movements of the protagonists and victims. It’s, in many ways, the art of Art. David Howard Thornton (Nightwing: Escalation) deserves a medal for his realisation of the killer clown. He moves with a steel and ghostly gaze, a demonic smile and a wave-like smoothness to his walking and arm movements. I don’t really go into body-movement in reviews, as a rule, but I couldn’t ignore it here. It helped take this film to another level for me. Art the Clown is, with the excellent performance of Thornton, a revelation. He’s a creep, too. A big fucking creep.
The plot is simplistic, and all the better for that fact. We meet two women who are heading home after a party on Halloween-night. They stop at a pizza place to grab a slice (and this won’t be the first time. Get it? Slice? Killer clown? Forget it) and find themselves sat across from a staring weirdo in clown makeup with a black trash-bag beside him. Immediately, one of the woman, Tara (Jenna Kanell – The Bye Bye Man), is unsettled by the clown, and feels uncomfortable, but her drunk and wacky buddy Dawn (Catherine Corcoran – Return to Nuke Em High) isn’t too bothered. She takes a selfie with the clown, laughs him off, and eats her pizza. This perhaps wasn’t the best decision.
Eventually, the pizza store owner kicks the clown out of the place (for defecationary reasons) and the women go back to their car, only to find their tires are slashed. They call Tara’s sister, Victoria (Samantha Scaffidi – Demon Hole) who agrees to pick them up, so they play the waiting game. Uh oh… Tara needs to pee. Luckily (maybe?) they’re parked next to a decrepit apartment building, outside of which a guy is smoking. She begs him to use the bathroom, and he lets her. This is when the movie really begins. Tara is locked inside this grotesque and worn-down old building and Art the Clown finds himself following her in. It’s a hunt and run scenario, with the murderous psycho-clown looking for Tara as she tries to escape. There’s a woman with a doll she thinks is her baby in there too, but let’s not talk about that. Dawn and Tara’s sister find themselves inside the building too, at some point, and basically we watch the madness unravel.
Now, I’ve ignored bits and skimmed over a lot, so I don’t spoil things for you. It doesn’t need any more saying, really. This is a gore-fest, a true horror film that felt old-school with its mentality. No bones about it, this is a balls-out murder-movie, with a hideous clown as the villain and handful of innocent civilians as his intended chopped-liver.
The cast do a marvellous job. Kanell, as Tara, is a likeable protagonist. The woman who has found herself in a bizarre situation and just wants to get the hell out of dodge. The other women, Scaffidi and Corcoran, are good too, though don’t share as much screen-time with Thorntons’ Art as Kanell does. Oh, and Thornton himself, a performer who put his all into the role, is excellent. I’m rarely unsettled or scared by clown-horror, especially in an age where there are so many films that use it as a vehicle. Here, though, the performance is so well-done that I did find myself a little creeped out, and it felt good.
Now, some might say that this is just a film that revels in its murder. It is kill after kill, and it doesn’t shy away from being horrific. Well, Terrifier is a horror movie after all, and sometimes it’s good to see things taken back to basics and delivered with a swift kick and an almighty punch to the proverbial gut. It was a very entertaining film, and I could see Art the Clown becoming something of a horror-icon, a smaller-level Pennywise or Freddy, yet a hauntingly vivid character that makes this movie more than just another clown flick.