Released: 13th October
Seen: 31st October
For a little over a decade now, the character Art The Clown has been slowly building his reputation as one of the modern horror icons. He started small as a side character in a set of short films before getting to dive into feature-length fare with the anthology film All Hallows Eve in 2013 where people really started to notice this strange clown. Art was getting noticed by people and so the creator of this creepy clown, Damien Leone, decided to take his creation and give him a film all of his own.
Thus, Terrifier was born in 2016 and released to average reviews largely due to a lack of a decent story and a slight sexist vibe (Ok slight is an understatement, the upside-down naked bifurcation alone is enough to really condemn the film) but everyone agreed that the effects were fantastic and Art was still fascinating so here we are in 2022 with Terrifier 2, a film that took the notes about the first film and improved everything to come up with an absolute jaw-dropper of a horror film.
Terrifier 2 picks up a year after the first film with Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) revived due to some reasons and off on another fun night out. This time Art’s path will cross the Shaw family, including cosplayer Sienna (Lauren LaVera), her brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) and their mother Barbara (Sarah Voigt). The Shaw family are preparing for Halloween night, Sienna in particular has been working on her costume for months.
Jonathan, however, has been going down a dark path getting obsessed with Art the Clown and the murders that the clown performed a year ago which is making Barbara get more and more worried about her son. All this is bad enough, but throw in the fact that Art the Clown is just slinking about town and violently murdering random people who he comes upon, all of whom in some way seem to have some relation to the Shaw family and you’re in the Halloween from hell.
Terrifier 2 is completely fucking nuts and it knows it, hell it revels in it. From the very first scene till the second the credits roll, the film makes the active choice to go for broke at all times without holding back for even a second and thank god for that because if this film slowed down or dropped the intensity at any point it wouldn’t work. Throughout its limited theatrical release, this film has been allegedly making audience members vomit and considering how elaborate some of the gore effects are, it’s not hard to see why. It’s also not hard to see why audiences have flocked to this because even if the effects are sickening, they’re also so over the top that it’s a borderline cartoon at times.
The big note that this film seems to have taken from the reaction to the first Terrifier is that there are actually likeable characters that we root for and want to see survive Art’s reign of clownish terror. The Shaw family are likable, relatable and have a pretty tragic backstory (did you notice the lack of a father?). Sienna, in particular, is the kind of person that anyone would want to hang out with, meanwhile, we’ve all known someone like Jonathan who is a good person at heart but has fallen down the dark side of the internet. Hell, every character in this film is at least interesting enough to stand out, even if they’re only there to add to the body count.
That body count is clearly where most of the attention went on this film and oh boy do they really go for it. The limits of practical effects are put to the test here and it’s glorious, with decapitations and eye gougings and flayings galore that will make any practical gore effects lover experience nirvana from the pure craftsmanship on display. The actual skill on display to make all this gore actually look good is astounding, a lot of what’s being shown is so over-the-top and brutal that it shouldn’t work but the commitment to the insanity makes it all just kinda enjoyable.
The real reason that Terrifier 2 works as well as it does is the performance by David Howard Thornton who truly turns Art into an iconic horror villain, he will be tied to this role just like Robert Englund is tied to Freddy Kruger. No one should even try to take over this role if David decides to hang up the clown outfit, you will not be able to do what he is doing here. It’s a masterclass of silent acting and working within the limitations of makeup. Art is somehow able to go from being hilarious to being the most terrifying creature you’ve ever seen and it’s all because of the brilliant performance by Thornton.
For as much as Terrifier 2 works though, it has the undeniable habit of lingering on everything as long as possible. In a way this makes sense, the film was made for an insanely low budget so it makes sense that the filmmakers would want to get the most bang for their buck. The problem is that this means there are times when we just repeat shots for an interminable amount of time or sequences go on so long that they end up losing some of their punch, particularly during the last act where everything just plays out to the point of insanity.
When Terrifier 2 works, which is most of the time, it’s an absolute fucking masterclass in how to do an over-the-top slasher film. This is the kind of film that belongs on the shelf of insane horror films in the back of the video store, it’s demented and twisted and has no desire to even look in the general direction of subtlety and it’s absolutely glorious. If you’re a fan of those insane 80s slashers that were made in the aftermath of Tom Savini showing everyone how good gore could look then this is a must-see, a non-stop shocker with enough gore to delight any horror fan, some of the most brilliantly demented laughs from any horror film and more heartfelt emotion than you might expect from a film featuring an insane serial killer Clown.
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