Promotional release poster
|Directed by||Damien Leone|
|Produced by||Phil Falcone|
|Written by||Damien Leone, Shawn Moreau|
David Howard Thornton
|Music by||Paul Wiley|
|Edited by||Damien Leone|
|Distributed by||Dread Central Presents|
Terrifier is a 2016 American slasher film written, co-produced, and directed by Damien Leone. The film stars Jenna Kanell, Samantha Scaffidi, Catherine Corcoran, and David Howard Thornton as Art the Clown. The film follows Tara Heyes (Kanell) as she finds herself as Art's next target on Halloween night. It marks the second feature film appearance of the Art the Clown character, after Leone's 2013 anthology film All Hallows' Eve, which incorporated footage from previous short films that were also directed by Leone and featured the character.
The main setting of the film, a decrepit apartment building, has been likened to symbolizing a labyrinth that the characters must traverse through as they battle Art. Terrifier premiered at the Telluride Horror Show Film Festival in October 2016 before being picked up by Dread Central Presents and Epic Pictures for a limited theatrical release in March 2018. A sequel, Terrifier 2, is set to be released in 2021.
Monica Brown, a talk show host, interviews a severely disfigured woman who is the sole survivor of a massacre that took place the previous Halloween. Brown mentions that the body of the killer, known only as "Art the Clown", disappeared from the morgue, suggesting that he is still alive. However, the disfigured woman insists that she saw him die. After the show, Monica insults the woman's appearance, after which the woman attacks Monica and gouges her eyes out.
On Halloween night, two friends, Tara and Dawn, leave a Halloween party and drunkenly wander back to Dawn's car, where they notice a strange man in a clown costume. The man, Art the Clown, follows them into a nearby pizzeria. After a short time, the restaurant owner roughly escorts Art from the premises for smearing his own feces all over the bathroom walls. The girls discover that one of Dawn's car tires has been slashed, and Tara calls her sister Vicky to come pick them up. While waiting, Tara asks a pest control worker, Mike, if she can enter the derelict apartment building he's working in to use the restroom. Once inside, Tara encounters a deluded woman (credited as "Cat Lady"), who believes the doll she carries is her infant child. Art returns to the pizzeria, where he kills and mutilates the two workers before abducting Dawn.
Tara soon encounters Art inside the apartment building. He pursues her through the indoor mechanic's garage and stabs her with a scalpel. She tries to alert Mike but Art drugs her. Tara awakens bound to a chair, and Art reveals Dawn, suspended upside-down from the ceiling. He forces Tara to watch as he saws Dawn in half with a handsaw. Tara escapes but Art draws a handgun and shoots her to death. The Cat Lady witnesses this and begs Mike to call the police. Mike dismisses her as insane, but Art soon knocks him unconscious with a hammer. The Cat Lady discovers Art cradling her doll. In a plea for the return of her "child", she tries to show motherly compassion to Art by cradling him.
Vicky arrives to take Tara and Dawn home but is lured into the basement by Art. There, she discovers what she believes is an injured Tara, but it is actually Art, who has severely mutilated the Cat Lady and is wearing her scalp and breasts. Mike's co-worker arrives looking for him but is decapitated by Art. Vicky escapes Art but stops to grieve upon finding her sister's corpse. Art then attacks her with a makeshift cat o' nine tails, but Mike arrives suddenly and knocks Art unconscious. The two flee and call 9-1-1 but before they can escape, Art appears and kills Mike. Vicky retreats into a garage, and Art rams through the door with a pickup truck, causing further injury to Vicky. As she lies helplessly, Art begins to eat her face. Police arrive, but Art shoots himself in the head with a pistol before the officers can apprehend him.
Art's body is taken to a morgue, along with the bodies of his deceased victims. When the medical examiner unzips Art's body bag, Art reanimates and strangles him to death. One year later, Vicky is released from the hospital after rehabilitation from the injuries inflicted by Art; she is revealed to be the severely disfigured woman from the film's opening scene.
