Why Terrifier’s Horrifying Return to Theaters May Ultimately Be a Disaster – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Why Terrifier’s Horrifying Return to Theaters May Ultimately Be a Disaster

Terrifier has become a polarizing horror film, with some fans praising its use of practical effects in sadistic kills reminiscent of 80s horror films, while others criticize its excessive violence at the expense of storytelling. With the release of Terrifier 2, which expands on the original and adds an additional fifty minutes to its runtime, the anticipation for the return of the original Terrifier to theaters is high, with about 700 theaters showing the film. However, there are concerns that the film’s focus on effects over story may result in disappointment for viewers.

Terrifier 2 was made in response to criticisms of the original, with a broader scope and higher ambitions that dazzled and horrified audiences. In contrast, the original Terrifier is primarily a showcase for creator Damien Leone’s special effects work and the character of Art the Clown, with little plot beyond a flash-forward in the beginning. While the film accomplishes its goal of showcasing Art’s violence, some feel that the lack of story and character development makes the film feel empty.

Comparing the two films, Terrifier 2 takes the series to new, ludicrously cruel extremes that may make the original feel underwhelming. The first film’s most notorious death scene doesn’t hit the same shock factor as the sequel’s equivalent, and the surrounding movie feels less ambitious. While the atmosphere is moody and unpleasant, the short runtime offers little beyond typical slasher fare.

Despite its flaws, the success of the Terrifier franchise shows that fans are drawn to the character of Art the Clown and his world of horrors. With a third film on the way, expectations are high for even bigger and badder misadventures. However, viewers should temper their expectations when seeing the original Terrifier in theaters, as the film’s focus on effects over story may leave them feeling disappointed.

Terrifier is as divisive as it is grotesque. Some people adore the chaotic killer clown saga as a return to the horror films of the 80s, heavily emphasizing the utilization of practical effects in some of the most sadistic kills put to film in recent memory. Others have denounced these films as being “excessive” in just about every way, sacrificing storytelling in lieu of obscene violence. It’s not as if they’re wrong. Arguably, that’s part of what drew people to Terrifier to begin with. Stories of Terrifier 2‘s infamous impact on audiences is the biggest example of this.

But following the success of Terrifier 2its decidedly-less ambitious predecessor, Terrifieris returning to theaters. About 700 theaters, to be exact, greatly surpassing its original limited run in terms of potential viewership. If you’re coming down from how wild and intense Terrifier 2 was, you may be excited to see where it all began on the silver screen. That is, before you leave feeling disappointed afterward. Terrifiers’ return to theaters could be a disaster, and there are some genuine reasons as to why.


Effects First, Story Second

Catherine Corcoran and David Howard Thornton in Terrifier (2016)
Dread Central


Terrifier 2 was made partially to address criticisms lobbed towards the original Terrifier. That alone should spark some red flags. Salvaging a concept for an “angel-dressed heroine” that couldn’t be used elsewhere, series creator Damien Leone decided to apply that concept to Terrifier 2making the film focused around the character of Sienna Shaw.

Its scope is broader, its ambitions are higher, and in a bold escalation from its grimy grindhouse roots, it dazzled and horrified wider audiences in equal measure. It’s a sequel that takes what originally worked in Terrifier and only adds to it — literally, as the sequel tacks on an additional fifty minutes to its runtime.

Related: Terrifier 2: Why It’s the Terminator 2 of Slasher Films

Compare this to the original Terrifier. It’s a movie with little in the way of plot, minus a flash-forward in the beginning that feels more like a non sequitur than anything else. Primarily, it was a movie explicitly made to showcase Leone’s special effects work and the character of Art the Clown. That’s not a critique; that’s straight from Leone himself. To be fair, he accomplishes this in spades and crafts a purposeful subversion of what you’d expect from a slasher film. It’s just that everything else is seemingly sacrificed as a result.

There’s admittedly a novelty in seeing David Howard Thornton do his thing, whether he pulls out a gun from seemingly out of nowhere or engages in some morbid silent comedy after committing a heinous act against humanity. There’s a nightmarish atmosphere throughout Terrifierwherein this wanton violence is unjustified, unkind, and unlucky to those who happen to end up in Art’s wake.

With how the film essentially switches protagonists halfway through, it feels more like we’re in Art’s world of horrors rather than the clown existing in our reality. But again, in the context of Terrifier 2there’s something “empty” about the whole experience. It’s just Art doing his thing, and that’s great in a vacuum, but we’ve seen it done better in Terrifier 2.

Does Terrifier Do Too Little?

David Howard Thornton as Art the Clown in Terrifier (2016)
Dread Central

Going back to Terrifier after the adventurous places Terrifier 2 took the series may make the first film feel a bit too minimalist, in comparison. Both films carry with them the same kind of blood-soaked terror that exploitation films thrived on, but Terrifier 2 takes things to such a ludicrously cruel extreme it borders on shocking hilarity. The key example here is the notorious “bedroom scene,” which we won’t describe for the sake of your stomach. Let’s just say that Terrifier 2 rubs salt in the wound via actually rubbing salt in a wound.

Related: Art the Clown: The True Story Behind the Terrifier Villain, Explained

Terrifierin comparison, feels a bit underwhelming. Even comparing the first film’s most notorious death scene to the sequel’s equivalent, it doesn’t really hit that horrible shock factor as hard. It’s quite an accomplishment to make the bisection of a woman feel “tame,” but it’s unfortunately not to the first film’s benefit. It doesn’t have much else to fall back on other than this feeling of visceral shock.

Even looking past the sole thing that the Terrifier films excel at, the surrounding movie feels a lot less ambitious when compared to Terrifier 2. Surreal dream sequences and wild world logic are tossed aside for a typical slasher set in a single building. Though its atmosphere is much more moody and unpleasant, its short runtime leaves little else for the viewer other than typical slasher fare.

There’s a need to justify the extended length of Terrifier 2and while some criticized this as being unnecessary, you can’t deny that there’s a deliberate attempt at doing something bigger with the franchise’s concepts.

All we’re saying is that Terrifier may not leave as much of an impact compared to the surprising notoriety that Terrifier 2 gathered. What should’ve been a simple tribute to a bygone era of horror for genre enthusiasts has somehow turned into a widely-known name. With a third film on the way, we can only expect things to get bigger and badder with Art’s next murderous misadventure. If you opt to see Terrifier in theaters, just be sure to temper your expectations. You may walk away feeling disappointed otherwise.

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