Terrifier 2, or A Nightmare on Terrifier Street 2: The Clown Master as a fitting alternative title, starts right off where the previous film ended. And if you haven’t already seen the first one, here comes the spoiler of the century: Art the Clown (still with an energetic and dedicated David Howard Thornton behind the costume) survived, even though he’s got a big hole at the back of his head after a gun shot, which means the supernatural aspects are already well established. To start off the film with the right tone, he slices the coroner’s throat, and finishes him off by crushing his face with a hammer. And if that wasn’t enough, he rips one of his eyes out and plays with it for a few seconds, and places it in his own eye socket. Art hasn’t changed one bit since we saw him back in 2016, that’s for damn sure. As his costume is drenched with blood, he pops into the nearest laundry center where he encounters a twisted, little girly version of himself, also known as The Little Pale Girl (portrayed by the child actress Amelie McLain.) They quickly bond together where it’s like creepy uncle Joker finally meets his creepy, little niece Harley Quinn, to put it that way. It’s a kinda cute little moment they’re having, actually. Kawaii.
But there is no time to waste, and Art heads to the next scenario, with his bag of torture tools which he is carrying over his shoulder, to continue his journey of spreading some cozy family-friendly Halloween spirit. Just kidding. Just like in the first film: get ready for more of the same, just on a much bigger platter packed with a full menu of pain, suffering, goreghasm, worms, wasps, insanity and utter chaos – nicely spiced with a deranged and pitch black sense of humor that requires a certain level of sick cynicism to fully enjoy. After the first ten minutes we already know that this is a grindhouse flick in the purest sense, made only for us sub-humans of horror ghouls and hardcore-fans in general. But the more average surface-horror-goers are welcome, of course. Art likes everyone, you see. Just play with him or at least give him some candy and you’ll have a slight chance to survive.
After the batshit opening sequence we meet the stressed widow mom Barbara (Sarah Voigt) with her two teens, Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) , living in a middle-class suburb. Sienna has been working on her Valkyrie-like Halloween outfit for months, a passion project based on an illustration made by their deceased dad. And when the nerd-looking Jonathan isn’t busy with interviewing aging rockstars, he’s obsessed with serial killers. Especially with a certain clown that has hit the news after the massacre in Miles County, which took place in the previous film. There’s also a mysterious sketchbook that their dad left behind after committing suicide. It’s filled with drawings of monsters, but the most weird of all: Art the Clown and his earlier victims. What connection their dad could have to Art, who knows, but we can assume that this sketchbook is the equivalent of the Necronomicon/Book of the Dead from The Evil Dead that eventually brings them to our killer clown. Already filled with more questions than answers, it all begins when Sienna starts having bizarre lucid nightmares about Art. During her dream, her bedroom is also set on fire which burns the wings of her costume to ashes. Later Jonathan gets chased by hallucinations/visions of Art and his little pale girl, and this all happens before Hell is about to get real.
As minimal as the first one was with basically no story or character development, other than to show us the demented nature of Art, a showcase of competent gore effects, technical competence, this one pays for it. Watching them now back-to-back makes the first one more of a prologue, a warm-up, if you will. Without spoiling anything, we get a tiny nugget of the history about the pale girl we saw in the beginning, which I hope we see more of in the next sequel. Art however… well, we learn that his alias “Terrifier” is attached to a haunted house attraction. More questions than answers, as I earlier said, and don’t look for much logic. The acting is pretty solid and I was a little surprised to even see Felissa Rose (that girl from Sleepaway Camp) acting like an A-lister with the little screen time she had. Lauren LaVera is great as the “final girl” and knows how to kick some clown ass. I also like the “Phoenix Rising” symbolism behind her costume. The chemistry between her and her mother and brother is believable in the middle of all the madness, which shows that Damien Leone is able to depict more in the script other than how Art is going to dismember the next victim.
