‘Terrifier 2’ – Old School Horror at its Bloodiest and Goriest

For those of you who thought “Halloween Ends” did not deliver in the way a horror film should, and I’m still not sure what you all were expecting with that one, “Terrifier 2” definitely delivers. While David Gordon Green and his fellow filmmakers looked to challenge what we have seen in the past, writer and director Damien Leone is more than happy to wallow in genre conventions as he gives us all the scares, blood and gore he possibly can, and then he gives us ten times more of it. But in the process of bringing Art the Clown back for more mayhem of the most vicious kind, Leone gives us a sequel which more than outdoes the original. This used to be a rarity, but the history of movies is always longer than we realize, so maybe we should stop being so surprised when this happens with follow ups.

“Terrifier 2” starts with Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) laying waste to the coroner who was about to perform an autopsy on him, and he becomes the first of many examples of what Art can do to the human body before the heart and brain finally stop functioning. Just as John Doe did to the “sloth” victim in David Fincher’s “Seven,” he leaves a human body rotting in the most unimaginable way, and then we find out the victim still has a pulse. Remember how you as an audience member reacted to that? Wait until you see this.

Art prepares to move to the next phase of his murderous rampage while washing his bloody clothes, because somehow it is possible to wash blood stains off of clothing in a movie like this, and in the process, he comes into contact with a mysterious sinister entity named The Little Pale Girl (Amelie McLain) who comes to more or less follow him on his future murderous travels. There is a laundromat employee present, but he is laid waste to before he even realizes who has more quarters than the average customer.

We jump to a year later and are introduced to Sienna Shaw (Lauren LaVera), a young woman busy working on her Halloween costume which her late dad designed for her, and her younger brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) who has long since become fixated on Art the Clown and wants to dress up as him for Halloween. They are still dealing with the aftermath of their father’s death from a brain tumor, and their mother Barbara (Sarah Voigt) is trying to distract herself with her remote job as an insurance agent while being quick to dismiss the concerns of her children for no good reason other than the fact that reality has not been the least bit kind to her or her kids.

Seeing Sienna and Jonathan here and how they were written is one of several reasons why “Terrifier 2” outdoes its predecessor. The characters are far more interesting this time around as we become deeply invested in the crazy plight they get caught up in, and they never come across as your average horror movie stock characters. These two could have been easily typecast as the problem child and town wimp, but Sienna and Jonathan are not written or portrayed as either as this sequel only has so much time, if any, for cliches.

More importantly, both Sienna and Jonathan are stuck in an environment where the adults, including their mother, do not take the time to listen to them or their problems which are quite serious. This is a huge problem in real life as young adults are far more aware of what is going on in the world around them as opposed to the adults who are too busy blunting reality as it has long since become far too much to deal with. Watching these youngsters reminds me of the ending of Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits” in which the parents make the fatal mistake of not listening to their only child when they should have. The same thing applies here, and the consequences are far more brutal.

And unlike the original, this sequel has a much stronger story and narrative thrust. While the first “Terrifier” felt more or less like your average slasher flick, Leone gives himself more to work with this time around. It also benefits from the strong performances of its cast, particularly from Lauren LaVera who makes Sienna into more than the familiar final girl we see in most horror movies. Sienna does go through hell, but it is a hell which involves a lot more pain than other final girls have ever had to endure, and LaVera sells it for all it is worth.

Kudos also goes to Elliott Fullam for playing Jonathan as more than the average high school nerd I often see in movies dealing with teenagers. Yes, Jonathan is fascinated with death and serial killers like many were in their youth for a variety of reasons, but Fullman makes sure he never comes across as a mere type which I really appreciated. Furthermore, Jonathan is featured prominently in the film’s final act for good reason as he helps Sienna save the day in ways no other character like him could have.

And let us not leave out David Howard Thornton who once again gives us one of the scariest psychopaths the world has ever seen with Art the Clown. From start to finish, he gives the gory proceedings an unforgettable malevolence without even having to utter a single word. Art remains the same as he ever was, but his brutality is even more infinite than ever before as he lays waste to those in ways which do not allow for remorse or regret in the slightest.

While “Halloween Ends” looked to defy genre conventions, “Terrifier 2” is defiantly old school horror. Like AC/DC once said, “If you want blood, you’ve got it.” The viscera on display has already had many audience members reacting quite strongly, assuming the reports of fainting and vomiting in theaters are to be believed. Seriously though, the blood and gore we see here is quite the sight for those horror hounds who feel like they are not getting enough of it. There are even scenes where I imagine Tom Savini is watching this and saying, “Hey! I could have come up with that! No, seriously!”

