by Patrick Bromley
It took six years, but I finally came around on writer/director Damien Leone's Terrifier, a slasher movie in which a killer silent clown murders a bunch of people in gross, graphic detail. A big part of what got me to revisit the movie in the first place was the news of a sequel forthcoming, one which promised to be just as rough and gnarly as the original while building upon it in interesting new ways. Having now seen Terrifier 2, I can say that it is mostly true. Mostly.
It's been one year since the first film's murders at the hands (and hacksaw...and guns...) of Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton). The only survivor of that fateful night (Samantha Scaffidi) is institutionalized after being horribly disfigured and killing a talk show host during an interview. Art is revived through some sort of supernatural nonsense having something to do with the ghostly spirit of a young girl also in clown makeup. I don't know. He seems to be after a teenage girl named Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and her younger brother Jonathan (Elliott Shaw), whose father killed himself but left behind a sketchbook containing not just drawings of Art's previous murders, but seemingly of things to come as well.
At almost two and a half hours, Terrifier 2 runs about an hour longer than its predecessor. Some will find the epic runtime bloated and unnecessary, too long to sustain what is a pretty typical slasher narrative. Others will appreciate what they consider more of a good thing. If you liked the first Terrifier as I (now) do, you'll probably fall into the second camp. Credit to writer/director Damien Leone: even at 138 minutes, he never lets the movie feel slow or too bogged down in mythology. What little attempt at mythology there is winds up mostly being nonsensical, some supernatural gobbledygook tacked on to an otherwise grounded story about a clown that kills people. I'm not complaining. The more abstract stuff makes Terrifier 2 feel different from the first movie, even if it never really comes together or pays off. I guess it couldn't be avoided, really, because as soon as you bring back a character who shot himself in the head at the end of the previous film, you're opening yourself up to dark magic. At least Terrifier 2 acknowledges it.
Of course, what's really going to draw people to Terrifier 2 is the bloodshed. The graphic kills and insane practical gore effects (created by Leone himself) are what gave the first film its reputation, and while I can't say that mean-spirited violence is why I watch horror, there's also no denying Leone's gift for creating carnage. The longer runtime and larger cast means an even greater body count this time around, all dispatched in ways that vary from long and elaborate (especially the movie's biggest set piece, which outdoes Catherine Corcoran's demise in Terrifier in the sadism department) to quick and brutal. The gore is so over the top that it becomes almost gleeful, and I can practically hear Leone giggling off camera at what he's able to get away with here. I love that in a horror movie.
I also like that Terrifier 2 is a little more character-driven than the first movie, the cast of which consisted primarily of victim placeholders (which is no knock against any of the actors, who did their jobs very well). LaVera makes for a compelling lead, finding strength in past trauma (sorry to use the T-word in relation to a horror movie; I promise Terrifier 2 isn't that kind of film) and gradually finding her way towards something that goes beyond Final Girl and achieves a kind of mythic hero status, wings and armor and all. She's a badass, and I like that this installment of what I assume is going to become a series gives a villain as iconic as Art the Clown his own iconic nemesis -- his Laurie Strode or his Marybeth Dunstan. I have no idea where Leone is going to take things from here, but I'm invested enough in Sienna to actually give a shit.
The good news for fans is that a) Terrifier 2 is getting a pretty decent theatrical release beginning October 6 and b) is going out unrated, meaning none of the gnarly shit is going to be softened or cut down. A theatrical run for a film this independently made (aided in part by a successful crowdfunding campaign) and totally unrated is a big deal, one which we horror fans should embrace. One weird detail about the distribution is that the original movie was put out by Epic Pictures and Dread Central, while the sequel is being released by their competitor site Bloody Disgusting and Screambox (full disclosure: I have sometimes written for Bloody Disgusting for a few years now). I believe there's a VOD/Screambox release planned for later this year, but I recommend going to see this one in theaters if you plan to see it at all. It's the only way to get more unrated horror in theaters and possibly ensure a Terrifier 3 gets made. For the first time in my life, I can say I'm ready for it.