Terrifier (2017)

Directed by: Damien Leone

Written by: Damien Leone

A horrifying clown is on the loose, killing people everywhere he goes.

Yeah. If that was all this movie was, I honestly wouldn’t be reviewing it right now. But it at least SEEMS to be more than that.

I hope.

But that was my first impression just based on the preview and what I had heard. It sounded like a “brutal for brutal’s sake” movie that, at its heart, was just another slasher movie. I love slasher movies, but I didn’t want to waste one of my few precious Fantastic Fest slots on just a slasher movie. Especially if it was just going to be brutal with nothing else to it.

So, SICK DAY! I’m home. My girlfriend (who can’t do most horror movies) isn’t around. Time to check this out.

And it’s exactly what I expected, but different from what I expected all at the same time.

The movie opens with a young woman being interviewed on television about her experiences with a serial killer. She was horribly disfigured during her encounter with him. But what if the reports were true that his body was never recovered? Could he still be alive?

Horror happens.

Then two other young women are walking to their car after a Halloween party. Tara (Jenna Kanell) is a “head on her shoulders” girl. Dawn (Catherine Corcoran) is a party girl who doesn’t understand Tara’s unease with the world. They encounter a super creepy clown. (See poster.) He stares at them, not saying a word. They go to get some pizza and he shows up there. He stares some more. Smiles creepily as if to say, “Smile, pretty girl!” Dawn thinks he’s harmless and even goes over to take a selfie with him. He keeps staring at the other girl. He buys Tara a ring from a gumball machine and eventually goes to the restroom and the owner of the pizza place comes over the girls to ask if they’re ok and if they guy creeped them out. “Oh, he’s harmless,” says Dawn.

This is where I start to read more of a subtext than most people seemed to see. Hell, even BFI said that it was “subtext free.” But I don’t think so.

All of the action in this movie could have been avoided if only people had BELIEVED WOMEN! More so than any other slasher film I’ve ever seen, if even ONE PERSON had believed Tara that this guy was dangerous they would have called the cops and she and Dawn would have gone home. Sure, the pizza guy knew he was creepy, but he was put at ease when Dawn said, “Meh. Harmless weirdo.” Dawn just didn’t see it at all. She said that the ring was “the nicest thing any guy has done for you all night.”

But the guy was staring at Tara! Glaring at her! Almost sniffing her from afar! And no one would believe her that he was threatening. That is, until he kills the two guys in the pizza parlor after they throw him out.

Of course, the girls end up in the clown’s lair, which is a creepy, abandoned warehouse. Of course, more brutality ensues. Oh my god, brutality ensues. There’s at least one scene that made me rethink all of my thoughts of subtext. It’s so horrifying that I don’t even want to describe it. I mean…maybe it’s not A Serbian Film grotesque, but it’s probably more brutal than any slasher movie I’ve seen. This movie absolutely bridges the gap between slasher and torture porn. It’s like Hostel, but with only one silent, unkillable killer.

But even with all of that horrific brutality and the violence purpetrated against women (and men who try to help them), I think I’m right about the subtext. The killer definitely has issues with women. (I mean…the one kill I brought up is proof of that.) He’s got some mommy issues, naturally. (Don’t they all?) And there’s definitely something to this thought that this movie is about a man who everyone says “Oh, he’s harmless.”

Until he’s not.

I can’t give this movie a great score. It’s not easy to watch even for a gore-hound like me. I can think of exactly two people in my life who will probably love this movie. Maybe three. I probably never need to watch it again.

But it’s certainly an interesting film because of that subtext. I’m interested to know what other people think and to see more of Damien Leone’s films. This is actually a followup to his anthology film All Hallow’s Eve which featured the clown character as a connecting tissue between the shorts. I don’t think I’ve seen All Hallow’s Eve, but I might give it a shot.