Monday, October 22, 2018

Clowning Around (and around, and around, and around…)

Back in my teenage years, my friends found it ridiculous that I found clowns terrifying. If there’s one good thing about the cultural shifts of the new millennium, it’s that the world has finally accepted the very obvious truth that, you know, clowns are creepy.

Quick Plot: It’s Halloween night, and a college partiers Tara and Dawn are a little too drunk to drive home. Responsibly, they head to a small pizza joint to sober up, only to find themselves followed by a silent but flirty clown (possibly named Art). It’s an unsettling way to chew through a slice, but they slink back to their car (conveniently parked in front of an abandoned, rat-infested apartment building), leaving Art behind to chop his way through the two disgruntled employees.

What follows is a cat-and-multiple-mice chase throughout this randomly empty slum. In addition to Tara and Dawn, there’s Tara’s hard-studying sister Victoria, a homeless woman believing a doll to be her child, and a friendly, if dim exterminator with extremely limited survival instincts.

That latter detail is true of everyone in Terrifier, Damien Leone’s expansion of an earlier short film. While Tara shows early signs of being a competent final girl, she also has the tragic horror movie disease of always running from an injured villain whom she could easily end with one extra stab. This is true of every single character in Terrifier, and it becomes genuinely exhausting.

Serious flaw aside, Leone’s film is fun in a gross, mean way. So long as you head into it knowing you’re going to see ridiculously cruel acts of torture at the hands of a possibly supernaturally powered clown, you’re getting what expect.

High Points
As Art (if that IS his name), David Howard Thornton takes the token creepy clown to incredible levels. The makeup design is on point, but Thornton’s facial expressions and movement style are what truly sell Art as a nightmare

Low Points
I meant what I said earlier. I’m usually the first person to defend a film when an audience member complains about a character’s lack of survival instinct, but when not one or two but THREE would-be victims in Terrifier witness Art brutally murder someone, then temporarily disable him to the point where he’s knocked down for at least a few minutes, only to then, you know, LIMP AWAY even though it’s already been established that there’s no easy way out of this horror house, it’s hard to still care

Lessons Learned
Just because a horror movie coroner isn’t seen eating a sandwich doesn’t mean he won’t immediately request one, preferably with bacon

Possibly the least responsible lesson to ever be learned, but ultimately, the theme of the movie: if choosing between driving home while intoxicated and getting away from a creepy silent clown making eyes at you, stick to the speed limit and hope for the best

Rusty saws are incredibly effective at sawing through solid bone with the speed and smoothness of a Ginju slicing through a tomato

Wacky Credits
Two things jump out in wonderful, very different ways:

Though I know “Music By Paul Wiley” does not mean Olympic silver medalist figure skater Paul Wylie changed the spelling of his name and composed the score, it’s nice to dream that Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie has retired to a life of writing music for cheap killer clown flicks

Meet the Falcones, a busy family who get credited here for acting producing, stunt driving, props, makeup, and, you guessed it, catering

Terrifier is streaming on Netflix, and if you want to fill 80 minutes with some solid clown horror, it fits a certain bill. Just accept that humanity is incredibly dumb, that clowns are intellectually superior, and that bones are very fragile. 


  1. I'm a bit on the fence about the Art the Clown movies (I think this is the third I've seen, counting the short). Art is scary... and weird... but the stories are so mean-spirited, especially towards women. I was a bit shocked by the ending of the original short and the Bone Tomahawk homage in this one... maybe I'm just a wimp.

  2. I went into it hearing that had a particularly mean vibe, so I knew what I was getting into, which made a HUGE difference. For me, it was so over the top (including that Bone Tomahawk scene) that I just sort of "let go" on actually finding any real connection to the victims.

  3. I don't really get the hype around this. I saw both the short as well as the feature and the clown design just seems so friggin ON THE NOSE. Like, why would anyone react in any way to this clown other than to scream and call the cops? It just seems like something an eleven year old would come up with in a Creepy Pasta story, rather than an actual interesting and potentially deadly villain. I agree that the actor did a great job, but it just comes off like wanna be super edgy Insane Clown Posse horror!