All Hallow’s Eve / Terrifier Review and Retrospective

By Robert Long II ©2018

Disclaimer: All stills, images and video are copyright of their individual owners. I am only using them here as visual aids to these film’s analysis.

Terrifier Credits

Written, Directed and Edited by Damien Leone

Special Makeup Effects by Damien Leone and team

Music by Paul Wiley

Cinematography by George Steuber

Produced by Phil Falcone

Starring David Howard Thornton, Jenna Kanell, Catherine Corcoran, Samantha Scaffidi, Pooya Mohseni, Margaret Reed, Katie Maguire, Sylvia Ward, Erick Zamora, Gino Caffarelli, Michael Leavy, Xiomi Frans-Cuber, Jason Leavy, Julie Asriyan, Cory DuVal, Steven Della Salla, Clifton Dunn, Gloria Jung, Ursula Anderman, Daniel Rodas, Joe Patrick Marshall, Matt McCallister, Alan Hasnas

WARNING – there are MAJOR SPOILERS ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie and want to go into it without knowing everything that will happen, stop now. See the movie and then come back to this review.

Do I recommend renting or buying TERRIFIER? Yes, Yes and YES! If you love horror, suspense and gore you will not be disappointed. Go out and do it now. Go go go go go go go go go!

Still here? Okay, just remember I am going to spoil the HELL out of this movie, so it’s your own damn fault if you go on from here. This is a retrospective, a review, and a detailed analysis of the movie TERRIFIER. Without further ado…

The term “throwback to the 1980s” gets bandied about when a new slasher movie comes out. Whether that is brought on by the makers of the movie or the distributors of the film is the question. I bring this up because Damien Leone’s TERRIFIER has been described as such. We’ll see if by the end of this article if it lives up to being so.

ALL HALLOWS EVE (2013)

To understand the evolution of Art the Clown, we have to go back in time. Art appeared in a couple of film shorts by Damien Leone. The first was The 9th Circle (2008) and the other was Terrifier (2011). These where later put together in an anthology called ALL HALLOWS EVE (2013). Additional footage (the middle story with the alien) was shot to bring it to a full length feature.

This all starts on Halloween night as a couple of kids and their babysitter (Katie Maguire) arrive home after trick or treating. The boy finds a VHS tape was put in his bag, and he pleads to watch it. The babysitter is hesitant, but relents.

This brings us to Leone’s first short THE 9TH CIRCLE (2008). A young woman is waiting for her underground train at a wait station on Halloween night. Art the clown comes in and sits opposite her. The clown does things to annoy her (yet never utters a word), and offers the young woman a red rose as a form of apology. Said rose has a huge bug in it and freaks the girl out. She tries to run, but Art grabs her and plunges a syringe into her arm. As she passes out, she notices that Art’s eyes glow. When she comes to, she finds herself in a concrete tunnel – chained up with other women to become a brood mother for a Satanic cult.

Art is played superbly by Mike Gianelli, and in his first appearance he appears more like a normal clown. Still the same type of costume and makeup, but no prosthetics. That would come later, giving Art a more hideous effect.

The babysitter puts the kids to bed before settling in front of the TV again with a glass of wine. This brings us to the second story (and the newest installment) that involves a woman being terrorized in her new house by an alien. Art only appears in this story in the form of a hideous painting at the end of the segment. (NOTE: this segment isn’t nearly as bad as other reviewers would have you believe.)

The movie cuts back to the babysitter, who thinks she glimpses the alien in the house she’s at. She goes upstairs to check on the kids. Seeing that they are okay, she heads downstairs – not noticing that the closet door has opened slightly.

In the last story, the viewer really gets to see what Art is capable of. A female costume designer is lost on Halloween night, and stops at a gas station to fill the tank get directions. She gets there just as the attendant is kicking Art out of the building. Apparently the clown peed all over the bathroom and wiped his feces on the wall. Art spots the woman staring at him, smiles, and walks off into the night.

