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 * * * *