This review contains spoilers for Terrifier (2016)
Alright, well, with Terrifier 2 making headlines for making people faint and throw up and being just the most fUcKeD uP moViE of AlL tIMe – I thought it was high time that I got around to watching the first one. I remember, vaguely, Art the Clown’s arrival in the basically ok All Hallows’ Eve, but this one completely passed me by. So, how was this one? Has my life been forever changed by the most edgy fucked up movie of a generation?
The short answer is … no. Obviously not.
Running at 88 minutes, Terrifier somehow manages to feel too long, with so much meandering and cat and mouse and completely superfluous characters who take FOREVER to die. Look, I understand that this is supposed to be a dumb, gory, 80s throwback slasher and looking into the story in any meaningful way is a pointless exercise but the movie needed to push harder than it did. It doesn’t go far enough with the gore and kills to justify being quite this lazy with the story. It kind of tries to have it both ways?
So, lets talk about the reason to watch this movie, because despite it being too long, I think I actually kind of loved parts of it. The main reason to watch it is, surprising no one, Art the Clown. David Howard Thorton is genuinely good in this role, his performance is creepy and consistent and, occasionally, genuinely funny. He really commits to the role, and it works. His design is great too, the make up is really effective, with enough nooks and cranny to make it terrifying under the right lighting, and harmless under the right light. Writer/Director Damien Leone absolutely has a winner on his hands with Art, and I absolutely understand why people have responded to the character so well.
The other thing that the movie gets so much love for seems to be the practical effects, and I’m going to try to separate my feelings about the effects in this one with the effects in the sequel, so bear with me. I love practical effects and wet puppets, I don’t need realistic gore, the less real the better honestly, no one needs to know what it actually looks like when someone gets their head crushed, so lets up the gore and go way over the top. Terrifier does a pretty good job with this line, and in general the thing is effectively silly, and most of the gore gags are a lot of fun. They just get a bit few and far between and the thing really drags in the middle when it could be smashing.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the movie is genuinely funny, and makes a couple of jokes that were extremely smart and showed a real love for the genre. Which kind of makes the script being just so-so all the more disappointing, because the moments where it really works are so good. There are two moments in particular that I want to highlight and give credit for, the first is the first time Art just uses a gun. The moment is so well set up and got a genuine laugh out of me. It’s absolutely a question we’ve all asked “Why don’t they just use a gun?” – and it really hits right. The other comes closer to the end, when a character inexplicably goes back into the scary building even though there are vehicles outside, and then Art drives the truck back into the building and into the character. There are more moments that are funny, but truly those two are exceptionally funny.
It’s clear that I have complicated feelings about this one. I had fun, sometimes, and was bored more often than it was fun, unfortunately. The pacing isn’t great, and the characters make absolutely irredeemably bad decisions (WHY DID YOU GO BACK IN THE BUILDING???), but Art really does hold the whole thing together and it really does work. I wasn’t repulsed or offended, and I was kind of hoping for a bit more edge. It kind of ends up being a just-ok slasher flick that never quite takes the joke as far as it should and it suffers for that.