In 2015, I discovered a low-budget anthology film called All Hallows’ Eve (released in 2013 – here’s my review). This was the first feature length appearance of Damien Leone’s character Art the Clown – an eccentric, peculiar, and very violent murderous clown. The film was rough-around-the-edges, but I was taken by the Art the Clown character. Three years after the anthology (which was composed of much older short films), the director released Terrifier, an all-out standalone film starring horror’s newest slasher villain. Like its predecessor, Terrifier was more than a little rough (here’s my review). It was a below-average film, but an above average slasher film.
The struggles the original film had largely dealt with its lack of cohesion / story development and a few choice moments I felt worked against it. I didn’t hate it though, and, in fact, I found myself still rooting for Damien Leone and Art the Clown. As a lifetime fan of the slasher genre, we honestly need a character like Art the Clown to make some noise and wreak havoc.
2022 has been prolific for the slasher genre. As a matter of fact, I would argue it might be one of the most significant years for the genre in a few decades. Our headliners were Halloween Kills, Scream, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which didn’t all exactly deliver (I liked Scream, I didn’t care too much for the latter two), but they kept the torch lit. Meanwhile, Don Mancini continues to have fun with Chucky on television, and we’ve had well-received under card slashers in the form of X (and its prequel film Pearl) and Orphan: First Kill.
For me, as much as I am a fan of Scream, I found myself most excited for Terrifier 2.
I wanted the film to succeed.
At the box office, the film already has – raking in $8 million off a small budget (reportedly $250,000) and achieving mainstream attention. The film will likely do a lot in helping Bloody Disgusting‘s new streaming service Screambox be taken seriously as well.
Set after the events of the original film, Art the Clown has risen from the dead and once more begins to brutalize anyone he can find. This sounds simple, but it is actually far more fleshed out and expansive than the original film (or slashers, in general, for that matter).
The main character is a young woman named Sienna Shaw who is intended as the series’ official final girl character moving forward (their Nancy, Sydney, or Laurie Strode, if you will). Her character is likable enough, whereas her situation is easy to place oneself in – she lives with her mother and younger brother, and has been experiencing tough times since her father’s death. Her brother Jonathan is experiencing troubled times at school and it seems like she can’t stop butting heads with her mother, meanwhile she finds herself haunted by nightmares that appear to hold deeper meanings within them.
The characterizations and story for Terrifier 2 are a drastic improvement on the original film. Although I had moments where I felt like the acting didn’t always land exactly as intended, I mostly found it satiable overall (most of the criticism has to do with certain characters like Sienna’s mother feeling one-note or archetypal). The story itself, especially what involves Sienna and her brother, lands rather well, and I found myself invested in them as characters.
Art the Clown is a lot in this film.
I mean that in more ways than one. He’s a lot, but there’s also a lot of him. Terrifier 2 is a long film. Clocking out at 138 minutes, I can confidently say it is likely the longest slasher film I have ever watched. The director argues that every scene was integral and he couldn’t imagine any of them ending up on the chop block. I respect the sentiment, but I would, however, disagree, saying that more than half an hour of this film could have been edited out of the official runtime and it would have been a more concise, superior film. It wouldn’t even be a matter of deleting scenes, but shortening moments that overstayed their welcome – of which, I feel there were a few.
Thankfully though, a perceived lack of restraint aside, the film is a highlight reel of goofy, absurd moments that make it a lot of fun to watch.
I have read all the articles about “vomiting” and the film’s ultra violence, and while I can understand it, I don’t believe Terrifier 2 is that offensive of a film. There is a lot of bloodshed, for certain. Art the Clown is mean and has a thirst for cruelty unlike nearly any other slasher villain put on film. He’s the type of slasher villain that will rip your arms off and mutilate you, then, come back with a container of salt to dab on the wounds.
However, it is difficult to take seriously, and that’s the charm of a slasher villain. Terrifier 2 is fun in how it celebrates the macabre. The blood looks like corn syrup and the severed limbs look like they are made of foam (or something like that), and the film is better for it. It allows you to disconnect and take it as a goofy, crazy-ass film, rather than how you’d feel watching Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
Everything from the score and sound design, to Art the Clown‘s tongue-in-cheek portrayal, make Terrifier 2 feel like a relic of a bygone era – like he would feel right at home tormenting his victims in the eighties.
By the end, I ended up pretty head over heels for Terrifier 2.
The film is not perfect at all, nor are most of my favorite slashers films, for that matter. The more you pick it apart, the more you will find wrong with it. However, taken for what it is, a throwback to old-school slashers with a more balls-to-the-wall sensibility, it has a feast made up of some of the very same ingredients that made me love A Nightmare on Elm Street and what made these films so infectious to watch. It is a superior sequel (in every way) and perhaps the best slasher film I’ve seen from a franchise that didn’t start before the turn of the millennium.
Congratulations, Damien Leone, you have yourself a slasher classic.
Rating: – 3.5 out of 5.0