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Terrifier (2016)

I first witnessed the sheer brutality and nastiness of director Damien Leone's 'Art the Clown' creation in his low budget 2013 anthology horror ''All Hallows' Eve'. After seeing for myself the potential that this character could bring to a stand-alone full feature production, I knew it wouldn't be long before this became a reality. After just 3 years, 'Terrifier' was released and became a big conversion piece across the horror community. But the question is, was this for the right reasons? In terms of acting quality, there isn't really much to speak highly of. Everyone feels serviceable enough in their roles but that doesn't really say much considering the level of overall production quality. The two girls we are introduced to, and are intended to be the emotional investment for us as an audience, are not the best actors. Tara played by Jenna Kanell is the superior of the two, however it only appears this way as she is the best of a below average group. The only returning actress from 'All Hallows Eve' is the interviewer in the opening segment, played by Katie Maguire. Whilst playing a different character from the lead actress she played in the over arcing story in 'All Hallows' Eve', she still manages to give an equally unconvincing performance. The star and main focus of the show is Art the Clown, played here by David Howard Thornton. A surprising recasting was made of the original actor (Mike Giannelli) who played Art in 'All Hallows' Eve'. I found his performance to be just as serviceable as Thornton's, and I personally preferred his original take on the character. Art himself has a very terrifying presence about him, and regardless of the rest of the production he is undoubtedly worthy of slasher film to call his own. His black and white all in one Clown costume and makeup looks extremely ominous and even more so once drenched in blood. The lack of dialogue and mime like persona only amplifies his horrific nature. I think given stronger writing and a higher production value he could go down as one of the greats. The writing is undoubtedly the weakest element of this film, with this being more of a showcase for director and special effects artist Damien Leone to demonstrate his practical effects work. There is very little in the way of plot, everything is just a coincidence encounter, serving no purpose or direction and ultimately leaving us with a lot more questions than answers. I find the use of a gun in any slasher to be very undercutting of the antagonists intimidation, let alone the way it is done here. That being said, it's not exactly out of character for Art, as this is something he does in 'All Hallows' Eve'. The main issue I take with it here is how not only does it feel like lazy writing, but the two main characters we invest 45 minutes of our time into get brutally killed, leaving us to have to reinvest our connection to a newly introduced protagonist. It was a vital mistake in the writing department and I really struggled from this point on to care about anything else that played out on screen. As mentioned before, director Leone is a special effects artist and it is clear that that was one of his biggest passions within this film. The kill sequences and the shear graphic violence that comes with them looks outstanding. Having some of the best and most creative sequences I have seen from such a low budget horror film in some time, there is no denying that as a special effects artist Leone is a very talented man. This film displays perfectly the level of Troma style B-movie practical effects that I admire, from the opening moment we see the interviewer get her eyes gouged out, right through to the cannibalistic tendencies Art displays in the closing act. I know there is a big majority of horror fans who found this level of gore and violence distasteful and done for shock value only, I don't think that is the case at all. It is for me the most impressive element of this film. 'Terrifier' is undoubtedly a heavily flawed film that has all of the pieces required to make for a great horror movie. With a sequel on the way, I think it's important that director Damien Leone listens to the big following of fans that this film has gained over the years, and fixes all of the issues his first attempt suffered from - such as lack of plot and story direction and limited characters to follow and invest in. I am one of those fans who really likes 'Terrifier' and Art the Clown as a horror villain, and although poorly executed, the potential this franchise has blinded me to the overall dissapointments, with the hope of a better future installment.


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