The first film had a budget of 35.000 dollars, while this had the price of a crowndfunded amount of 250,000. Money well spent, especially on the prosthetic gore effects which is also made by director Leone. The guy has clearly learned from the best. With a much larger budget we also get a more polished look, although Leone has kept enough of the rawness to make it look like the film is straight from the mid 80s to blend with the universe of the first one. The visual esthetics with its use of vibrant color and contrast screams Halloween all the way through. And the retro synthwave soundtrack just fits perfectly.
While the film has a cartoonish and sometimes surreal look to it, the effects make a stark contrast and look as real they can get. I think we have to rewind back at some of the titles from the New French Extremity wave from early 2000’s to find something in the same gritty, realistic nature. It’s also filled with references from probably every single slasher film from the 80s. The most notable is the scalping from Maniac which Art takes to a whole new level of extreme ghoulishness. The infamous “bedroom scene” is the wildest shit I’ve ever witnessed on the silver screen, which have earned the hype alone. The serial killer buffs will also take notice of the homeage to one of the crime-scenes of Jack the Ripper.
So overall, there’s no doubt in hell that writer and director Damien Leone is a die hard fan of the video nasty-era of VHS horror, and Terrifier 2 projects that to the fullest. But I’ve also got an other theory; that the guy is actually sent by a phone booth-shaped time machine from the 80s, sent by Rufus himself to save us from all the modern watered-down and glossy PG-horror that’s been dominating the mainstream for god knows how long. And not to mention the more recent attempts to adapt them to the “current times” of “checklist” movies, which have been nothing but failed flops thus far. Let’s only hope that Terrifier 2, with its global success, has opened the golden can of killer clowns that makes room for a new wave of more extremity like this to hit the mainstream silver screens. If not, well, at least Damien Leone has created his own universe here with a lot of potential to evolve as a lucrative franchise that could be an (annual, if I dare say so) highlight for years to come.
And finally, here’s the million-dollar questions everyone are asking:
Is Terrifier 2 too violent, even for horror fans? Will the film make me puke or faint? Will it cause a heart attack, or even a miscarriage? Will it make my botox lips explode? Will it make my dick fall off?
Yes, to all of them. Joking aside, let’s be serious for just a few split seconds; being concerned if a slasher film is too violent is like expecting a porn film with less porn, even though this is mainly nothing but a cheap, yet effective, marketing strategy that’s been used since the birth of horror cinema and seems to work every time. And thanks to its enormous hype, which I haven’t seen for a slasher at the mainstream surface since way back in 1996 with Wes Craven’s Scream, it managed to sneak its way to the silver screens in our narrow penis shaped home country Norway of all places. My only concern was the unusual long runtime for a film like this, with its 2 hour and 18 minutes, but both I and Miss Ghoul had a blast. The movie theater was almost packed with only kids from Gen Z on a Friday night, where we kind of stood out a little as being old enough to be their parents. The audience reactions should be interesting. A group on the row in front of us giggled nervously here and there, but otherwise it was an awkward dead silence. The best way to describe it as a collective movie experience was to sit on a roller coaster through the Big Gory Mountain with a bunch of mute people. So if any negative physical reaction is to expect, it will slice your vocal cords. So, there’s the only warning, I guess. But just in case, we got handed a barf bag and a cool pin before the screening. Barf bags are a common gimmick, but I cant remember it having been provided in Norway on such an occasion. Not even with Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D, which is objectively the goriest film screened on a regular movie theater in our home country, twelve years before Terrifier 2 broke that record. So, who’s next?
Writer and Director: Damien Leone
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Lauren LaVera, David Howard Thornton, Jenna Kanell, Catherine Corcoran, Samantha Scaffidi, Kailey Hyman, Chris Jericho, Casey Hartnett, Katie Maguire, Amelie McLain, Elliott Fullam, Sarah Voigt, Felissa Rose, Jackie Adragna, Griffin Santopietro, Charlie McElveen
Related post: Terrifier (2016)