The attendant turns his attention to the woman, apologizes, and gives her directions and gas. Suddenly they hear a sound from within the station, and the attendant goes off to investigate. After a few minutes, the woman goes to locate the attendant. Upon entering the office area, she finds Art sawing off the station employee’s head off. The clown smiles up at her as he does so. The costume designer runs out, vomits, and then puts the pedal to the metal to get away from the scene.

Trying to call the police, she finds her cell phone dead from low battery. She stares in horror as she sees Art ahead of her on the side of the road, hitch-hiking with a circus sign in his hands (very Twilight Zonish). This causes her to run off the road and for Art to catch up with her. Frantically, she gets back on the road, and the night turns into a sadistic cat-and-mouse chase between the woman and the clown.

While this woman puts up a good fight, in the end… Art wins out. She wakes up on a table. The first thing she notices is medical equipment. Trying to get up, she realizes to her shock and horror that she has been amputated above the elbow and knee joints. Further humiliation is in the form of words (pig, slut, etcetera) have been carved into her nude body. Did I forget to mention that her breasts have been removed and sewn up as well? The camera pulls back as the viewer sees the woman freaking out and Art laughing at her.

This is the point in the original TERRIFIER segment that hits the viewer like a sucker punch to the gut. Art is probably going to let this woman live, as he has physically destroyed her. He has demeaned her and ruined her life. I remember watching this and just stopping and saying “ART.YOU.FUCKING.BASTARD.” Well played, Mr. Leone. I cared about this person and you destroyed them. Very well played.

Now, there are a couple of weaknesses in ALL HALLOWS EVE. The first being a major detail in the wrap around. The kid is given a VHS tape in his trick or treat bag – in 2013. The ONLY device on the top of the television is a VHS player. Had there been a DVD player hooked up as well, and maybe a line thrown in like “My dad still has some old family videos on tape” it would have been a bit more credible.

The second point was the reveal at the end. The babysitter rushes into the bedroom to check on her charges, only to find their severed heads on the bed. The special effects heads were well done, but looked like they were covered in oil or Vaseline®, which made them look fake.

FINAL THOUGHTS: ALL HALLOWS EVE is a good first effort by Leone. An anthology of his previous horror shorts was a crafty move. Mixed in with a okay wrap around, and a new segment featuring an alien house invasion – it gets the job done. That job being introducing Art the Clown to the general public.

RATING: 5 OUT OF 10 BODY BAGS

TERRIFIER (2018)

Prologue: Viewed on a tiny TV set on a floor, a talk show host (Katie Maguire) has the survivor of a Halloween massacre on the program to talk about her attacker – a serial killer only known as Art the Clown. The lone survivor was hideously mutilated by the killer, and has only one eye, no lips and no face to speak of. This visibly disturbs the host. At this point a large clown shoe kicks in the TV Screen.

After the program the host is in her dressing room, talking to her boyfriend about the tragic character she just interviewed. There is a noise behind her and she goes to investigate. Suddenly she is attacked by the crazed lone survivor and is immensely disfigured. The survivor cackles with glee.

Cue titles and credits.

Halloween night. Art (David H. Thornton) is wandering down the street with his Hefty® bag of mayhem when he walks upon two very drunk young women – Tara Heyes (Jenna Kanell) and her friend Dawn (Catherine Corcoran). They appear to have left a Halloween party and are trying to get into Dawn’s car. Dawn – being the drunker of the two – yells at Art and jokingly propositions him. Uh oh. She got Art’s attention. Not a good move.

The girls decide to sober up by going to a late night pizzeria to try to soak up some of the booze with some food. The clown follows them in and sits across the store from them. When they notice him Art goes into his mime antics, tipping his hat and such. Dawn decides to take a few selfies with Art and sits on his lap with her phone, snapping away. Hmmm, I wonder if this is going to come back to bite her in the ass? Tara is paranoid of Art. The clown gets thrown out after refusing to order anything AND wiping feces all over the bathroom.  Once they feel it’s safe to, the ladies leave the pizza joint. Art WILL follow, but first he has to kill the restaurant employees.

