Movie Review: Terrifier 2

There’s a long tradition of horror filmmakers willing to push the boundaries of good taste to their limits, including several who have gone on to become respected directors in more mainstream circles (few who have seen his Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings movies would suspect Peter Jackson of having also made the blood-soaked Dead Alive). Drive-ins and seedy grindhouse theaters were notorious for screening low-budget splatterfests from directors like Herschell Gordon Lewis, Frank Henenlotter, and Lucio Fulci to name a few. As those venues largely went out of business, these sorts of “disreputable” movies instead found their way to the public via video stores, often relegated to back rooms, hidden behind beaded curtains. Now, with the advent of digital distribution they are accessible to more people than ever before, though with that accessibility comes the challenge of standing out in a very crowded marketplace. So it is perhaps ironic that one of the newest extreme shockers to be made has come full circle and found success in movie theaters, having managed to take in nearly $8 million (so far) on a reported budget of around $250,000.

Those who have seen Terrifier since its release in 2016 will remember that villain Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) was killed at the end. As is typical for the genre however, for the bad guys, death is rarely permanent, and so he is revived in the opening scenes and immediately sets about murdering people in shockingly grisly fashion. While that is going on, we meet Sienna Shaw (Lauren LaVera), her younger brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam), and their mother Barbara (Sarah Voigt), all still struggling with the recent suicide of her father in their own ways. As Halloween approaches Sienna and Jonathan both find themselves being stalked by Art and a little girl clown (Amelie McLain) that only the three of them seem to be able to see, as he carves a path of destruction towards the family.

No real explanation is given for exactly why Art is so attracted to the Shaws (or why they can see the child clown when no one else can), which will probably confound some viewers, though sometimes not having an explanation for evil only serves to make it more frightening. And Art is very frightening. He never speaks a word of dialogue, instead using exaggerated motions and expressions to convey meaning, and Thornton excels at the role, finding the perfect balance between menacing and silly. The rest of the cast is of pretty variable quality, though no one is bad, itself a feat when working with such a low budget. The effects work is better than the budget would suggest, relying almost entirely on practical effects to shocking effect. It’s easy to believe the rumors of audience members fainting in theaters after seeing some of the outrageously gruesome moments writer / director Damien Leone stages here.

It’s a shame then that it isn’t scarier to watch. So much focus has been put on crafting scenes of grisly violence that little seems to have been left for building suspense. At nearly 2 1/2 hours long the film would have likely benefitted greatly if it had been treated in the editing bay the same way Art treats his victims and received a little slicing. There are some completely unexplained supernatural turns during the finale that feel surprisingly hokey but it still builds to a satisfying conclusion that of course leaves plenty of room for sequels. In some ways Terrifier 2 improves on its predecessor while in others it retains some of the same flaws, but it’s never boring, and those that can stomach the gruesome imagery will likely want to see where Leone takes Art next. ★★★

not rated. contains strong graphic violence, disturbing images, strong language, brief nudity, drug use, and thematic material.

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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