Image of Art the Clown (David Howard Thorton) in Terrifier 2
In our modern time, it has felt as though the mass hysterics accompanying controversial horror films are a bygone era. Sure, you have your Lars Von Trier’s of the world or subversive titles like this year’s wonderful Barbarian. But, the idea that a horror movie could be so visceral that it could create a whole marketing campaign solely based on word of mouth sounds absurd in 2022. Then strolls along Damien Leone and co. with Terrifier 2, the Halloween favorite for audiences this year. A sequel to the 2016 film of the same name, this film was independently released in theaters, which created such a buzz in its first week that it has gone on to play multiple weeks, adding new theaters along the way. It’s truly a fascinating topic, one that a singular movie review can’t fully begin to unpack, but is still worth mentioning. Audiences vomiting, passing out, and being downright physically affected by a horror film sounds like something out of the 70s with Texas Chainsaw or The Exorcist, not 2022, where videos of violence can be found with a couple of clicks online.
I would argue that the reason audiences have reacted the way they have is because Damien Leone has managed to craft a flick that gloriously demolishes the sanctity of cinema. As soon as your eyes are on Terrifier 2, the rules have changed. Gone are the cutaways to achieve an R-rating, but here to stay are the close-up, detailed renderings of horrifically amazingly done special FX. Any frame including Art the Clown evokes a mix of dread & joy: for you know that someone is likely to be brutalized, but you just can’t wait to see it.
Anchoring this formula are characters that you know a little bit about, so it has more punch when they have an inevitable run-in with Art’s trash bag of fun. On an episode of Eli Roth’s History of Horror podcast, Quentin Tarantino made an excellent point about sequels: they should be better than the original or why bother making them? Damien Leone took this to heart by adding some excellent characters to elevate the Terrifier series to new heights while maintaining what made the first one great. Particularly, Laura LaVera as Sierra is the real standout. Watching her deal with an abusive mother while coping with a loss adds depth to the Final Girl trope by providing her with the strength needed to face an evil like Art the Clown. I also would be remiss to not commend David Howard Thorton’s work as Art, as his work as the character only improves with this film. His previous work in physical acting provides a foundation that other actors working as slashers don’t seem to have, in turn solidifying him on the Mount Rushmore of horror icons.
A film that’s meant to be experienced as opposed to watched, Terrifier 2 is depraved in all the ways that horror fans love. If you’re looking for haunted houses and “elevated” plotlines, look elsewhere. This is a shoo-in for video nasties for sure, but that makes it all the better.