Review: Terrifier 2

Year: 2022
Runtime:  138 minutes
Director: Damien Leone
Writer: Damien Leone
Cast: David Howard Thornton, Lauren LaVera, Elliott Fullam, Sarah Voigt, Kailey Hyman, Casey Hartnett, Samantha Scaffidi, Felissa Rose

By Harris Dang

“Terrifier 2” (2022) follows the events from the first film almost immediately, as we see the notorious villain Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), terrorizing the sole survivor Victoria Heyes (Samantha Scaffidi) and dying in the process after being attacked by authorities. A year later, he is brought back to life by a mysterious being and sets his eyes on a small town to cause his reign of terror.

His two new targets are our new protagonists, Sienna Shaw (Lauren LaVera), a talented yet socially withdrawn artist and her brother Jonathan Shaw (Elliott Fullam), an unpopular kid who is obsessed with true crime stories. The family, led by their mother Barbara (Sarah Voigt), are undergoing a period of grief since the tragic passing of their patriarch. With his eyes on the prize, Art is bringing his circus to bloody new heights. But little does he know he may be facing a bigger challenge than he bargained for.

The villain Art the Clown (created by filmmaker Damien Leone) has gained notoriety and fame ever since his first appearance in the horror anthology “All Hallow’s Eve” (2013). His striking appearance, his sadism and his unexplained origins provided much palpable fear for horror fans.

Then came Leone’s feature-length directorial debut “Terrifier” (2016), a barebones horror experience that stood out due to the high blood-and-gore quotient and the presence of Art. However, there were criticisms of its lack of plot, minute character development, nil well-done drama and a mean streak of misogyny due to the victims being mainly women. Does the sequel rectify those criticisms while delivering what made the other films stand out?

In a short response, the answer is a resounding yes. “Terrifier 2” (2022) is a vast improvement over the first film in almost every single way. To reassure fans of the original film, the sadism alongside blood and gore are still packed to the brim. Unlike the first film, the violence is not enacted through means of torture porn. The sequel goes for a slasher motif with elements of surrealism, which fits the expansive scope of the story.

In terms of being a slasher, Art wreaks havoc on the townspeople in brutally over-the-top ways that hit the perfect note of macabre humour. One memorable scene involves Art slicing the victim until they are immobilised. And then on, Art breaks the victim’s bones and defaces them. Just when you think the scene ends, the killing goes even further as Art comes back in with props of torture that could rival something out of Looney Tunes. It is that exaggeration that gives the violence its humourous edge that makes it work as well as it does. It also helps that the victims are even-handed that the misogynistic streak is drastically muted in comparison to the original film.

On its level of surrealism, there is an elongated dream sequence that Sienna undergoes that calls to mind “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) with its sudden bursts of joy, civility and jolting bouts of devastation. In the climax of the film, one of our lead characters reaches the conclusion of their arc in a way that is both beautifully fantastical and satisfyingly human – it works beautifully in an operatic crescendo.

Which leads us to the characters of the film. The violence and horror in the film only truly matter if we care about the characters. In the case of “Terrifier 2” (2022), the two intrepid lead characters are well-defined as to how they adapt to the world while coping with their grief as well as how they display their knack that makes them special. Sienna has a knack for artistry through flights of fancy, which are inspired by her father; while Jonathan is knowledgeable in criminology that is inspired by his father’s passing.

The connection from them to their father is fascinating but thankfully, the characters have their own sense of autonomy and are credibly written enough that we can sympathize with their predicaments. The lead actors do a great job in digging into the mindsets of the characters, conveying their traumas and most especially their bravery remarkably well. LaVera, in particular, throws herself in the brunt of the story (particularly in the third act) with such physicality, that she makes both the gritty and fantastical aspects of the story quite palatable.

As for its flaws, the film is bloated with ideas that stretches its runtime to 138 minutes. To be fair, the film is not sluggish in its pacing. However, there are scenes that are either overly indulgent in their duration or wilfully obscure in its intent that it does become slightly frustrating on a character progression level. It is because of this and the overstated drama that some of the performances feel heightened and potentially silly in the process; particularly in the case of Voigt’s performance. For those who are seeking a true progression from the first film in terms of its survivors will come out slightly disappointed as the character of Victoria Heyes returns in a far less substantial role. Fortunately, her presence provides minor intrigue in a mid-credit sequence that opens the door for a sequel.

Overall, “Terrifier 2” (2022) does what most sequels fail to achieve – it improves on the original film in budgetary, narratively and emotional ways that provides a far sharper horror experience. It is the blunt-force, blood-drenched slasher epic that people are waiting for; jam-packed with slicing, dicing and dismembering — all wrapped up in a sesame seed bun. Highly recommended.

“Terrifier 2” (2022) is out in US cinemas now, thanks to Cinedigm Films.

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