By Steph Cannon
Menacing killer clowns certainly aren’t a unique concept in horror films, but that doesn’t matter. They’re continually ranked near the top of many lists as far as feared entities go, and are a staple in any Halloween season Haunt or costume store. While white-faced pioneers like Pennywise continue to reign supreme in the annals of Scary Clown-dom, there are others who have gained a cult following status over the years. Perhaps the best example of this is Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) from Damien Leone’s 2016 indie hit Terrifier.
Art’s sadistic brutality and mime-like comedic moments made him an instant hit with fans, who clamored to have more Art in their lives. Fortunately for them, Leone had more tricks up his sleeve, because Art is back, and he’s as merciless, bloodthirsty, and demented as ever.
Terrifier 2 re-introduces us to the crazed clown, but this time he has a sidekick; a deranged, demonic girl who resembles Art in makeup, costume, and demeanor. There’s really no definable reason for her to be in the story other than to add an extra layer of creepiness, but that could be said for a lot of aspects of this movie. Regardless, the duo sets their sights on teenager Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and her younger brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam), relentlessly tormenting them while filling in the rest of their spare time with a veritable bloodbath of killings.
As opposed to the original, this one takes its time (and it’s a considerable amount of time) in focusing on a more detailed storyline, though it all still feels base-level. The runtime is a bloated 138 minutes, which is not only unusual for a horror movie, it’s also unnecessary. Considering that the first installment was nearly an hour shorter, it really seems like Leone wanted to stuff this sequel with as many shocking, over-the-top moments as possible.
The kills truly are outrageous, with plenty of up-close, extended scenes showing every decapitation, evisceration, dismemberment, and blood spray in excruciating detail. The practical effects on these are impressive and fun, with enough authenticity to make the viewer cringe in both disgust and empathy.
If it wasn’t already apparent, Terrifier 2 isn’t for the faint of heart, as it legitimately is at a level 10 for violence and gore. Conversely, this should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Art and his exploits. This movie was made for those fans who can handle such savagery, and they certainly won’t be let down. The absolute buffet of slaughters aiming for the most sensational shock value possible is mind-boggling, but again, this is a movie that doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
Thornton is without a doubt the highlight of the entire film, providing a mesmerizing and entertaining performance that gives Art character and memorability. Considering he’s silent the entire time, relying solely on pantomimed physicality and comedic gestures, he genuinely plays a convincing and understandable role. There’s a certain depth that comes to acting with your body that can’t be understated and is reflected expertly here.
LaVera and Fullam also deliver commendable performances, and while their characters offer up a compelling reason to invest in and root for something within the story, more could be done with them with so much time on the clock. Yes, this isn’t really that type of movie, but it’s also trying to fit substance in amongst the bloodshed and gratuity, but veers off course while doing so.
Terrifier 2 doesn’t ever shy away from its true self, putting all its grotesque cards on the table with perverse exhuberism. Its extreme over-indulgence for the sake of impact and shock alone is truthfully something to be admired, as the cast, crew, and creators undoubtedly understood the assignment. After all, this is a slasher flick, and in no way is it ever attempting to disguise itself as anything else. If anything, the biggest handicap is that it suffers under its own weight, attempting to do too much at once, and in turn, it feels stale once the body counts reach the double-digit territory.
The takeaway after this viewing is that it's obviously for a certain type of audience. The lingering question is whether that’s enough for it to receive positive marks or not. Ultimately, in this case, it leans more toward being acceptable than it does being unwatchable. Most likely, anyone going into this is already going to be aware of what type of experience they’re about to have, and therefore will enjoy the hell out of it. If nothing else, most will be able to cringe through the difficult scenes enough to enjoy and appreciate Thornton’s magnetic performance and the intense practical effects. This is a new franchise that’s likely here to stay, so let’s all buckle up and enjoy the messy, insane ride.
TERRIFIER 2 will be in theaters on October 6, 2022 from Cinedigm in partnership with Iconic Events.