What do a clown, a hacksaw, a brutally murdered journalist and a reference to Silence of the Lambs have in common? Well, they all play a part in Damien Leone’s Terrifier, a brutally violent slasher that plants both its feet firmly in the aesthetic of the 80s.
After an opening that gives more than a discreet nod to Nightmare on Elm Street, the film sees two college students being stalked by the maniacal Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), a monochrome killer whose creepiest affectation is the distinct lack of noise he makes. Even when screaming in a violent rage, barely a peep comes out.
Based on Leone’s short film of the same name, which ended up playing a large part in the anthology All Hallow’s Eve, Terrifier is aimed squarely at those people who found Hostel to be too plot heavy. From the minute Art catches sight of his two victims, Tara (Jenna Kannell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), the film becomes nothing more than a long chase sequence loaded with gore. The only real plot development is the arrival of Tara’s sister, Vicky (Samantha Scaffidi), and several disposable men. Not that that is a bad thing. Terrifier’s raw simplicity is actually one of its strengths. You just may want to look elsewhere if you’re after anything with a bit more meat on the bones. Speaking of meat, Leone is clearly a man who delights in making his audience squirm with scenes of vulgarity that make good work of the film’s limited budget.
So, sure, if this sounds like your cup of tea, then drink up. However, before diving in it seems fair to point out that at times Terrifier relies too strongly on the torture porn tropes we all assumed had died after the straight to DVD effort that was Hostel 3. Case in point: a centrepiece of the film sees someone being split down the middle in an excruciatingly blunt manner. It’s uncomfortable and not in the way you’re expecting. It’s hard to say why, in a film that sees a clown running people over whilst listening to freestyle jazz, scenes like this unsettle the most. Perhaps it’s in Leone’s execution (pun not intended) which walks a thin line between the depraved and the titillating. This critic is no prude, but sometimes you just have to say, ‘nope’.
If you can overlook these moments, then you’ll certainly get a kick out of Terrifier. Particularly Thornton’s performance as the mute Art. Terrifying? Maybe not. Uncomfortable? For sure. It’s certainly one of the bleaker films streaming on Netflix right now.