As I write this, “Terrifier 2” has made more than $10 million dollars at the box office, and it only cost $250,000 to make. Part of me worries about Art the Clown becoming mainstream considering what ended up happening to Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and, to a lesser extent, Jigsaw. Those murderous fiends proved to be ever so frightening, and then they became almost family friendly with each successive sequel we got year after year. As the post credits indicate, Art the Clown is not finished with is mayhem yet. There is bound to be another “Terrifier” in the near future, so let’s hope he doesn’t become too average before we know it.

John Carpenter is right, evil never dies, but its profitability can render it more harmless than it ever intends to.

* * * ½ out of * * * *

‘Halloween Ends’ – Expect The Unexpected

I got to listen to the film score for “Halloween Ends” in its entirety before I sat down to watch the concluding chapter of this particular Michael Myers trilogy. Composed and performed by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, it reminds me of what Carpenter himself said about this installment: it is meant to be “more intimate” than its predecessors, and the music helps to illustrate this. But more importantly, it reminded me to go into this sequel expecting the unexpected as the previous installment was undone by too many expectations.

While 2018’s “Halloween” may have delivered the goods thanks to the return of Jamie-Lee Curtis and John Carpenter to the long-running franchise, “Halloween Kills” was treated indifferently as everyone looked at director David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and their team of filmmakers as if to ask them, “Do you even know what you are doing?” But it occurred to me that, like Rob Zombie did with his “Halloween” films, Green is not out to give us the same old thing, Instead, he is determined to add something new to a franchise which has burned itself out from fatigue more than once.

Four years have passed since the night Michael came home again, and everything in Haddonfield has more or less gone back to normal. Still, the physical and emotional scars of the townspeople are on display as people look to blame Laurie Strode for all the chaos and death which has occurred over the years. Nevermind the fact none of this was Laurie’s fault; everyone needs a scapegoat when the killer is nowhere to be found, and people these days tend to believe in the wrong things because they never bother doing the research.

As for Laurie, she has since procured a house for herself and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) to live in, and she is working on her memoirs as a way to deal with all the evil and death which seriously derailed her life. Allyson now has a job at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital and is expecting a promotion any day now, Deputy Frank Hawkins is still quite sweet on Laurie even as she begs him to eat more vegetables, and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) remains a good family friend and continues to serve drinks at the local Haddonfield bar.

Into all of this enters Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a young man who, like Laurie, once had a promising future which involved going to engineering school. But this is all laid waste to after a child he babysat ends up dying in a freak accident. As a result, he is seen as a freak of nature by the townspeople who hate him with little in the way of shame, and he is reduced to working in his Uncle Ronald’s junkyard fixing cars and stuff. But soon he gets the attention and sympathy of Laurie Strode and also Allyson as they see him as someone to help and relate to, but it doesn’t take too long for things to become very sinister to where many are reminded of a force of evil often referred to as “the shape.”

Right from the start, it should be clear how Green is looking to give us a new slant on things with “Halloween Ends.” I expected this one to start off with Michael Myers making his first kill, but it goes a whole other way which I did not see coming. Also, the classic font from the 1978 film is dropped in favor of the font used in the opening and closing credits of “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” As for the pumpkin, it keeps changing faces as to indicate to us how nothing is what it seems on the surface. Yes, he is defying our expectations in a way I personally welcome.

Truth be told, we don’t even get to see Michael Myers until almost a half an hour into “Halloween Ends.” The way I see it, the filmmakers see this sequel as a way of meditating on our collective relationship with evil; how we deal with it, how we can possibly overcome it, and how it can consume us beyond all repair. Laurie and Allyson have had their brutal experiences in this realm, and Corey is only getting started. This is why I find this particular installment so fascinating as I wondered who would prove to be more fearful, Michael or those who survived his wrath as a person’s dark side can easily overcome all else.

The fact “Halloween Ends” is getting such polarized views is not surprising to me. Fans go into them expecting certain things, and this one doesn’t always deliver on them for a variety of reasons. While fans may be begging for the same old thing, I always admire a filmmaker who is willing to take things in a different direction as franchises like these need any form of freshness they can get. Sure, there are some solid scares here, but this sequel is more about getting into your head psychologically than anything else as the dark side in all of us can easily consume our common sense and purpose in life before we realize it.

Andi Matichak remains a wonderfully strong presence as her character of Allyson maneuvers through a life in which she has lost so much and strives for any kind of normalcy she can get her hands on. Will Patton is still one of our most dependable character actors, and it is fun to see him try to warm up to Laurie Strode in a way few others could. And then there is Rohan Campbell who gives us a character in Corey who succumbs to an evil nature partly because life has given him few other avenues to pursue. In the process, Campbell gives us someone we empathize with and fear all at the same time.

But in the end, all praise goes to Jamie Lee Curtis who never fails in giving a strong performance in any motion picture she appears in. “Halloween Ends” is no exception as she makes Laurie Strode’s struggle to stay one step ahead of the evil which has destroyed much of her life all the more involving. Like Ellen Ripley from the “Aliens” franchise, she has been fighting her personal antagonist for so long to where she cannot remember a time when Michael was not in her life. Curtis represents the strong character a franchise like this thrives on as she strives, and encourages those around her, to not fall victim to a way of feeling which is inevitably destructive.

