Terrifier, from writer-director Damien Leone, features Jenna Kanell as Tara, a young woman enjoying Halloween night with her best friend, Dawn (played here by Catherine Corcoran). But after the girls come across a strange, unsettling clown, they’re unprepared for the circus of horrors he’ll unleash on them and everyone else.
I liked it. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t. But I do.
Low-budget horror is hard work. You can only do so much when your creativity is restricted by a small budget. Lotta compromises have to be made. It’s why you see the same story all the time. It’s why you see the same recycled gimmicks. And, really, Terrifier’s just another slasher movie. It’s just another movie with a psycho killer, another killer clown. That shit’s old. It’s done. It’s tired. I’ve seen it.
It’s also why everything else is usually so bad. They rent the cheapest cameras and set it on a tripod. Just point and shoot, like they’re just takin’ fuckin’ pictures at Disneyland instead of making a movie. And sometimes it’s because the people behind the camera don’t know much better than the people in front of it. But even then–even when it’s not that–a lot of the time it’s because they don’t have time to shoot. Equipment rentals are expensive. Actors are expensive. People have day jobs. Night jobs.
And sometimes a bad movie is just a bad movie. Good idea, poor execution. Or maybe it was a bad, unoriginal, uninspired idea from the start.
But Terrifier ain’t that. It’s not great. But it’s pretty good. You can tell a lot of love went into this movie. Everyone did their best. You can see a love for filmmaking and for film. Especially horror movies. There are so many homages to horror–80s, 70s, modern. There’s synth music. Haunting, colorful lighting. A self-aware tone that doesn’t feel like the movie’s always winking at you. It’s a fun, entertaining movie.
“Terrifier”’s a stupid name, though. Like, really stupid.
But you can see the inexperience all over this movie. Because it looks and sounds good. It moves at a good pace. But then a lot of shots just drag on and on. And then some are so short, you can’t tell what’s going on. And then sometimes things are barely in the shot because someone decided to nudge the tripod, or somethin’.
I wanna see Jenna Kanell in more of these kinds of fun, ballsy horror films. I love David Howard Thornton’s physical acting. But then everyone else feels like community theater. The tone and style make up for a lot of that. And the supporting cast are spirited enough to not come across flat. Again, almost everyone feels like they want to be there. Like they should be there.
But then Samantha Scaffidi shows up as Tara’s sister, Victoria. And while I’m unfamiliar with her other work–while the clumsy camera work and editing don’t help matters at all–her performance always feels as if she just walked on set for the first time. Like she’s doing it for college credit. She’s flat. She’s lifeless. She has no emotions other than bored. And you put that up against these more colorful, over-the-top-but-style-perfect performances? It makes everything feel amateur hour despite so much legitimate hard work and talent was clearly put into being something better than that.
Terrifier is a solid 75% of a great, low-budget horror movie from a clearly enthusiastic if inexperienced crew. It’s that fun, it’s that creative and ballsy despite all of its problems.
But that other 25%–that inexperience, that uninterested performance–definitely lets you know it’s there. Always. For every beautiful shot–for every cool death, for every “scream queen” it could make, for all the cool music and special effects–there’s something that comes along to fuck it all up. Not for too long. But often enough.
If Terrifier were a person, I’d probably be friends with it. We could hang out. Play Nintendo. But it’s like that sort of friend you gotta slap every now and then, tell them to cut that shit out.
And if you’re sitting there listening or reading this, and talking at me like I can hear you go on about how don’t have a friend like that? You’re that friend.
It’s cool, though. I’m probably that friend, too.
It’s not so bad.