David Howard Thornton, Elliott Fullam, Lauren LaVera, Sarah Voight, Casey Hartnett, Kailey Hyman
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If buckets of gore are your thing, then Terrifier 2 delivers in spades, but if you require your horror-exploitation movie to have something even vaguely resembling a logical plot, you’re out of luck.
Makeup artist and VFX wizard turned writer/director Damien Leone first brought his nightmarish creation Art the Clown to the world in a 2011 short film titled Terrifier. Art then turned up again as the “host” for Leone’s anthology film All Hallows’ Eve in 2014, but his feature debut was in 2016’s goretastic slasher Terrifier – a low budget affair that gained a significant cult audience.
Clocking in at a neat 86 minutes, Terrifier comprised of the gruesome adventures of Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) on Halloween in Miles County where he hacked and ripped to pieces nine people in inventive and at times stomach turning ways. Leone’s experience with practical effects proved to be a boon for the visceral movie and paid homage to other low budget horror films where the emphasis was placed on getting the queasiest results by employing a maniacal and disturbing villain whose penchant for viciousness seemed both senseless and unrelenting.
Terrifier subverted some genre conventions when it turned the final girl Victoria (Samantha Scaffidi) into a deranged killer herself. Horribly disfigured by Art’s attack on her, Victoria goes on to a talk show almost a year after the events which led to the death of her sister. She insists to the soon to be assaulted host, Monica Brown, that Art the Clown died on the night he attacked her. Terrifier disabuses the audience of this notion quickly, as we see Art preparing himself for another night on the town.
Terrifier 2 starts immediately where the last film left off, with Art revived through supernatural means in the coroner’s office. He, of course, hideously despatches the coroner and heads off to a local laundromat to wash his clown suit, where he encounters a young girl clown version of himself that he plays with. Who is she? Is she real? What is her relationship with Art? These are all questions which Terrifier 2 teases but refuses to answer.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around two siblings; Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) Shaw, who live with their short-tempered mother Barbara (Sarah Voight). Some time ago, Daddy Shaw died, but not without leaving strangely prophetic notebooks which somehow link the family to Art.
Sienna is a talented artist who is processing her grief through creating a costume her father designed for her. Jonathan is a bit of a weirdo who spends too much time researching serial killers, including the notorious Art. It appears both of them have some psychic or supernatural connection to Art (although this is never explained, because, well, it just isn’t – the script isn’t going to win any awards). Sienna has nightmares about Art and those nightmares manifest into real world events.
Halloween is coming up and Jonathan wants to dress as Art, which both Sienna and Barbara find reprehensible. At school, Jonathan sees the little clown girl and Art, who toss a rotting possum at him, leaving him in trouble and grounded for Halloween. Sienna is informed of Victoria Heyes’ interview with Monica Brown by her friends, wholesome Allie (Casey Hartnett) and party girl Brooke (Kailey Hyman). The mere mention of Art sends Sienna into panic, as her nightmare the previous night has left her shaken. Nonetheless, the teens are going to have a rollicking time on Halloween by heading off to a bar.
Art is on the prowl and he’s taking advantage of Halloween and the propensity for people to dress up as edgy characters to appear in broad daylight. A particularly tense scene sees him shopping in a Halloween emporium where Sienna and Allie are buying supplies. Art has clocked Sienna, and it isn’t long until everyone she knows becomes grist for his grisly acts.
A significant increase in budget means that Leone is able to expand his canvas beyond a few locations. He also has more money for set decoration and effects. Both these factors are great, but what he seems to have lost sight of is that the audience turns up for essentially one thing in his films: berserk visceral splatter kills. With the increased budget is also an increased runtime – 2 hours and 18 minutes, and there just isn’t enough material to justify extending the extremely convoluted premise over that amount of time.
Art does manage some nasty kills, which seem to be aided by his unexplained supernatural strength. Leone seems to particularly enjoy making Art brutalise women (Terrifier contained two deaths that seemed rooted in misogyny). One of the deaths he lingers over is more than gore, it’s outright torture and it quickly stops being entertaining and moves well into exploitation.
As much as Leone has upped the ante in terms of carnage and still maintains grisly practical effects, Terrifier 2 lacks urgency and with a script that really is utter nonsense that goes on for far too long, he has created something less impressive than Terrifier. David Howard Thornton remains an exceptionally eerie villain; coulrophobics beware – Art the Clown is still a standout in the killer clown pantheon (which seems to include over fifty movies, so the idea obviously resonates). Lauren LaVera’s acting is decent for a movie of its kind, she manages to do more than scared/empowered.
If buckets of gore are your thing, then Terrifier 2 delivers in spades, but if you require your horror-exploitation movie to have something even vaguely resembling a logical plot, you’re out of luck. For certain audiences Terrifier 2 will be a fun time but may test their patience. Be aware, there is a gonzo post credit sequence that is something to behold. Leone is setting up a third entry into the franchise and it will be fascinating to see just how much further he can push the envelope.