Upon reaching Dawn’s car, the two women find that they have a flat tire. Tara calls her sister Vickie (Samantha Scaffidi) and asks if she can pick both of them up. As they sit waiting in the car, Tara wonders if Art could be responsible for the flat, but Dawn just laughs it off, calling him “harmless.”

It is at this point where all hell breaks loose for these three women and the monster of mirth, Art the Clown.

I won’t go into all the details right now, but the rest of the film turns into a hellish cat-and-mouse chase in an abandoned apartment tenement between the clown and his prey.

G, PG, PG-13, R? A movie rating for what happens in this movie? Good Lord, it would be at least an NC-17. The stabbings are vicious, beheadings, etcetera are top notch. The highlight of the visceral effects is when Art cuts a victim in two, starting with their private parts. Yeah, some people are going to be looking away from the screen when these scenes are on.

LET’S TALK ACTING

David H. Thornton plays Art the Clown as a serial killing Harpo Marx. Art is a psychotic Charlie Chaplin of murderous mime. Any minute the clown is on screen, the viewer’s attention is drawn to him. A trained New York theater actor, Thornton plays the character as a skin crawling sadist; Art is truly evil incarnate.

He is totally immersed in the role. Paying great respect to Mike Gianelli’s portrayal of Art, David adds more twists to the character than a cork screw. As art is mute, all the expressions and acting must be done with his face and his body language. Thornton does this superbly.

Art is played as an incredibly egotistical narcissist. After drugging one victim he rolls his head and eyes as if to say “Big whoop. Been there – done that.” He goes to kill a victim with a gun. When he runs out of bullets, he throws his hands into the air as if to say “Can you believe this shit?” and shuffles off to get another gun clip. Towards the end, the cops come upon him and order him to surrender. Art just sighs with a look of annoyance as if to say “Great. This again.”

Lastly, David plays Art as a clown. There are some truly funny moments. Not for his victims, but for the audience. Art busts through the double doors of a building with a pickup truck. When it comes to a stop, he can be seen honky tonk be-bopping to the country music playing on the truck’s radio. It reminded me of Billy Zane’s character The Collector from TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON NIGHTS.

Oh, and while we get some nice female nudity courtesy of Catherine Corcoran, there is also something for the ladies. Art does a Buffalo Bill scene (think SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) so we get – Art’s ass. Knowing that David has a vapid female fan base, I’m sure they will wear out that part of the Bluray rewinding that scene.

Besides David H. Thornton’s masterful turn as the murderous clown, I feel the strongest character is Tara Heyes as portrayed by Jenna Kanell (The Bye Bye Man). She is very believable as a person uneasy with Art, which leads to what feels like genuine horror on her part once the nasty Pandora’s box has been opened. Kanell has been compared to Neve Campbell and I can see it. She’s the Neve Campbell of this generation. As Tara she’s smart, she’s physical, she fights back and she wants to make it out alive. Tragically… that doesn’t happen.

After Art has done his gruesome magic show trick on Dawn, he advances over to the tied down Tara as if to say “Thanks for watching the show! I need a volunteer from the audience. How about you?” However, Tara has gotten free and back hands Art with the arm of a chair.  She stabs him in the back and high tails it into another section of the building.

Art recovers, grabs a butcher knife and goes out to find Tara. Tara’s grabbed a little something of her own – namely a 2″x4″ wood plank.Catching him by surprise, she then proceeds to beat the living crap out of the clown, taunting him to get back up on his feet. As Art struggles to do so, he manages to pull out a gun – and shoots Tara in the thigh.

This is a slasher and I’m not going to call foul. Art is a serial killer and he’s not going to play fair. Yes, I’d rather guns never were used as weapons in these type of movies. Why? They are lethal but boring. However to give Director Leone credit he makes this as horrendous as possible. Art proceeds to empty the clip into Tara’s face and her eye sockets.

It was at this point as a viewer that my heart broke. Much like I felt terrible for the fate of the woman in the original TERRIFIER, I felt our strongest audience avatar for this film had just fallen. Plus Art isn’t done with her… Again I will say it, “ART.YOU.FUCKING.BASTARD.”

