My eyes are still seared from the carnage on display in Terrifier 2, an unflinching sequel that ups the ante from the original film in every way, cementing Art the Clown as the baddest clown and possibly most vicious slasher in movie history, and introducing a new genre hero for the ages.
We will keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but just know that the shocks begin early in Terrifier 2, as a significant new character is introduced in the first act, immediately signaling that writer/director/makeup effects maestro Damien Leone is not playing by any preconceived rules of what a sequel should or should not be.
Leone lingers on the gore, soaking his audience in blood and misery unlike anything that would ever be found in a major studio release, and he takes some big swings in the story, effectively expanding the mythology of Art and opening up windows into a much wider universe. This is not a sequel that simply follows in the same footsteps as its predecessor, but rather cuts a new, more daring path.
David Howard Thornton inhabits Art the Clown with more weirdness and creepiness, fully owning the role that he took over in 2018’s Terrifer after Art had previously been played by Mike Giannelli in Leone’s 2013 anthology All Hallows’ Eve and the two short films that preceded it.
There is a lot more of Art on screen this time, giving Thornton full reign to explore such unexpected playful reactions sometimes that it forces a nervous tension-breaking laughter, as the viewer knows that surely something terrible is about to happen, even as we’re watching Art doing something seemingly “normal.” But of course Art is anything but a typical slasher, and he in fact tends to not kill so much as he horribly mutilates to the point where his victims wish they were dead. The glee he finds in his work is made only the more terrifying by his total silence, and yet Thornton’s Art is speaking throughout the film, albeit not vocally.
Terrifier 2‘s most effective weapon is definitely the introduction of the new character Sienna, the light to Art’s darkness, played in a star-making performance by Lauren LaVera. Sienna is introduced making her handcrafted angel warrior Halloween costume, a scene that mirrors Art’s introduction while at his own work table in the beginning of the previous film, making a nice visual link foreshadowing a deeper connection than some viewers will be expecting. Both Sienna and LaVera will be household names soon,.
While there are moments of gore within Terrifier 2 that will scar the brain, the climactic final act will undoubtedly leave viewers talking about Sienna’s ascension to the pantheon of horror heroines, where she’ll be remembered alongside names like Laurie Strode, Ellen Ripley, and Sarah Conner.
Elliott Fullam is relatable and real as Sienna’s younger brother Jonathan, curious about the Miles County massacre and planning to dress as Art for Halloween, and Sarah Voigt brings a welcome real-word gravity to the role of Sienna’s mom, Barbara, that most typical parent parts in other slashers would not take the time to show. This is a family still recovering and coping with a recent tragedy, and just beginning to unlock a mystery that may or may not tie them all to Art the Clown himself.
Leone’s writing is better here, especially with the strained family dynamics of this now-single mother raising her teenaged kids, with much of the dialogue feeling more natural and real than in the previous film. We get to learn much more about Sienna and where she is in her life prior to encountering Art than we did any of the ill-fated characters in Terrifier.
There is a scene early on in a Halloween costume shop that is at once both incredibly funny and increasingly tense, as Art makes his presence known in yet another unexpected, bizarre way that challenges the audience to let their guards down and enjoy what seems to be levity, despite what they already know about this killer clown.
Casey Hartnett gets some of the best lines as Sienna’s friend Allie when dealing with a certain trick or treater at her door, while Kailey Hyman’s Brooke brings the comedy (and the drugs) to a Halloween party.
There is a particular kill scene that will easily rival if not top the already infamous hacksaw scene in Terrifier, and again it is through Leone’s unblinking lens that we are forced to witness every crack, slash, stab, and cut in gruesome detail with unwavering focus.
It is Halloween Night yet again when Art the Clown returns, and the atmosphere of the holiday is most present at that Halloween party that Sienna and Brooke go to, and there is a lot that takes place inside a carnival’s haunted funhouse. While the overall dirty and grimy aesthetic of Terrifier is still very much a part of the sequel, the cinematography itself looks cleaner and crisper, beautifully framing these unforgettable shots to become iconic moments that will be talked about for decades – from Art’s reintroduction to Sienna’s badass fight to defend what means most in the world to her.
There are some fun nods to other horror icons like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Leatherface, as Leone pays clear homage to some of his favorite films and biggest influences, while still always carving his own signature into every frame.
There is nothing subtle here, and it will be too much for many people to handle, but for gorehounds, this movie will be legendary, and for horror fanatics hungry for new blood and who think they’ve seen it all, Terrifier 2 will shock and satisfy even the most seasoned viewer. The images don’t just look incredibly, viscerally painful and unprecedentedly graphic, but they are truly nightmare-inducing, often as hard to watch as they are to forget.
If you didn’t think Art the Clown was already a legit horror icon, there is no question now that he is the real deal, but he may have just met his match in Sienna, the new blood sure to be embraced as a genre fan favorite.
Terrifier 2 will be released totally unrated in over 800 theaters nationwide on Thursday, October 6, from Cinedigm in partnership with Iconic Events.
Look for our exclusive new interviews with Lauren LaVera and David Howard Thornton coming later this week.
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