Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jenna Kanell, Samantha Scaffidi, David Howard Thornton, Catherine Corcoran, Pooya Mohseni, Matt McAllister, Katie Maguire, Gino Cafarelli
Written by: Damien Leone
Directed by: Damien Leone
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 82
Date: 03/15/2018

Terrifier (2018)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Clown-Bagging It

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

An attempt to pay homage to VHS slasher movies of the 1980s, this horror pic has a truly unsettling killer, and other fun elements, but it finally goes a little too far with its cruelty toward women.

In Terrifier, Dawn (Catherine Corcoran) and Tara (Jenna Kanell) are finishing up a night on the town, when they realize that they are both too tipsy to drive. Tara suggests getting a slice of pizza while they sober up. A scary, unspeaking clown (David Howard Thornton) in a black-and-white outfit wanders into the pizza parlor and begins staring at Tara. After they leave, the clown brutally murders all the employees in the restaurant.

When Dawn and Tara get back to their car, they find the tires slashed. Tara phones her sister Victoria (Samantha Scaffidi) for a pick-up, and then goes into a nearby creepy building to use the restroom. Unfortunately, the clown is not yet through with them, and it's going to be a long night.

Written and directed by Damien Leone, Terrifier is well-cast, from the freaky-looking Art the Clown — with his strange, sneering black smile — to the exterminator who initially looks creepy, but turns out to be good. Tara is especially likable, a traditional horror heroine, who seems to have been made up to resemble Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott in Scream. (Additionally, we hear a radio ad for "Craven's Halloween Store.")

However, perhaps in an effort to avoid the traditional formulas of all those 1980s movies, Leone sends his storyline flying all over the place. There's no real hero (or "final girl") to root for. The viciousness of the attacks and torture of the women characters seems a little outsized and excessive for what seems to be an homage.

Perhaps worse, a cruel prologue sequence offers heavy-handed foreshadowing to the movie's rather hopeless ending. If only Terrifier had found a better balance of characters, and perhaps a measure of hope, which would have added more suspense, it might have stood near the movies that inspired it.

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