The character of Dawn is well acted by Catherine Corcoran (Return to Nuke-em High reboot), but is somewhat underwritten and has one of the weakest lines in the movie. In the pizzeria scene she jokingly scoffs at Tara’s suspicions of Art, stating “What? Do you think he was going to cut me into little pieces?” Considering her fate (getting sawed in half) it’s not so much clever or cute as it is way too on the nose. In the 80s it wouldn’t have mattered as much, but to today’s movie viewer it comes off as too meta.

Plus Dawn is written in such a way – a drunk, ditzy blonde – that she should have showed up on screen with DOA rubber-stamped on her forehead. As a viewer I was thinking “Oh honey, you are going to get so many people killed tonight.” That’s exactly what ends up happening.

Actress Samantha Scaffidi (Demon Hole) makes up the third member of terrorized women as Tara’s sister Victoria. She is coming to the rescue of her sibling and doesn’t know she’s already dead. In some ways Victoria’s story is the most tragic of all the characters. She’s trying to do her sister a solid, and what started as an act of kindness turns into a nightmarish bloodbath.

Upon entering the building she discovers Dawn’s remains, gets stalked relentlessly by the sadistic mirth maker, and stumbles upon the dead body of her sister. She doesn’t even get a minute to grieve before Art is attacking her again like a rabid dog. Luckily for her Mike the exterminator arrives on the scene and clocks the clown. He then helps Victoria to a secure room with a working phone.

The cops have been called and are on their way, bit Mike makes the mistake of wanting to get Victoria to an ER. This means leaving the secured room. As described later… things don’t go well for Mike. Victoria is left to fend for herself. Art runs her over with a truck and then proceeds to start eating her face when the police bust in on him.  Rather than surrender, Art “commits suicide” and the cops radio in that Vickie is still alive.

That’s right, The disfigured survivor on the talk show at the beginning is Victoria Heyes, one year later after the massacre, disfigured, shunned, and finally snapping into insanity. The movie has come full circle and I do applaud it for that cleverness. As to actress Samantha Scaffidi, major kudos for a job well done.

Actor Pooya Mohseni portrays the homeless lady that lives in the abandoned apartment building. She comes off as a bit loony as she carries a doll around with her that she treats as a real live child. She plays it as she is not completely bonkers, and I appreciate that. The lady does know what an incredible real threat Art is and tries to warn Mike. She even has an incredible scene with Art in a tunnel as she begs for the life of her “child.” Well done, Pooya, great job.

Actor Matt McAllister (Vinyl) plays the male protagonist of the story as Mike the exterminator. He is the one that lets Tara into the apartment building so that she can take a bathroom break. Matt plays the character as likable, believable and competent. He’s there to do his job (ridding the building of rats) and treats Tara and Victoria with respect, concern and kindness. He doesn’t leer or come off as a creep. When he finds out about the killer clown he steps up to the plate to take his best shot at him. Unfortunately he is no match for the serial killer. I give McAllister high marks and was glad he got a decent amount of screen time.

The rest of the cast is great and give solid performances. Sylvia Ward, Erick Zamora, Gino Caffarelli, Michael Leavy and the rest of the actors have much to be proud of.

LET’S TALK EFFECTS

There is much slashing and cutting and sawing in TERRIFIER. Ol’ Art does love his beheadings, but his true show stopper is the sawing of Dawn in half starting at – well – her private parts. She is bound and gagged, hanging upside down… when the clown takes a bone saw to her. She is alive and screaming for mere moments as her guts spill out. The replica they used for actress Catherine Corcoran is extremely well down and highly detailed.

Matt McAllister’s character literally goes through hell in the movie and gets increased head trauma as Art curb stomps him during a climatic battle. It is well done, it’s grotesque, and Leone and his makeup crew delivered in spades.

