Art the killer clown returns to crank up the coulrophobia in a genuinely epic slaughterhouse of a sequel. A marathon of mutilation so phenomenally vicious and gleefully sadistic it single-handedly redraws the bloody boundary lines of the slasher genre.
Mysteriously resurrected a year on from his infamous murder spree Art revisits his old homicidal haunting ground of Miles County to exact an obscene campaign of ultra-violence. The primary focus of his rabid bloodbath appears to be Sienna and Jonathan, a teenager, and her little brother who are already plagued with grief over a family suicide.
Hidden in plain sight by the trappings of Halloween, Art has carte blanche to torment his vulnerable quarry and slay the complete living shitstains out of anyone who stands in his way. And plenty of people that don’t.
2 hrs 20 minutes and beyond, wrestling fans will want to hold on for a post-credit surprise, is a big attention span ask for any horror flick, let alone a slasher. Terrifier 2 is longer than Aliens, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and Forrest Gump. Director Damien Leone, yes the film is longer than some of his famous namesake’s westerns, attributes its mammoth run time to the repayment of fan loyalty. He was determined to bestow Art aficionados and Indiegogo investors with a movie worthy of their support and affection.
Well, Mr. Leone can rest easy on his carcass-draped laurels because although Terrifier 2 follows a similar blueprint to the original, it ups the intensity and gore to a whole new level of brutality. For many fans, it’s about the mime-based dark physical humour of the psychopathic Pierrot more than the elaborate kills and that has been upgraded and extrapolated to please them too.
3 years in the making Leone’s movie is ambitious on many levels. The body count is dispersed evenly to create an ebb and flow rhythm of carnage that allows us to steady our stomachs and anticipate the next outrageous set-piece. However, the runtime is such that the cruel clown risks exhausting his supply of viable fodder to fuck up. Cue a clever dream sequence sing-a-long at the Clown Cafe that will leave you with both an insidious earworm and a hideous mental scar of child killing.
There are a few nods to other horror films, such as An American Werewolf In London and The Shining, but Terrifier 2 refuses to allow its frenzied modus operandi to be overshadowed. Instead, it bristles with the unerring confidence that its own audacious trajectory will be the one to be parodied, referenced, and copied for years to come. Not since Laugier’s legendary Martyrs has a movie swaggered across the screen with such unwavering confidence in its anarchic agenda.
Arguably the most shocking and unexpected element of Terrifier 2 is the quality of the acting. Many levelled criticism at its predecessor on account of its rustic performances. Well, not this time. It is beautifully cast and even the plethora of side victims are disarmingly fleshed out before having it hacked and flayed back off again.
The two siblings in the eye of Art’s terror twister, are portrayed superbly by Lauren LaVera and Elliott Fullam.
Sienna is a street-smart young lady who uses costume building to blank out the pain of her father’s traumatic demise. LaVera gives her just the right amount of geeky charm to keep her relatable and sympathetic. The actress is also an accomplished martial artist so when the role becomes more physical she has no qualms about getting her hands bloody.
Jonathan is a quiet lad with some shady interests such as Nazis and Art the clown himself. Fullam keeps his performance grounded and naturalistic showing acute awareness of both timing and tone of delivery. He is already a hugely successful YouTuber and being a major part of the cult movie of the year will do his blossoming career no harm at all.
Also fabulous is Sarah Voigt as their stressed-out mom who is so caught up in trying to protect her kids that she hasn’t processed her own heartbreak. It is a nuanced depiction that rises above cliché and helps humanise a movie that is otherwise fixated on debasement.
Of course, many horror junkies will be excited to see how the character of Art has been developed and David Howard Thornton is more than up to the task. The quirky awkwardness and Chaplinesque eye rolls are still there, but it’s a cleaner more subtle performance that draws even more on the expressive techniques of mid-1920s silent cinema. However, when Art punches the beast mode button he is even more kinetically nasty and primordially savage than before.
Thornton is helped by a further addition to his fold for him to riff off. This new character will spark much narrative controversy and inspire the dress-up choice of a generation of Halloween partygoers.
There is a particular murder set piece in Terrifier 2 that will surely gain a place in horror film lore. It is so uncomfortable to witness that it is bound to court a degree of distaste. The plain fact of the matter is that the major atrocities lovingly depicted in the film are perpetrated on beautiful young women.
I am not judging, nor criticising, after all, most people signing up for the second instalment of Art’s antics are fully aware that a girl is hacksawed in half from vagina to cranium in the first flick. Additionally, is it not just Art’s evil nature to attack this demographic as showcased in the original? That being said, you can’t just unleash a femicidal freight train like this and not expect at least some debate on misogyny in genre-specific cinema.
The film attempts to redress the gender balance with a juicy genital gag, but that too could be perceived as problematic. Both in the sense that somehow violence can be counterbalanced by apportionment and in that the film itself suspected there was a morally dubious asymmetry in the first place.
Art already has a legion of devotes out there in horror land, indeed no other screening in the exalted history of Frightfest has sold out quicker. In terms of offering a highly upgraded product to fans, Terrifier 2 is an irrefutable triumph.
Utterly merciless and profoundly spiteful this unrelenting conveyor belt of suffering marks the coming of age of a chilling horror icon for our times.
Extreme Splatter Horror, Supernatural Mystery | USA, 2022 | Cert. You must be joking | 140 mins | Bloody Disgusting| Dir. Damien Leone | With: Lauren LaVera, Owen Myre, David Howard Thornton, Sarah Voight
Terrifier 2 is due for a theatrical release on October 6, 2022