Terrifier 2 Review: Raises the bar in its brutality, bloodshed, and craftmanship
For horror fans, there have been a lot of reasons to celebrate this year with the incredible films, both big franchises and fresh originals, that have delivered great scares and strong theater experiences. None though are the embodiment of that success like Terrifier 2 is since it’s a cult horror flick breaking out in grand, bloody, and gruesome fashion.
Damien Leone hit big with horror fans with his 2016 feature directorial debut Terrifier, which contained tons of insanely gory bloodshed courtesy of instant classic horror villain Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton). While the film was more concept than anything concrete story-wise and didn’t have the budget to be anything more than a sleeper streaming hit, it resonated with the horror community for its throwback feel to grimy grindhouse horror and being something truly unique in the modern horror space. With a sequel and the complete support of the horror fanbase, which helped finance the film through a crowdfunding campaign, Leone pulls out all the stops in delivering a sequel that’s everything fans would want and more, especially when it comes to the gore.
By God, no horror killer has ever been both so surprisingly charming and immensely disturbing as Art the Clown is in Terrifier 2. Those that have seen the first film certainly remember the saw kill and if you thought that was an unforgettably horrifying moment, Terrifier 2 goes above and beyond in its depravity and Art’s brutality. Art isn’t like most other horror killers in that he’s less fun and playful in his kills and way more mean-spirited and relentless. There are unforgettable moments sheerly because of how shocking they are, and Leone’s never been more twisted in his splatter horror. It’s an excellent showcasing of visual effects, especially since most of them are practical, and you’ll constantly feel your stomach churning in disgust at all the bloodshed you’re seeing on-screen.
Not to mention, the camera never pans away from Art the Clown’s grotesque “artistry” so the main thought you’ll be thinking throughout is “Art, you nasty.” The excess blood and gore will certainly be too much for some to bear and make Terrifier 2 tough to recommend to a wider audience, but in terms of it being an ode to the classic splatter subgenre of horror and a strong showing of off the charts practical effects, Terrifier 2 is a masterclass of horror. Yet, somehow Art isn’t a total turnoff as a character and, in the same vein as the Joker, can make viewers charmed and even laugh at his twistedness. Even when he’s his most vile, there’s still something about Art that’s immensely compelling and makes you more engaged every time he shows up.
Maybe it’s that there’s always that lingering curiosity of what Art could possibly do next or that Thornton’s commitment to his craft is so charming and impressive to watch. Thornton will easily go down as one of the most memorable horror performers of all-time for his performance here and Leone is just so confident in his craft that he knows exactly how to position Art to be a total treat. The settings Art finds himself in, including a Halloween store filled with nods to other clown killers to a horror theme park with a ride featuring the iconic title, allow him to be that kind of fun killer that horror fans always enjoy and have some creativity in his carnage.
Best of all though is that Terrifier 2 is a massive improvement over the original with its story and characters. In the first film, the story was incredibly thin, and the characters were obnoxiously and tough to love. Here though, the story is very solid with it following a young teen named Sienna (Lauren LaVera) as she becomes terrorized by Art after he returns from his Halloween massacre the year prior. LaVera’s performance is surprisingly strong here with her bringing some good emotion and sensibility to Sienna’s mindset. Sienna is far from just being a clumsy character waiting to be killed and actually features some great story moments that see her rise to be a strong opponent for Art. Her connection with her Art-obsessed brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) and her easily angered mother (Sarah Voigt) make for good personal threads throughout and Leone’s dialogue writing has massively improved.
To be fair, the story isn’t anything too special and does have some noticeable shortcomings. The story threads surrounding Sienna’s dad and his drawings don’t really go anywhere and are sadly underutilized. Plus, while the addition of the Pale Girl (Amelie McLain) gives Art a terrifying and equally fun friend, her presence in the story feels confusing and adds to the film struggling to distinguish reality from fantasy. However, there’s a lot of props that have to go to Leone for improving his craft and building a horror world worth talking about. The nods the film has to the first film will be easily appreciated by fans and will definitely entice newcomers to check it out. The settings give Art unique kind of playgrounds to paint the screen red. Even while the lore its building doesn’t always connect well or line up, it’s hard not to respect the vision Leone has for this world and his execution in bringing it all to life.
Terrifier 2 isn’t necessarily put together perfectly nor is it the easiest watch or recommendation for wider audiences, but it totally owns its identity to be the most uniquely satisfying watch for fans of the horror genre this year. Leone and Art the Clown are a gory and grotesque force in the genre that deserve their respects as they return to deliver a stronger showing of story and characters with the help of LaVera and heavily up the ante in the gore department with award-worthy effects that redefine the splatter sub-genre in awesome ways. If you can stomach all the gushing gore and the disturbing nature of Art or feel the need to test your grit, then Terrifier 2 is an absolute must-watch.
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