MAJOR STRENGTHS

One of Leone’s strengths – aside from his incredible makeup skills – is his talent to write likable characters. That coupled with the fact that his projects are cast well makes for quite the adventure for the viewing audience. We are brought along on his Horror coaster, feeling for the characters because we don’t want to see them harmed. Even a character like ditzy blonde Dawn we want to see survive – we just wish she knew when to keep her damn mouth shut. She’s a lover of life, the fun party girl, and she ends up getting it the worst. This is so refreshing considering that these days the audience only gets characters on the screen they HOPE die.

George Steuber‘s lighting and cinematography is nothing short of absolutely amazing. The colors and shadows are rich, we get camera pans and clever camera angles. People that say this movie looks flat need to get their eyes checked.

Paul Wiley‘s synth music score fits the movie like a hand in a glove. Atmospheric and creepy and heightens the scenes it plays under. I believe there is a soundtrack album out (on vinyl!) so if you can find it – buy it! The music is THAT good.

Damien Leone‘s writing and direction is pretty damn good. Except for the few minor things I have sited in the quibbles section, there is just a sense of a solid story and sharp direction behind the camera. He is definitely growing as a storyteller.

The unsung hero of the movie is producer Phil Falcone. He seriously saved Leone’s bacon by bankrolling the majority of the movie. And from everything I have heard – he was no arm chair producer. He was on set helping every step of the way, believing in the project and Leone’s vision. We need more producers like this.

Reviewers have talked a lot about the set design. From what I have heard, there wasn’t much – if anything – that was done to the locations. The locations were that trashed out. Where I think credit is due and where the production got clever is that the variety of locations presented – from a hospital to a warehouse to a TV station to a morgue – may have been filmed at the same couple of locations – to get the most bang for the buck.  Now that is smart filmmaking.

QUIBBLES, NITPICKS AND OBSERVATIONS

Acting wise, I for one feel this is very solid, with all actors giving it their best. There is one scene however that felt tonally uneven. It’s the scene where Tara and Art have their battle royale. I think this MAY have been one of the first scenes shot (movies are shot out of order). The reason I say that is after what Tara has just been through – forced to watch her friend get sawed in half and die – I don’t feel the anger, hysteria and sorrow were amped up enough. We should have smeared mascara and blurry-teared eyes, shuddering and sobbing, anger shot to level 12 and gutteral screaming when Tara attacks Art.

What would have helped is to take a tip from the master of horror – John Carpenter. When making HALLOWEEN, he had it written into every scene for Jamie Lee Curtis what her level of hysteria was. Sometimes a 4, sometimes all the way to 10. This made it possible for the actress to give a consistent emotional level while shooting the film out of order.

So in this instance, I think the directing wasn’t strong enough for that scene. I have full confidence that Jenna Kanell could have pulled it off, it was just too early in the shoot and the emotions from the scene previous to this just were not present.

• One of the first attacks happens to the pizza employee. Art hacks part of his hand off. While he does howl in pain, he looks up at Art to see what he’s going to do next. Now, I’ve had extreme hand trauma and believe me – you are too busy doing the pain dance to react to anything else happening around you.

• In his Buffalo Bill sequence, whose scalp is Art wearing? I know it’s implied that he’s wearing the Homeless Lady’s, but she still had the hair on the side of her head, and Art is sporting a full head of hair.

• The effects are overall great. However the skinned chest of the Homeless Lady wasn’t that convincing. As one other reviewer put it, the remains of her breasts looked like chewed up bubble gum, and I kind of have to agree. It did look a little like melted Laffy Taffy.

• Art’s rusty hacksaw must have had a titanium blade in it for him to be able to cut through all of Dawn’s bones, organs, ribcage, and muscles – not to mention her spine.

• Considering the blood, stomach bile and exposed organs, wouldn’t Vickie have smelled the remains of Dawn well before she spotted them?

• Why did Victoria escape from the building only to go right back into it?

NOW, before you heap ridicule on me for pointing these things out, remember – in the end I loved this movie and heartily endorse it. This is just things to make notice of that can be improved upon in the next adventure.

