Terrifier

Terrifier is a video nasty throwback: a lurid, squalid, and brutal affair. It’s even gorier than the last uber-violent killer clown movie we’ve seen, the wonderful Irish horror, Stitches (a movie with an unfurled ocular assault that made its way into our book, Death by Umbrella, though it was actually the killer umbrella in Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 that inspired the title).

Terrifier’s clown is a leaner, meaner, emaciated, commedia del’arte Captain Spaulding. And man is he terrific. David Howard Thornton thoroughly and completely embodies Art the Clown, easily one of the most uniquely, and yes, “terrifying” horror antagonists to come down the pike in a long, long time. His birdlike fidgeting and prominent gums make for a revolting and memorable spectacle.

A lone survivor is recounting Art’s exploits on some sleazy investigative journalism show. Then we’re on on the streets and back alleys of Anytown, USA on Halloween. It’s dark, largely abandoned, and its mise en scène recalls the desolate Brooklyn boulevards of Bill Lustig’s Maniac.

Two young women are being accosted by a clown, who follows them into a pizza parlor after slashing the tires on their car. Since they’re both inebriated, one of the girls calls their sister to come pick them up. Then, their hell night ends up in a creepy warehouse that’s being fumigated by pest contractors who for reasons unexplained, don’t bother to wear protective masks (but that’s another story entirely).

The rest is dour nighttime stalk-and-slash, and there are some terrific and truly surprising set pieces, including a truly vicious kill can only be described as “too brutal by half” (no spoilers here). Some sinister stuff indeed.

However, Terrifier somewhat unravels by failing to follow the “less is more” ethos when it comes to showcasing the killer. When there’s an antagonist this fearsome and foreboding, his impact is diminished by keeping the camera on him for so long. It’s something John Carpenter understood in the first Halloween, but what David Gordon Green fails to grasp in the new one. Here, there is just too much Art, almost Art for Art’s sake.

While the rest of the film doesn’t entirely coalesce around him, there’s enough marrow on this bone to more than satisfy gorehounds.

***1/2 (out of 5)

Bohemian Rhapsody

When it comes to their approach to Bohemian Rhapsody, there’s a wack of critics who’d probably confuse beach reading with Tolstoy, if Rotten Tomatoes is to be believed.

The world’s most fan-friendly band deserves a fan-friendly movie, and Bohemian Rhapsody is just that. Critics, who seem to delighting in the phrase, “is this the real thing, or is this just fantasy,” as if they’ve discovered a new element of the periodic table, are missing the mark: needlessly nitpicking timelines, bellyaching about whether the movie accurately depicts Freddie’s sexuality or descent into debauchery (as if that, rather than insights into the creative process, is something more interesting to an audience expecting to see the story of Queen) and ruminating about the use of CG for crowd scenes (we’ve got news for you: wrangling 10,000 extras to recreate Wembley stadium ain’t in the cards).

Bohemian Rhapsody (as it should be), is performance-driven in terms of musicality and thespianism. Rami Malek’s incredible physicality is more than enough to carry the day. He fills out Freddie’s wife-beater and makes the mercury rise. See guys, two can play at the Queen pun-game.

Yes, the beats are often Behind the Music, yes the “clap clap stomps” that inspired “We Will Rock You” are so cheesy they should be grated on bruschetta, and yes the band members not initialed F.M. fade into the background more than they should…but there’s no denying (despite what you’ve read elsewhere) that this is an immensely enjoyable popcorn movie.

Mike Myers is cracking as a nay-saying EMI exec who bought into Pink Floyd’s excesses but balked at Queen’s. Aaron McCusker (of the original, superior UK version of Shameless) is sweetly endearing as Mercury’s love interest, Jim.

Is the Freddie characterization too straight, too gay, not bi enough, not gay enough? He could’ve been defined in life, so leave him alone in death.

Will you get more subtext than text about what made him tick? Hardly. But what you’ll come away with is the rush of being able to experience the rise to fame of one of the world’s greatest bands, if you were too young to experience it the first go-round.

And for a supersonic talent like Freddie Mercury, that’s tribute enough.

On with the show.

***1/2 (out of 5)