This is an extended review from the Fantastic Fest, where Terriifier 2 had its world premiere. It hits theaters on October 6, 2022.
Damien Leone’s highly-anticipated Terrifier 2 is a vast improvement over the original, all-slaughtering, insubstantial Terrifier, which introduced newfound slasher star Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton). Leone’s symphony of physical destruction features great hands-on killing sequences; As a bonus, there’s a semblance of storytelling this time. It’s still full of underdeveloped subplots and themes, but Leone better sticks to traditional slasher formulas with an empowered last girl and motivations behind Art’s sickening carnage frenzy. It’s clear that Terrifier movies are meant to be low-budget but hyper-disgusting special effects showcases, and Terrifier 2 doesn’t disappoint (full view decapitations, bones snapping like twigs, gooey dismemberment) – I just don’t know, whether leone is complete makes use of the film’s two-plus hour runtime with so much ambiguity left over.
Terrifier 2 follows recognizable slasher sequel forms, as there is no mention of Art’s resurrection outside of the film’s plot synopsis. Art is back for another Miles County Halloween massacre…why not? Brother-sister duo Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) catch Art’s attention, possibly due to their late father’s foreboding sketchbook, which is filled with Art’s monochrome portrait and disturbing traces of Art’s original victims. Also included is a “demon girl” dressed as Art’ Mini-She, in black and white costumes, right down to the rotten teeth and makeup, just like Art. Somehow, Leone tries to capture all of those supernatural elements without perfection together, as opposed to spurting blood when Art opens his garbage bag with murder weapons.
Leone’s growth as a screenwriter between Terrifier and this sequel is a noticeable improvement, but overall cohesion is still lacking. Terrifier 2 takes the gonzo approach of “Jason fights a telepath” to continue the storytelling, introducing Art’s hopping accomplice or Sienna’s comic book heroism, only to elaborate on similar explanations that vanished during post-production. Art’s resurrection is basically a marketing logline, some characters can see the demon girl, some can’t, and Sienna’s spiritual connection to her father’s fictional character in a possibly magical sketchbook has a random “do it, bro” energy. Terrifier 2 spirals out of control in a way that other franchises don’t until entry four (Leprechaun), five (Child’s Play), or seven (Friday the 13th), and that’s not always a good thing, though highlighting the Scattershot script. At 138 minutes, one would think Leone would have plenty of time to fully explore mythology that is otherwise forgotten.
said that? I counterpoint myself. Terrifier became an overnight sensation based on Art’s smiles seared to nightmares, his contest for slasher icon status through coulrophobia, and hideous Halloween mayhem. In this regard, Terrifier 2 doubles the Legendary and Showstopper kill sequences of Art.
Art may be mute, but his insane personality is even louder in Terrifier 2. David Howard Thornton has more opportunities than to cackle silently like a carnival creep show while desecrating the victims’ bodies. Art’s camaraderie with his zany – possibly spooky – tagalong is despicably cute when they play Patty Cake. Thornton brings in more physical humor, like his cartoonishly insane sneaking behind high steps or dizziness while trying on petal sunglasses (before pulverizing a cashier). The art clearly approaches Freddy-Krüger comparisons, only without witty dialogues. Leone comes very close to October cult-favorite Satan’s Little Helper in terms of maximum Halloween mischief turned horror-monster madness. We have so few contemporary slasher icons outside of Adam Green’s Hatchet villain Victor Crowley or that street of fear Crew – Thorton and Leone take significant steps to secure Art’s legacy.
Terrifier 2 Slathers sets of no-brake, all-gas gore buffets reminiscent of the slickest Midnighters of the ’70s and ’80s that have stood their respective tests of time. Leone’s confidence in filming Art’s heinous acts of inhumanity never detracts from camera lenses as knives saw through prosthetic necks, gushing gelatinous innards like unclogging a dam. Every death is 70 insane steps too far – Art’s style can’t just be a pathetic sting. Shotguns sever heads and send them slamming into garage walls like a basketball, and makeshift clubs pound chests until they burst open so Art can reach inside and eat his victim’s heart. An endless bedroom execution sequence reminds of everything scream 4 to Hellraiser too Piranha 3D pertaining to excessive blood, plunging into a crimson well that never dries up. Terrifier 2 has the best kill count of any slasher that’s been out longer than I can remember – Leone’s special effects team deserves every credit they can.
That’s what makes Terrifier 2 so hard to criticize. Lauren LaVera reigns as Sienna in her fantasy armor with angel wings as the last girl to fight for the family, confront her demons and scream bloody war cries into Art’s taunting face – but Leone’s spotty storytelling brakes her enthusiastic survival arc. Other supporting actors, like Kailey Hyman’s ruthless bestie Brooke, are less appealingly reminiscent of cheesier ’80s stereotypes. There are attempts to introduce Kandarian dagger-like items with this importance, but no revelations as to why, as the focus remains on Art’s sensational slaughter during commercial daydreams, seasonal Halloween showcases, and haunted circus attractions (which explain the film’s “Terrifier” title) . . Everything you love about Terrifier gets better – everything you don’t have still exists, just to a much lesser degree (progress requires patience).