Even if you’re not into horror films, chances are that you’ve heard about the film that is making people faint and throw up in the movie theatre. This word-of-mouth marketing is nothing new. Folks have been saying it since The Exorcist came out. With any film that pushes the horror boundaries and presents something genuinely unseemly to the public, people take notice. This latest iteration is a new horror epic called Terrifier 2. The question is, does Terrifier 2 hold up to this viral audience gossip?
It absolutely does. The film, all two hours and twenty minutes of it, revels in practical gore and blood effects that paint the screen red for large chunks of the movie. This film is definitely not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. When I saw it in the theatre, a woman vehemently stood up, loudly proclaimed “This is disgusting!” and marched out with her disappointed husband sheepishly following her. Terrifier 2 plays like a lengthy 80s slasher film that the MPAA did not tear to shreds for its use of blood and gore effects. Instead, we’re given everything that the filmmaker wants us to see. While the film is genuinely gross, I personally really enjoyed myself and had an absolute blast.
So, what exactly is Terrifier 2? And why haven’t you heard of the first Terrifier? The Terrifier films are Damien Leone’s ode to the slasher subgenre. These splatter films focus on the murderous and crazed antics of sadistic killer Art the Clown, an unknown man who dons truly eerie make-up and a fun costume to wreak havoc on his victims. Art the Clown is a character that Leone created over a decade ago. He appeared in the original short film Terrifier in 2011 and in Leone’s horror anthology film All Hallows’ Eve in 2013 before growing into his own franchise of independent horror films.
Leone himself has noted that the first Terrifier (2016) was meant to simply introduce the world to Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) and to showcase his skill at creating practical gore effects. Made with a budget of approximately $100,000, it features a truly brutal dismemberment sequence that will certainly linger with you long after the film is over. I won’t spoil the scene, but needless to say, it is really nasty. This film does an excellent job of funneling this micro-budget into an intense and suspenseful feature. Leone masterfully uses very few locations that perfectly suit the film and serve as great set pieces for Art’s mayhem. The one area that I found a tad lacking in Terrifier is the character development of its protagonists. So much time is spent on constructing Art the Clown as this terrifying force and highlighting Leone’s gore expertise, that the characters are put on the back burner.
Terrifier 2 makes up for this fully. More than doubling its budget, Leone’s horror epic cost approximately $250,000. Costing less than John Carpenter’s original Halloween, notably without decades of inflation, Terrifier 2 achieves a really filmic aesthetic that pays tribute to the slashers of yesteryear while also looking much more polished than the first film. In a film like this, you can see where Leone has put every penny to good use, with great locations, fun costuming, and tremendous gore effects. But does this film have anything going on for it beyond the blood? Thankfully, yes.
While the first Terrifier film is unable to afford genuine character depth, Terrifier 2 creates a sibling duo that I was just incredibly invested in. Lauren LaVera’s Sienna and Elliott Fullam’s Jonathan are honestly two of my favorite horror protagonists in a long time. Going into this film, I was expecting more of the same from the first but was so excited to encounter two characters that I absolutely loved and was legitimately worried for their safety. Sienna is a high school student whose father died not long before the film begins. They had a troubled relationship, and she is still struggling to cope with that. Her younger brother Jonathan is fascinated and horrified by Art the Clown’s murders from the previous Halloween. Their Halloween costumes prove critical to the plot, as Sienna constructs an epic angel warrior costume inspired by her father’s artwork, while Jonathan wants to dress like the killer clown. Art eventually takes an interest in the siblings and sets out to generate Halloween terror.
While character development is something that should be present in every horror film, I found Leone’s construction of these two characters to be incredibly heartfelt and genuine. They are both flawed but still so engaging. As they are put through one terrifying situation after another, I found myself surprisingly invested in them and very nervous that they might meet their end by Art the Clown’s evil bag of weapons. Both actors give very heartfelt performances that showcase their abilities and connect them to the audience. On a side note, Sarah Voigt, who plays their mother Barbara, gives a wild performance that had me cracking up with her ability to go from 0 to 1,000 in nearly every line of dialogue. She was an absolute hoot.
This film is not for everyone. It is genuinely gross and chock full of gore and blood. But, Leone’s film is much more than that. Terrifier 2 is a semi-mythical take on the slasher subgenre that inserts a great deal of depth in its two key protagonists while also further expanding the lore of Leone’s very original contribution to the horror icon canon. Art the Clown has already made a huge impact and will clearly go down as one of the fresh horror icons of the 21st century. It has been a long time since we’ve gotten a new slasher icon and I’m excited to see where Leone takes Art in the future.
At the time of this writing, Terrifier 2 has made nearly $11 million in theatrical box office, proving that horror fans crave original and fresh ideas. The film is a prime example of the classic “little film that could” dynamic. Art the Clown is a breath of fresh air for the horror genre, in a climate of late franchise sequels and unnecessary remakes. Additionally, Sienna and Jonathan are a great expansion of horror protagonists. Terrifier 2 is available to rent on-demand now and will be released on Blu-ray at the end of December. If you like your horror bloody but with fantastic characters, Terrifier 2 might be just what the doctor ordered.