- Jenna Kanell as Tara Heyes
- Samantha Scaffidi as Victoria Heyes
- David Howard Thornton as Art the Clown
- Catherine Corcoran as Dawn
- Pooya Mohseni as Cat Lady
- Matt McAllister as Mike the Exterminator #1
- Katie Maguire as Monica Brown
- Gino Cafarelli as Steve
- Cory Duval as Coroner
- Michael Leavy as Will the Exterminator #2
- Erick Zamora as Ramone
- Jason Leavy as Police Officer 1
- Steven Della Salla as Police Officer 2
- Clifton Dunn as Male EMT
The character of Art the Clown first appeared in the 2008 short film The 9th Circle, which Leone wrote and directed. Leone later wrote and directed a short film titled Terrifier, which featured Art and was released in 2011. These shorts were incorporated into the 2013 anthology film All Hallows' Eve, which marked both Art's first feature film appearance and Leone's feature directorial debut.
In 2015, Leone launched a campaign on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to finance Terrifier, a feature-length spin-off of All Hallows' Eve. After being notified of the Indiegogo campaign, filmmaker Phil Falcone provided the necessary funds for the project in exchange for a producer credit. In The 9th Circle, the short film Terrifier, and All Hallows' Eve, Art was played by Mike Giannelli, but in the feature film Terrifier, Art was portrayed by David Howard Thornton. Thornton was already familiar with All Hallows' Eve when he auditioned for the role of Art in Terrifier, and was cast in the role after improvising a kill scene in mime.
Terrifier premiered at the Telluride Horror Show Film Festival in 2016. It was later screened at the Horror Channel FrightFest on October 28, 2017, and was subsequently picked up by Dread Central Presents and Epic Pictures for a limited 2018 release.
Terrifier was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Dread Central on March 27, 2018. The release features audio commentary from Damien Leone and David H. Thorton, behind-the-scenes footage, an interview with star Jenna Kanell, deleted scenes, collectible reversible cover art, and several other bonus features.
The film received mixed to positive reviews. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Terrifier holds an approval rating of 64% based on 14 reviews, and an average rating of 6.21/10. While Thornton's portrayal and the special effects were well received by critics, criticism of the film was directed mostly at the dialogue, acting in certain scenes, and the lack of character development of the protagonists.
Anton Bitel of the British Film Institute described the film as a "subtext-free thrill-and-kill ride which openly advertises the sheer senselessness and gratuity of all its on-screen cat-and-mouse deaths by numbers" and "an unapologetically ‘pure’ genre entry, confronting – and amusing – us with all the sinister masked vicariousness of the Halloween spirit." Cody Hamman of Arrow in the Head awarded the film a score of 8/10, calling it "a very simple film, providing 84 minutes of stalking and slashing that occurs largely within the confines of one location. Leone directs the hell out of that simple scenario, though, milking every possible bit of tension from each moment. It's a thrilling, brutal, gory '80s throwback that I recommend checking out, especially if you have a fondness for the same decade of films that this movie obviously holds in high regard." Sol Harris of the magazine Starburst gave the film a score of 6/10, writing: "Presented as something of a throwback to horror B-movies of the '80s, Terrifier has far more style - both visually and audibly - than the average film of this nature. It's a surprisingly nice looking film for a movie about a clown chopping people into pieces." Jeremy Aspinall of Radio Times praised the film, writing "But despite the unsparing gore, there's also plenty of atmosphere and a gnawing tension that's maintained all the way to the sequel-hinting climax."
The film was not without its detractors. Amyana Bartley of Film Inquiry.com felt that the film's script lacked both clear protagonists and depth, and wrote: "Art the Clown has the potential to be a formidable, gruesome, franchise horror character, he just needs more seasoning and cultivation." Felix Vasquez Jr. of Cinema Crazed called it "fairly mediocre slasher fare", stating that the film lacked any creativity and tension, also criticizing the film's storyline. Vasquez concluded his review by stating "As a film Terrifier aims high, but feels like a very disposable party favor you'll have forgotten once the credits roll."
In February 2019, Damien Leone stated that a sequel for Terrifier was in production, with the other sequel's script having already been written. The film went into production in October 2019 with Fuzz on the Lens Productions as Co-Producers along with Dark Age Cinema. The film has delayed its final days of shooting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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