Many have complained about how “Halloween Ends” takes too long to get to the penultimate event we have all been waiting for; Laurie doing battle with Michael Myers one last time. Some need to be reminded of how the original 1978 acted as a slow-burn horror movie as it, aside from the key murder at its start, left the violence on hold until its latter half. Carpenter was more interested in creating an atmosphere of horror and suspense than in perpetrating violent onscreen violence back then, and Green mostly follows suit here. Also, this movie is not called “Michael vs. Laurie” for a number of reasons (and thank God it wasn’t by the way). I mean come on; this sequel is not just about these two.

Sure, it does contain a number of disposable characters who are just asking to be sliced and diced here. There’s a nurse who gets the promotion Allyson was hoping for, but that’s because she’s having an affair with the doctor the two are working under. Then there’s Allyson’s ex-boyfriend, a police officer who just won’t let their relationship, and there’s no forgetting the African-American DJ who never knows when to keep his mouth shut. They are all just begging for an exceptionally brutal exit from life, and one murder in particular would make Tom Savini proud, seriously.

In the end, I admired “Halloween Ends” for trying something different in the slasher movie genre. While it might not be completely successful, its ambitions kept my eyes glued to the screen, and it helps to bring closure to Laurie Strode’s constant fear of “The Shape.” Perhaps this ending will not satisfy everyone, but I can accept it for what it is.

Of course, it is hard to believe this will be the last “Halloween” movie ever. We have seen promising titles such as “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter,” “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” “Saw 3D: The Final Chapter” and “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” throughout the decades, and they eventually became punchlines we still laugh at. For sure, this is definitely the last “Halloween” movie for Jamie-Lee Curtis, John Carpenter and Blumhouse among others as the rights to franchise will now revert back to the Akkad family.

What life has taught me and others is evil never dies. It simply changes shape, especially when money is concerned.

* * * out of * * * *

The First Trailer For ‘Halloween Ends’ is Here, But Are We Truly Prepared for It?

2022 has been a year where Hollywood keeps reaching back to the past to where we got “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Jurassic World: Dominion,” and this will continue in the fall with “Halloween Ends,” David Gordon Green’s third and final “Halloween” movie in which Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) looks to have her last epic battle with the force of nature known as Michael Myers who destroyed her life decades before. And now, the first trailer for “Halloween Ends” has been released for the whole world to see, and while it may make expectations raise very high, you may want to check how high they end up going.

The trailer opens up on another Halloween night in what looks like Haddonfield, but it might actually be somewhere else. Nevertheless, we are caught up in the point of view of someone entering a quiet little house while breathing rather heavily. Even before he steps slowly and quietly up the stairs, we know it is Michael Myers. But the real first shock of this trailer is not the sight of Michael, but of him pushing open a door to where we see Laurie is hiding right behind it, ready to blow his brains out. That’s right, Laurie is prepared for Michael now more than ever to where we hear her say, “Come and get me motherfucker!”

Of course, the more the good people at Blumhouse keep pushing the climactic battle between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, the more I wonder if this trailer is truly preparing fans for “Halloween Ends.” Truth be told, the filmmakers and executive producer John Carpenter have described this “Halloween” movie as being quite different from the two which preceded it, and this trailer does not necessarily illustrate this.

What we know about this movie so far is that it takes place four years after the events of “Halloween Kills.” Laurie has been living with her granddaughter, Alyson (Andi Matichak), and she is on the verge of finishing her memoir. As for Michael, he has not been seen in years and no one has any idea where he has wandered off to. But when Alyson’s new boyfriend, Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), is accused of killing a boy he was babysitting, violence erupts among the townspeople to where Laurie is made to confront the force of evil known as Michael Myers one last time.

 “Halloween Kills” was seen as something of a step down from Green’s phenomenally successful 2018 “Halloween” movie, but looking back, I wonder if that was the result of unrealistic expectations. Carpenter himself described the sequel as being the “ultimate slasher movie,” but many were not in agreement with his thoughts on it.

Also, we recently got word of a test screening for “Halloween Ends” which had several audience members having an indifferent reaction to it. From what they told us, this movie focuses more on Alyson than anyone else, and Laurie does not even show up until the last act. This is not made the least bit clear from this trailer which features the return of several other characters including Deputy Frank Hawkins (Will Patton), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) and Sheriff Barker (Omar Dorsey) as some many quick cuts are made to where we cannot make the faces of everyone out right off the bat.

