DVD REVIEW - TERRIFIER ***
Directed by: Damien Leone, Starring: David Howard Thornton, Jenna Kanell, Catherine Corcoran, Katie Maguire. Horror, US 2017, 81mins, Cert 18.
Released on Digital HD on 30th March 2018 and DVD on 2nd April 2018 in the UK by Signature Entertainment.
Writer/director Damien Leone’s unapologetically gory grind house homage features a killer clown named ‘Art’ who makes Captain Spaulding and Pennywise look like children’s entertainers, and the Chiodo Brothers outer space incarnations like E.T. Originally (and wholly appropriately), programmed as the late-night curtain closer at last year’s Halloween FrightFest, this pared-down uber-gruesome stalk-and-slash may well pay tribute to Craven, Romero and Hooper in its closing credits, but it feels closer in tone to Herschell Gordon Lewis given the amount of onscreen viscera.
Dawn (Catherine Corcoran, RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH VOLUME 1&2), and her friend Tara (Jenna Kanell, THE BYE BYE MAN), are heading home from a Halloween party when they encounter a creepy mime artist clown ‘Art’ (David Howard Thornton), who takes a shine to Tara and follows them to a pizzeria where the girls are having a late night sobering-up snack. Tara is especially freaked out by the unspeaking clown, and speculates as to what the contents of the large sack he carries around might be. Unfortunately for both her, Dawn, and practically everyone who encounters ‘Art’ this Halloween night, they are all about to gruesomely find out...
Colourised and scored to evoke a 1980’s vibe, albeit with smart phones and selfies, writer/director Damien Leone certainly succeeds in evoking the tone of such offerings as William Lustig’s MANIAC, and for us nostalgic Brits, it would definitely have been labelled a ‘video nasty’.
Leone’s killer clown had already appeared in his earlier short films and in his feature debut ALL HALLOWS’ EVE (albeit played by a different actor), but does ‘Art’ have horror icon potential? Well he’s apparently indestructible, unspeaking, well-versed in the use of multi-various tools for slaughtering random victims, and just may possess supernatural powers of regeneration: so he ticks most of the right boxes. (He lacks any kind of back-story, but hey, ask Rob Zombie what happened when he grafted one onto ‘The Shape’!) He’s certainly creepy, but to me he lacks the physical presence to command a franchise, and when did Jason, Michael or Freddy have to resort to using a handgun to gain the upper-hand?
‘Art’s mayhem is however incredibly graphic, with an unflinching depiction of a dissection by hacksaw of a naked female victim suspended upside down being the grotesque Grand Guignol highlight in a welter of practically rendered slaughterhouse splatter. It’s nastier and less fun than the over the top silliness of say for example Juan Piquer Simon’s PIECES, and ultimately its inherent mean spiritedness may prevent it from having true staying power. You only have to look at the fate meted out to the film’s ‘final girl’ for evidence of this. But, it certainly a gore hounds wet dream, and whether or not you see a metaphor in one early scene whereby ‘Art’ writes his name on a toilet wall with excrement, it’s hard to remove the shear unpleasantness of it from your mind.
Extras: Making of featurette and trailers.
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