This Halloween season delivered a number of horror films, but none so surprising as TERRIFIER 2. With HALLOWEEN ENDS being considered by many to be a disappointment, it’s this surprise indie film that people can’t seem to stop talking about. Social media has been abuzz with reports of audience members passing out and vomiting, one instance resulting in an ambulance being called. With a budget of $250,000, it has made over 30 times that amount, raking in $10.1 million to date. Not bad for a two and a half hour long gorefest the likes of which we haven’t seen since schlocky slashers of the 80’s.
With the unexpected success of TERRIFIER 2, writer/director Damien Leone has introduced the world to its latest horror icon: Art the Clown. Having made his diabolical debut in the 2008 short film THE 9TH CIRCLE (and originally portrayed by Mike Giannelli,) he reappeared in 2013’s anthology horror film ALL HALLOWS’ EVE. However it wasn’t until 2016’s TERRIFIER that the character began to gain iconic status. Recast with actor (and real-life mime) David Howard Thornton, his vile, ruthless demeanor and creepy appearance is only amplified by a frankly masterful performance, sparking whispers of achieving horror icon status right up there with the likes of Freddy Kreuger, Jason Vorhees, and Leatherface. His black and white costume and makeup and completely silent pantomime gives him an uncommon edge amongst scary cinematic clowns; Pennywise he is not. As someone who isn’t afraid of clowns in the slightest, I can honestly say he’s scary as hell.
The blood-soaked opening sequence picks up exactly where the first film ended, leaving no doubt in our minds what sort of film we’re about to experience. It’s an audacious film, touting a shocking run-time for a slasher at a surprisingly quick-paced two hours and eighteen minutes. It’s mean, cruel, and vile. It’s bloody and nasty and hateful. It’s just plain sick. It’s also a lot of fun.
The film attempts to build upon the lore behind Art the Clown, planting the seeds of a backstory the sprouts of which I expect we will begin to see in the inevitable third film. It succeeds, but only to an extent. While the first film treats its characters as vapid meatbags existing solely to be murdered in shocking ways, TERRIFIER 2 makes an attempt to introduce characters we’re meant to care about, giving them what’s intended to be depth and empathy. It’s a noble attempt, however poorly-written, silly dialogue and no-budget acting prevent the film from ever being what it sets out to be—and honestly, I think that works in its favor. No one’s watching the movie for the plot. You watch TERRIFIER 2 because your friend on Facebook said it was the grossest thing they’ve ever seen, or someone on Twitter mentioned the now-infamous bedroom kill scene. It’s morbid curiosity that’s leading the flock to slaughter, not the hope for meaningful character development.
The thing is, while the movie is better than the first one, does that necessarily make it a good movie? I don’t think so. The storyline is being touted by some as good universe-building but comes off as dorky 80’s-inspired high school age fanboy fan fiction. Actress Lauren LaVera, who plays Sienna, our heroine, gives a capable performance considering the material she’s been given to work with, rising just above the script. She knows what movie she’s in but plays it unironically which, frankly, can’t be said for the whole cast. (She’s also a martial artist in real life, performing her own impressive stunts in the film.) Another performance of note is Jonath Davis who plays Ricky, a worker at NYC’s iconic Abracadabra costume shop. His role his small but relatable to anyone who works in customer service. It’s a brief role but a memorable scene.
When it comes down to it there are two types of audience members for this movie: the non-horror-going gawkers who are passing out and puking in theaters, and the hard-core, die hard horror fans cheering on the incredibly elaborate, impressive practical effect-laden kill scenes. If you’re a horror fan it’s a fun, gross watch. If you’re not a horror fan you’re never going to look at your horror fan friends the same way again.
Oh, and if you haven’t gotten enough of a cinematic shock by the film’s finale, be sure to stick around for the credits.
TERRIFIER 2 is in theaters now and available to stream on Screambox.