A POSSIBLE BACKSTORY FOR ART

What is the possible back story to Art the Clown? Here are my thoughts. First off let me say that I would prefer that Art was strictly a true psychopath in the reality of the world he lives in, and not a being with supernatural elements to him. However, if he is to be more than human, this is how it might have all happened…

Art was originally Dr. Arthur McCullen, a noted New York plastic surgeon. Unfortunately, after one night of heavy partying, he went in the next morning to do an operation on a patient, only to completely botch up the job. The face work turned out horrendously. This would mean ruin for the doctor. A malpractice suit, loss of his license, and a disgraced reputation.

That evening while contemplating suicide, the doctor was visited by the Devil. Satan offered him a deal; the malpractice situation would be wiped completely away. In return the doctor had to – from dusk till dawn – on Hallows Eve – murder and mutilate as many people as possible. Desperate, Dr. McCullen accepted.

So every Halloween, a strange transformation occurs. Dr. McCullen’s facial features become grotesque, he smears on black and white makeup, and dons an outlandish costume. Dr. McCullen disappears, and Art the Clown comes forth.

Art is granted with some limited powers. He can teleport up to 12 times during his murder spree, and he is granted with increased strength and endurance. While he can be wounded, by the end of the evening he will return to the form of Dr. McCullen, completely intact.

He is heavily limited in some respects. He lives in the physical realm and has to find or make his on Earthbound weaponry (usually in the form of butcher knives or medical instruments) in his basement hideaway. He roams the streets of New York on foot, slinging his weapons over his shoulder in a large Hefty® bag. He cannot cackle in glee or laugh, as he is also rendered mute.

Now of course this is all well and good – but it’s all speculation on my part. One thing I know about artists is that they are very protective of the characters they create. Leone and Thornton are in discussions about the sequels. They may read this and say “neat idea” but already have something else planned. Still, it’s fun to think about.

WHERE DOES DAMIEN LEONE GO FROM HERE?

Damien Leone’s TERRIFIER is a legitimate hit. So where does he need to go from here?

Interestingly enough, this situation strikes me as similar to Canadian movie maker Ryan Nicholson. Both are incredibly gifted makeup effects technicians, and both Leone’s TERRIFIER and Nicholson’s GUTTERBALLS are loaded with nudity and graphic violence. GUTTERBALLS even has a very solid rape/revenge story to it. They have pushed and ripped the envelope so to speak. However this is also a bit of a turning point for both.

Unfortunately the weakness in Nicholson’s work is that his characters drop the F bomb every other minute. This gets old very, VERY fast. It also presents several of his characters as similar and one note. If he was to break out to a bigger audience, it’s not so much that he has to tone down the nudity or violence, but he does have to write his characters better.

Where does this leave filmmaker Damien Leone? Well, he’s finally gotten his vision of TERRIFIER out there; a madcap roller coaster of nudity and violence in 82 minutes. However, if he is to do sequels, he will have to give the audience more story. He can’t just go back to the well and have Art be a complete cypher for a second, third, or fourth go. Maybe there has to be a reoccurring protagonist that shows up to battle the clown. Maybe Art gets stalemated at the end of his murder spree and has to disappear until next Halloween.

Anyway what I am saying is that the next entries need to be more robust story-wise. Otherwise it will start having the effect of diminishing returns, and no one wants that for Leone and company.

FINAL THOUGHTS: So to wrap this all up, I will say this to filmmaker Damien Leone; your ALL HALLOWS EVE was an admirable Freshman attempt. TERRIFIER is a solid Sophomore production. Now knock it out of the park with your Junior and Senior productions of the sequels. It IS a throwback to the 1980s slasher, while flirting just a little with torture porn. Homages to Halloween, Nightmare on Elm St and other horror classics are sprinkled throughout the movie.

Oh, and a word to the wise to Epic Pictures, Dread Central and Damien Leone; if you should find anyone uploading your movies to torrents; find them – sue them – destroy them. Big or small budget, movies are a lot of work. Everyone deserves to make a living.

TERRIFIER FINAL RATING: 9 out of 10 Body Bags

Watch TERRIFIER on VOD HERE

Buy TERRIFIER on Bluray/DVD HERE

Link to David Howard Thornton’s Interview

Link to Jenna Kanell’s Interview

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