The horror community at large has responded to Damien Leone’s Terrifier in ways that I’m not sure anyone could predict. Honestly, the overt adoration for Art the Clown and his brutal, sadistic escapades is kind of surprising. You see, Terrifier was released in 2016–several decades after the slasher craze of the 1980s had cooled down. And while many filmmakers have come and gone while promising to deliver the next great slasher film or “icon” of horror since then, writer/director Damien Leone and actor David Howard Thornton actually did it.
And that success brought tons of opportunity for the team.
Lunchboxes, action figures, Halloween costumes, tattoos, and of course, a crowdfunding campaign for a sequel that raised around four times the amount of what they were seeking. With all this success, though, came questions–from me, at least. What would a Terrifier sequel even look like? Aside from the gore, obviously.
The original Terrifier, as fun and grotesque as it is, remains largely a vehicle of violence. There’s a story in there, sure, but it’s really only there to get us from one scene to the next were someone gets all chopped up, stabbed, ripped in half, or … whatever.
Before gearing up to watch the nearly two-and-a-half hour sequel, I remembered a conversation I had with Leone shortly after Terrifier had premiered. He told me he had to recut the film after its initial screening due to audience reactions during some of the longer, gnarlier sequences. I figured, for a sequel with that kind of runtime, that’s largely what I could expect: elongated, gratuitous sequences of violence. Just more of them.
To my surprise, there’s a lot more going on in Terrifier 2. For better and for worse.
As fragmented and obtuse as the story in Terrifier 2 can be at times, tons of effort has clearly gone into making the Terrifier brand more than just senseless violence.The sibling relationship between Eric and Sienna feels genuine and instills a sense of love and togetherness. It feels as if Leone was looking to marry his adoration of 80s slasher movies with the young adult, coming of age films of the same time. It largely works. I remember these characters. I remember their names. I cared (a bit) when they started dying. That’s all a major feather in the cap of a production that is expected to deliver little more than buckets of blood and guts. But don’t get me wrong, the kills are still the star of the show.
No one on this planet is making movies like Damien Leone. Call it what you want, but I feel a certain way when watching a Terrifier film. There’s an excitement about what’s to come around the corner–an eagerness to see what boundary or button will be pressed–and you don’t find that sort of boldness in slasher films anymore. That said, the kill sequences in Terrifier 2 are fucking legendary. Like… mouth open, goofy smile, audible gasps type of legendary. David Howard Thornton has clearly found his stride as Art the Clown, and his energy seeps through in every horn squeak and bone break. Freddy needs Robert Englund. Chucky needs Brad Dourif, and Art the Clown needs David Howard Thornton.
But it’s worth noting that Thornton isn’t the only standout here. Lauren Lavera has mega final girl energy as Sienna, Griffin Santopietro kills it as the serial killer obsessed pre-teen, and even Jenna Kanell hits all of the right notes as Sienna’s BFF. Additional names like Felissa Rose and Chris Jericho might hit the poster or headlines, but their roles are ultimately inconsequential. It’s Lavera, Santopietro, and Kanell’s performances that elevate this one above standard slasher fare.
It’s not all great, though.
Perhaps most disappointingly, Terrifier 2 fails to deliver on some really promising ideas. There’s this cool nightmare sequence that I thought could be used to provide some lore to the character or even broaden the scope of what Art is or is capable of. But ultimately, that stretch of film adds little more than an increased runtime and some sweet visuals (and some merchandising opportunities). Similarly, the teasing of a new baddie is woefully underutilized and unexplained outside of some minor throwaway lines. Maybe more of this new addition will come in future installments, maybe the idea wasn’t fleshed out entirely, or maybe I just got the wrong idea. Either way, it felt like a major missed opportunity here. I just kept thinking of cool places that the story might go based on these new additions, but none of that happened. Eventually, Terrifier 2 just kind of… ends.
I suppose that’s the risk of “red lining” the violence over the course of two and a half hours. When everything is wild and insane, all of the time, it becomes a real challenge to build a meaningful crescendo and finish the film. The final showdown between Sienna and Art feels downright lame compared to everything that comes before it, and that’s a shame. An even greater shame is that this otherwise incredible production is going to be locked behind the Screambox paywall. I’m sure there will eventually be a physical release and the ability to purchase through the digital store of your choosing, but for now, you will need to subscribe to Screambox–and there just isn’t much else of note to view there compared to something like Shudder. Terrifier 2 will be its crown jewel, and they are undoubtedly looking to drive subscription numbers with this release. I’m personally at subscription overload already, so I’ll pass. But this movie kicks ass, regardless.
Terrifier 2 has a limited theatrical run starting on October 6th, 2022. If you can make it to one of those, you absolutely should. It’s going to be a riot with a crowd.