‘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 * * * *

‘Terrifier’ – A Routine Slasher Flick With An Unforgettable Antagonist

With the current and stunning box office success of “Terrifier 2” (over $7 million grossed so far on a budget of just $250,00), I did the only thing I could do which was watch the original. I was not aware of this one till the sequel came out which was reported to have had audience members vomiting and fainting during screenings, so naturally I was intrigued at what gory chaos its predecessor had to offer. If nothing else, the clown featured on the posters is the kind of thing nightmares are made of. Still, this one is routine as slasher movies go.

Terrifier” is a 2016 independent slasher film written and directed by Damien Leone, and it opens with television personality Monica Brown (Katie Maguire) interviewing a severely disfigured woman who was attacked by a menacing bastard known as Art the Clown. One look at her face, and you wonder why she is now quick to hide it from the world at large. Seeing her hideous facial features quickly reminded me of a scene in which a mechanic overlooks Michael J. Fox’s completely totaled Porsche in “Doc Hollywood” and says, “I can fix that.” I imagine there are plastic surgeons out there who will delude themselves into saying the same exact thing over this female’s face. Whether or not they can fix is not for me to say, but it is the first sign of just how brutal Art the Clown can be. If he does not kill all his victims, some of them may wish they were dead as he gives them a fate worse than being deceased.

Following this prologue which ends in a particularly brutal fashion, we arrive at a certain Halloween evening in which two friends, Tara (Jenna Kanell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), going home after a drunken Halloween evening in which one of them may or may not have gotten a cute guy’s phone number. They notice Art the Clown looking at them from a distance as they make their way to Dawn’s car. Next thing we know, Art follows them into a nearby pizzeria where Tara continues to fear him from a distance while Dawn goes out of her way to get a selfie with him as if he were nothing to fear. Now Art has teeth which are crying out for the nearest dentist and/or orthodontist. Seriously, anyone specializing in oral care will be quick to look at this psycho and say, “My God, don’t you even floss?!”

After Art gets kicked out of pizzeria for something other than asking for extra cheese on his supreme pizza, he goes on quite the murderous rampage as he pursues both Tara and Dawn and all those who help them or come in his way. Remember that scene in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in which Freddy Krueger told Nancy Thompson he was going to split her in two? Well Art does that and much, much, much more, and he does it all with a vicious smile which burns into your memory quite quickly.

The first thing I have to say is that “Terrifier” features one of the most fearsome antagonists the horror genre has seen in some time: Art the Clown. His makeup threatens to give Bill Skarsgård’s interpretation of Pennywise the Clown from “It” a run for his money as clowns have always been creepy, but few could be as creepy as this one. Portraying Art is David Howard Thornton, an actor who has appeared on stage, film and television, and he had previous mime experience before doing this particular horror flick. I don’t care what anyone says, acting classes do pay off eventually, and this man is proof!

As for writer and director Leone, he knows how to frame certain scenes to give us the best jump scares possible. This is worth noting as this movie essentially treads very familiar slasher territory. It kept my attention throughout even as it treaded over familiar ground more often than not.

But if there is anything which really sinks “Terrifier” for me, it’s the acting. It’s not all terrible, but there are moments in which the cast members could have really sold us on certain horrific scenes more vividly. When one character gets sawed in half, I expected a lot of Marilyn Burns “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” bug-eyed acting as that would really have been made sense considering the carnage on display. Instead, we get performances from those who look like they couldn’t be bothered enough to go completely ballistic given what they are forced to witness up close. It’s in moments like these where the movie lost it for me, and this one proved to be most damaging.

If nothing else, “Terrifier” really makes me want to check out the sequel. While this one is at best a run of the mill slasher flick, Leone has given himself something he can really build on the next time around. Considering the amount of attention and box office “Terrifier 2” is currently getting, it sounds like he has. This one isn’t terrible, but only does so much to lift itself above the common genre entry. It does, however, have one great thing: the inspired performance of David Howard Thornton.

* * ½ out of * * * *