"Terrifer 2" a spectacularly demented slasher opus for hardcore Art fans

Terrifier 2 (2022)

If you thought Art the Clown wouldn’t return, you probably didn’t make it through all of 2018's “Terrifier,” writer-director Damien Leone's subjectively terrifying, gory-as-hell, effectively sleazy, no-frills slasher flick on a budget. It was the kind of horror movie where you wouldn’t be surprised if they used real human blood on set to save costs. Worthy of an entire franchise, Art does return, in fact, for Leone’s sequel “Terrifier 2,” a spectacularly demented slasher opus that ups the ante in every way.

The Miles County Clown’s body was never found after being taken to the local coroner's office. Of course, the seemingly immortal Art (David Howard Thornton) has escaped from the morgue to continue his killing spree on October 31st. This time with a clown-faced mini-me (Georgia MacPhail) skipping alongside, he begins stalking artsy high school student Sienna (Lauren LaVera), whose late father used to sketch the clown who likes to sign his name in excrement and cranium blood. With shades of 2004’s darkly humored horror indie “Satan’s Little Helper,” Sienna’s 12-year-old brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) wants to dress up as Art for Halloween, while their mother (Sarah Voigt) doesn’t know what to do with her son's macabre fascination. Plagued by recent nightmares of the clown that isn't Pennywise, Sienna will have to be like her Halloween costume, a sexy but fierce warrior princess, and end Art's rampage. 

More brutal, more disgusting, and more twistedly amusing than the first film (all compliments), “Terrifier 2” keeps finding ways to drop your jaw and then rip that jaw off. For what it’s worth, the story is slightly stronger and no less ruthlessly cruel to its new batch of characters when the epic-sized slasher goods need to be delivered. It’s innate in the genre, but some characters are smart (a young woman in peril takes off her impractical knee-high boots) and others are not (another young woman just stands in shock rather than immediately exit her house). Nevertheless, it’s a treat when horror movies can actually feel dangerous, and Damien Leone’s “Terrifier” and now “Terrifier 2” live up to that feeling in spades.

The performances are all as good as they need to be, but this is really all about David Howard Thornton’s brilliantly silent and scary-cum-funny performance. Right down to the little black dot on his white-painted nose, Art is the man of our nightmares, turning on the morbid theatrics and gestures even when he is unpredictably dangerous. Most movie monsters are scarier the less we see of them, but Art is an indelible terrifier either way. The amount of time he takes to look for spare change out of his trash bag of rusty tools to pay for a horn at a Halloween shop is unbearably tense. Although he does take on supernatural invincibility as if he’s no longer just a sick human being, we wouldn’t have more Art otherwise, and that wouldn’t be fun. Considering there's some left-turn weirdness that not every viewer will be on board with—almost think "Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood"—writer-director Leon takes a few risks, proving he has more ideas left in his trash bag of tricks.

Besides Art, Lauren Lavera is a badass and a worthy opponent for Art as Sienna, who spends the last half of the movie dressed as a Xenia Warrior Princess-type character with angel wings. She stands a closer chance of still standing by the end than Tara or Victoria from the first movie. As Sienna’s best friends Allie and Brooke, Casey Hartnett and Kailey Hyman have charisma and that same “thing” that Annie and Lynda from “Halloween” had, although Annie and Lynda had it so easy with Michael Myers.

With remarkable special f/x makeup, writer-director Leone somehow manages to rival his first movie’s hacksaw kill, which many deemed to be misogynistic. Well, you’ve seen nothing yet. One show-stopping torture sequence (you will definitely know it when you see it) is so savage and mean-spirited that it will live in your memory forever. How long Leone lets this murder play out is outrageous to the point of laughing just to defuse the sick nature of the scene, but that doesn't make it any less upsetting. There’s also one disturbing dream sequence that subverts the cheerfulness of a clown entertaining a crowd until the carnage begins, all while Art laugh-mimes. 

Perhaps 138 minutes is a wildly inflated run time for an exploitation pic about a murderous, cannibalistic clown, but there isn’t a wasted bucket of blood. The film is complete with a finale in a hellish carnival funhouse known as “The Terrifier,” and don’t leave before a truly bonkers mid-credit scene (with pro wrestler/horror fan Chris Jericho giving a brief appearance as hospital security). As grimy, gnarly video nasties go, “Terrifier 2” is the stuff. It has no more substance than it needs. It's very successful at what it wants to be. It won’t ease anyone into the genre—you’re either in or you’re out—but for the hardcore set, it’s the purest slasherama for Halloween. "Terrifier 3," where are thee?

Grade: B +

Cinedigm in partnership with Iconic Events is releasing “Terrifier 2” (138 min.) in select theaters on October 6, 2022.