Curtis has said this movie will be shocking and that it will make people angry, producer Malek Akkad has stated it will be more contained than the previous sequel, Carpenter has said it will be a departure from the previous entries, and Green has described it as being a coming-of-age film and a more intimate film like Carpenter’s “Christine.” I bring all this up because I am not sure this trailer makes any of this the least bit clear, but hopefully the next trailer will as expectations need to be tempered a bit.

Right now, I am convinced people will be disappointed in “Halloween Kills” for all the wrong reasons, and I want them to view it for what it is as opposed to how they picture it in their minds. From all the talk about it, Green and his fellow filmmakers aim to give us something a bit different from what we have previously seen, and that cannot be a bad thing, right?

Nevertheless, we can at the very least expect another terrific music score from Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, and we can be assured this will be the last “Halloween” movie released under the Blumhouse banner. After this, the rights to the franchise will revert back to the Akkad family, and odds are they will keep this franchise going on in one way or another. Seriously, remember what Carpenter said:

“Let me explain the movie business to you: if you take a dollar sign and attach it to anything, there will be somebody who wants to do a sequel. It will live. If the dollar sign is not big enough, no matter what, it will not live.”

Remember, evil never dies.

“Halloween Ends” will arrive in theaters on October 14, 2022.

Final Trailer For ‘Halloween Kills’ Promises a Big Reunion

While the previous trailer for “Halloween Kills” showed how brutal the latest installment of this long running horror franchise is going to be, the final trailer proves it will be one hell of a reunion as well as several familiar faces return in an effort to lay waste to Michael Myers. Evil never dies, but it never stops the residents of Haddonfield from trying to kill it.

Kyle Richards returns as Lindsey Wallace, one of the kids Laurie Strode babysat in the original, and seeing her yell at a couple of young trick-or-treaters to rush home shows she has not fully recovered from the events of 40 years ago. We also see Nancy Stephens back in her fourth go-around as Marion Chambers, former assistant to the late Dr. Sam Loomis, and she is smart enough to bring a gun to a knife fight. But like Loomis in “Halloween II,” Marion appears to lack that extra bullet, and it looks as though she will have as much luck in this “Halloween” timeline as she did in the other.

Tommy Doyle, the other young lad Laurie saved in “Halloween,” is back as well, this time played by Anthony Michael Hall. Tommy as a youngster was convinced of how no one can kill the boogeyman, but seeing Hall wielding a metal baseball bat indicates he will give it his best shot.

Heck, even the kid who bullied Tommy as a kid, Lonnie Elam, makes a return to the franchise, and he is played as an adult by Robert Longstreet. This trailer also hints at Lonnie’s own encounter with Michael Myers, which he somehow survived, and even he is determined to take out “The Shape” anyway he can, even if it means going to Michael’s childhood home.

So, what is opening up in October looks to be a horror film where everyone is still deeply traumatized from the horrible events which took place four decades ago, and now history has repeated itself to where no one in Haddonfield will allow this murderous rampage to continue. While Laurie looked to be the only one traumatized amongst the characters in the previous “Halloween,” this follow-up is filled with dozens of people whose lives have been forever shattered. Of course, there is another sequel coming after this one (“Halloween Ends”), so it will be interesting to see how this one will conclude as Michael’s reign of terror is still far from over.

Seeing all the characters in town chant “evil dies tonight” makes “Halloween Kills” especially chilling as an angry mob, even with the best of intentions, can make some seriously awful mistakes. We have seen this in previous sequels like “Halloween IV,” but on a much smaller scale. This installment has a budget which allows for the appearance of far more characters than its predecessors could ever hope to have.

Watching this final trailer several times over makes me wonder about a few things. Is Will Patton actually returning as Deputy Frank Hawkins even after what happened to him in the last film? Will we see how Michael Myers was captured by the Haddonfield police all those years ago? If you look really closely, Sam Loomis does make an appearance, but will he look and sound like Donald Pleasance?

But another thing I wondered about more than anything else was this: will Laurie Strode (played by the great Jamie Lee Curtis) die in “Halloween Kills?” While Laurie is featured throughout much of this trailer, the climax appears to be dominated by her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) and her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) as they attempt to not only kill Michael, but unmask him for all the world to see. We don’t see Laurie in any of those scenes, so I am worried this film maybe it for her. If she is to be killed off, let’s hope she gets a better fate than the one she received in “Halloween Resurrection.”

And of course, we have been promised an unmasked Michael Myers before. We got a glimpse of his face in John Carpenter’s original film, and we were promised an up close and personal look of him in “Halloween 5,” but the latter turned out to be a cruel tease. Besides, with one more “Halloween” coming in 2022, is this really the time to see Michael unmasked? Well, anything is possible.

“Halloween Kills” will finally arrive in theaters everywhere on October 15th, and will also debut on the Peacock streaming service on the same day. If I were you, however, I would see it on the silver screen with an audience, be it a big or a small one. And if you do see it in a theater, wear a mask. Hey, it works for Michael.