Terrifier 2 ’snarrative may be nonsensical, but the film is a bloody feast for gore hounds, thanks to its great practical effects and homages to B-horror pictures.
Many directors have tried to create horror villains that become icons, in the likes of Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger, Jason Vorhees, or Chucky. To stand out among the rest, these characters needed to have a haunting presence. In the 21st century, there have been a few horror villains that a lot of people know but that haven’t reached that status of being “icons,” such as Annabelle and Valak from The Conjuring universe or Sam from Trick ‘R Treat. But American director and special makeup effects artist Damien Leone may have finally done it with his 2011 villainous creation, Art the Clown. The character hasn’t appeared in that many films, unlike the aforementioned ones, but his presence is ultimately frightening and unique. Since he’s mime-like, Art uses facial expressions and mannerisms to deliver fear and trepidation onto the viewer before he dwells into his devilish mechanisms of torture and depravity. You would think he is yet another clown in a horror movie, but his presence is terrifying; his silence sends shivers down people’s spines.
The films he has been on may not be great pieces of work, but they deliver gifts that horror fans, especially gore hounds, highly enjoy. The latest movie Art the Clown has appeared in is the sequel to Terrifier, titled, well… Terrifier 2. This second installment into the Terrifier horror franchise comes with a few changes in its production, but not in its agonizing sledgehammer procedure, which is forged by heavy amounts of gore and multiple pails filled with crimson red. There’s a bigger budget and lengthier runtime (clocking in at a whopping yet unfelt two hours and eighteen minutes) this time around, both of which help Damien Leone and the rest of the crew add more creative splatter and other horror antics. Terrifier 2 delivers more of what people loved (and loathed) about the original, upping the ante and its shock factor.
I was quite excited to see the film; slashers of that length and canvas are rarely made. However, what intrigued me the most was the news that people were vomiting and fainting while watching it, not because of people having that reaction to the film but to the extent it occurred. I have heard of films doing that to the audience – my favorite movie of all time, Raw, caused people to faint during its various festival premieres – but not to that extent.
Terrifier 2 picks up immediately after the first one, where Art the Clown (David Howard Thorton) doesn’t waste any second in getting the kill count started – killing the coroner in the morgue brutally. Art the Clown later picks out every single item that would serve him as a weapon (scalpels, scissors, hammers, needles, sulfuric acid, amongst others) and goes to a laundromat so he can wash his costume. Here, we get the film’s first “dream” sequence; Art sees a little girl (Georgia MacPhail) dressed precisely like him. But the girl is a figment of Art’s imagination: the people around the villainous clown can’t see her, as the only ones who can are those who are being haunted by her presence. This is one of the creative liberties Leone takes by expanding the film’s runtime up to an hour.
With Terrifier 2, Leone wants to set up a sense of mysticality and Freddy Krueger-esque nightmare elements to Art’s character development. A year has passed since the last sighting of the mime-like murderer, but people are pretty obsessed with his look and presence – haunting the streets like a local boogeyman. Everybody wants to dress up as him for Halloween, including Jonathan (Elliott Fullam), the brother of the film’s heroine, Sienna (Lauren LaVera). Sienna and her mother are horrified by the thought of Jonathan dressing up as a serial killer, as they are both frightened by the killer’s actions last year. In addition, Sienna’s grieving the loss of her father, who gifted her a sword before he passed for some reason.
There’s a connection between the blade, Sienna’s father, and Art the Clown, but… what is it? This film doesn’t answer it, but you know which film will? Terrifier 3 (hopefully)! Many story threads are mangled up onto one another and intertwined with scenes of repulsive yet fascinating gore. Sequences where Sienna and her brother bicker about the purpose of her father’s sword transition into wildly concocted no-holds-barred murders by Art the Clown.
Occasionally, you question what is happening in the picture. It is pretty nonsensical: the narrative truly doesn’t make sense. Yet, Damien Leone has found a way to make the narratively ridiculous decisions pay off with entertaining and wince-inducing horror set-pieces. The practical effects in Terrifier 2 are bigger, bloodier, and way more brutal than before, which is very impressive, taking notice of what they have done with only a quarter-million-dollar budget. If you thought the previous installment (or the short that inspired it) was “a lot to handle”, the sequel expands what we saw before. Heads are blown off, limbs are torn, eyes are taken out, and hearts are torn (both figuratively and literally). Of course, it is gore done just for the sake of it, which might drive horror fans to watch it immediately, and others to avoid it. Still, what is most important is that it’s truly effective, unlike other nihilistic and ultraviolent pictures we have seen in the past couple of years. You are not only in awe by the makeup and practical effects in the kills, but you might flinch on occasion because of its sound design (shoutout to the foley artist).
I understand why people have reacted the way they did to this film. I would shout out “Ew!” at the screen because of the nastiness, but I followed it up with a “That’s really cool!” chant because the plastic corpses and bodies are really well-made. Another reason why Terrifier 2 ends up working is because of the performances. Of course, David Howard Thorton is excellent as Art the Clown: his facial expressions and mannerisms cause an equal measure of laughs and frights, a deadly combination for a horror villain. Lauren LaVera is a badass final girl and scream queen in the making. The first film lacked a strong hero that the audience should care about at the center of its story. People would get killed, and we wouldn’t care. Because of LaVera’s performance, there are dashes of sympathy added to the blood-filled screen. The script might need some work, but the actors do great work with what they are given and elevate the lacking lines delivered to them.
Terrifier 2 is utter chaos with a more self-aware comedic and visceral tone; it is funnier than one might anticipate. One specific scene highlights its self-conscious demeanor: the dream sequence in the clown’s cafe, aka. one of the most hilarious scenes in a horror movie this year. From the get-go, everybody watching knows what exactly they got themselves into, but that scene, in particular, makes it even more evident as it combines a kids’ show with a food truck commercial, having Art the Clown riding a tricycle while the people sing about “the food being funny in the clown’s cafe” – where there’s a cereal with glass, insects, and razor blades in it. With its ultraviolet demeanor and homages to the low-budgeted nonsensical 80s horror pictures, Terrifier 2 ends up being a bloody feast for gore hounds and midnight movie lovers. Leone uses the bigger canvas to indulge in sheer ambition, and it ends up working. And it never misses a beat nor feels like it drags; you never feel the runtime’s length.
If you don’t like splatter of any fashion or wince at bodily mutilations, this film definitely isn’t for you. However, I really enjoyed it, right down to David Howard Thorton’s performance as Art the Clown and the film’s quick Boy Harsher’s ‘Pain’ needle drop.
Terrifier 2 is out now on digital and on demand.