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I Don’t Like Terrifier—Sorry!

Grindhouse films have been a staple in the horror genre for years and are beloved by many. Films like Vampyros Lesbos and The Switchblade Sisters are some of my favorite grindhouse films. Now, it makes perfect sense that the writer/directors who grew up watching these films would someday make their very own, right? Some of the more well-known and best modern-day grindhouse films are Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse (Death Proof and Planet Terror, respectively), Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, and Jason Eisner’s Hobo with a Shotgun. But, in every subgenre, there will be stinkers, films that are just so plain bad they give the subgenre a bad name. And this brings us to Terrifier, which I think is a terrible movie. I believe this qualifies as an unpopular opinion, as I feel like an outlier in my dislike for the movie (at least if horror conventions are any indication).

Art the Clown breaks into someone's car while they are inside, somehow.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with mindless slashers, those best described as “popcorn flicks”. However, even “popcorn flicks” can be entertaining while still providing something of merit for the runtime. After all, when you watch a film, it is one and a half to two hours of your time the filmmaker is asking for. But, what about when the filmmaker doesn’t value the time they are asking for? Hobo with a Shotgun is entertaining for what it is, but on top of the entertainment value, there is good acting and solid direction. Eisner earns the 86 minutes of your time that he asks for. Damien Leone, unfortunately, does not earn the time he is asking for. Thanks to terrible direction, bad acting, and absolutely no story whatsoever, the 82 minutes he asks for ends up wasted time that could have been used on something more productive.

Terrifier amounts to nothing more than a few scenes of senseless brutality that fail to be entertaining or to advance a story. Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) stumbles around a building that is being fumigated on Halloween night while chasing down Tara Heyes (Jenna Kanell). That’s it. I’m not trying to be a dick or anything, but that is literally all the story is. It’s such a disservice to the audience to create a movie that has literally nothing going on. The WHOLE POINT of making a movie is to tell a story. “But the story is about Art killing people!” That’s not a story…that’s what happens. It’s as if Leone cares so little about storytelling that he just wants to show a few people getting hacked and slashed for a few minutes and then call it a day. It’s not as if Leone can’t make a good movie; I really enjoyed Frankenstein vs. the Mummy! So, I know he can make an interesting movie, but there is no style or substance to Terrifier.

A girl takes a photo with a reluctant Art the Clown before he covers the wall with his own fecal matter

Sure, I’ll concede the practical effects are pretty solid. I just find it difficult to say a film is good based on that alone. No doubt this film has connected with many people, as Thornton has been running the horror convention circuit, usually adorned in his makeup and with his incredibly annoying tricycle horn. Of course, I don’t blame someone for riding the success of their only big role, but it’s just hard to find his acting interesting. At points his acting is so over the top it’s borderline ridiculous, and when he’s not going over the top it’s just plain bad. Writing your name on the wall of a pizza place with your sh*t isn’t scary, it’s stupid (now you have sh*t on your hands!). There’s nothing wrong with giving 110% to a role; it’s admirable he tried so hard. However, the character is just bland and irritating.

Even though I don’t enjoy the movie, there was a time when I admired Thornton for the role, but that changed. In a post on his Facebook page, he (and Leone, though it seemed Leone was doing it more jokingly) claimed Scream 5 “stole” from Terrifier. I would not bring this up were it not for how hard he went in on Scream. He thought the flamethrower Ghostface used, for a split second in the Stab 8 trailer, was a rip-off of Terrifier. Initially, I thought that he was joking, but the sincerity of his comments and responses proved he was not. Of course, there have been countless films in which the antagonists use flamethrowers (Puppet Master for example), but yeah, Scream wants to steal from you. Okay. Notably, there is not a single original kill that happens in Terrifier. One of the most talked-about scenes from Terrifier—in which Art ties a lady up and cuts her in half from her groin to her head—is a direct ripoff from a scene in Bone Tomahawk, which came out a year earlier! Pick your battles, my friend.

Art the Clown uses a flamethrower, which was stolen by the people who made Scream

It’s fairly obvious Terrifier was trying to take the best aspects of a grindhouse film and emulate the style. However, it falls way short and doesn’t really have a single interesting moment. Grindhouse films have a flair about them; it feels like there are stakes; it feels like there’s a purpose or some commentary behind them. After Art writes on the wall with his sh*t, you realize, “Okay, there are no stakes here.” So, what’s the point of continuing the movie if there are no stakes?! Oh, and they retcon an idea that Art is supernatural? After the scene at the coroner’s office, the lights start to flicker magically as he unzips the body bag that Art is in, and BOOM Art’s alive again. Okay? That’s probably one of the dumbest ways to set up a sequel. At least give me something beforehand that would have alluded to the protagonist possibly having magical powers

Terrifier is an attempt at a grindhouse film that really doesn’t hold up for me at all. It’s lazy, has no story, and features bad acting throughout. There’s nothing wrong with grindhouse-style acting, but besides Art’s few moments of solid character choices, the performances leave a lot to be desired. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with liking this movie, as many people do. However, I feel that if a filmmaker is asking you for their time, they should put a little more effort into creating a story and trying to make something interesting.


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  1. Everything you wrote is 1000% correct. The Terrifier films are overrated drivel by a guy who can’t write or direct, yet feels compelled to do both. Terrifier 1 is almost like experimental horror, like “Should we even be doing this” film making. Doubling down and making a 138 minute version of the same film was the final bullet in the gun for me. At 1:15 through the film, I gave up. No one edited this film before putting it through.

    • It’s a crappy slasher with nothing going for it, other than it’s gore. There isn’t any story, the the main character doesn’t have the charisma of Freddy, the menace of Myers or the imposing physicality of Jason. It feels like he’s supposed to be funny, but the gratuitous gore isn’t cartoony enough to suit that tone.

  2. Agreed… The movies are awful and I honestly feel like art is more irritating and ridiculous than he is scary, but I’ve noticed a lot of people in my horror fan groups gush over Art and the franchise but it’s actually awful lol

  3. OH THANK GOD you wrote this. I keep seeing Art et al. turn up at every freaking horror convention and always wonder, “Am I missing something?” I HATED these films, for exactly the reasons you’ve stated, but also because WOW these people seem to hate women. Dudes get killed, sure, but quickly, and sometimes offscreen even. The women are brutally tortured, slowly and barbarically. WTF?? (And I love gore!!) My only concession is that Art’s design is cool and the practical effects are well-done. But that cannot carry a film, let alone a franchise.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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