This is an advanced review out of Fantastic Fest, where Terrifier 2 made its world premiere. It will hit theaters on Oct. 6, 2022.
Damien Leone’s highly anticipated Terrifier 2 is a tremendous improvement over the original all-slaughter, no-substance Terrifier that introduced newfound slasher celebrity Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton). Leone’s symphony of bodily destruction boasts magnificent practical kill sequences; as a bonus, there’s a semblance of storytelling this time. It’s still riddled with underdeveloped subplots and themes, but Leone better adheres to traditional slasher formulas with an empowered final girl and motivations behind Art’s sickening massacre spree. It’s clear that Terrifier movies mean to be low-budget yet hyper-revolting special effects showcases, and Terrifier 2 doesn’t disappoint (full-view decapitations, bones snapped like twigs, gooey dismemberment) — I just don’t know if Leone fully utilizes the film’s two-hour-plus runtime with so much leftover ambiguity.
Terrifier 2 follows recognizable slasher sequel molds, given how Art’s resurrection isn’t referenced outside the film’s plot synopsis. Art’s back for another Halloween massacre in Miles County…because why not? Brother and sister duo Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) attract Art’s attention, possibly due to their deceased father’s foreboding sketchbook filled with Art’s monochromatic portrait and disturbing traces of Art’s original victims. Also along for the ride is a “Demon Girl” dressed as Art’s mini-she, costumed in black and white, down to rotten teeth and makeup just like Art. Somehow, someway, Leone tries to force all these supernatural elements together sans perfection, unlike splattery gore whenever Art opens his trash bag of murder weapons.
Leone’s growth as a screenwriter between Terrifier and this follow-up is a noticeable improvement, but overall cohesion still lacks. Terrifier 2 takes the gonzo “Jason fights a telepath” approach to sequel storytelling by introducing Art’s skip-along accomplice or Sienna’s comic-book heroism, only to execute like explanations vanished during post-production. Art’s resurrection is basically a marketing logline, some characters can see the Demon Girl while others can’t, and Sienna’s spiritual connection to her father’s fictional character in some possibly magical sketchbook has coincidental “go with it, bro” energy. Terrifier 2 veers off the rails in ways other franchises don’t encounter until entry four (Leprechaun), five (Child’s Play), or seven (Friday the 13th), and that’s not always a good thing when highlighting the scattershot screenplay. At 138 minutes, you’d presume Leone would have plenty of time to richly explore mythology that otherwise stays forgotten.
That said? I’ll counterpoint myself. Terrifier became an overnight sensation based on Art’s seared-into-nightmares smile, his vying for slasher icon status through coulrophobia, and vile Halloween havoc. In that regard, Terrifier 2 doubles down on Art’s legend and showstopper kill sequences.
Art might be mute, yet his maniacal personality becomes even louder in Terrifier 2. David Howard Thornton’s given more opportunities than silently cackling like a carnival creepshow while desecrating victims’ bodies. Art’s companionship with his freaky — possibly ghostly — tagalong is despicably sweet as they play Patty Cake. Thornton brings more physical humor like his cartoonishly loony sneak-up-from-behind high steps or giddiness while trying on flower petal sunglasses (before pulverizing a cashier). Art takes substantial steps closer to Freddy Krueger comparisons, only without pun-fueled dialogue. Leone hits closely on October cult favorite Satan’s Little Helper in terms of maximum Halloween mischief gone horror-monster mad. We have so few contemporary slasher icons outside the likes of Adam Green’s Hatchet villain Victor Crowley or the Fear Street crew — Thorton and Leone take considerable strides toward securing Art’s legacy.
Terrifier 2 slathers sets slick with no-brakes, all-gas gore buffets that recall the schlockiest ‘70s and ‘80s midnighters that’ve stood their respective tests of time. Leone’s confidence when filming Art’s heinous acts of inhumanity never averts camera lenses as knives saw through prosthetic necks that gush gelatinous insides like removing a dam’s blockage. Every death goes 70 delirious steps too far — Art’s style can’t just be a pathetic stab. Shotgun blasts sever heads and send them careening into garage walls like a basketball, and makeshift maces bash chests until they split open so Art can reach in and snack on his victim’s heart. A neverending bedroom execution sequence recalls everything from Scream 4 to Hellraiser to Piranha 3D in terms of excessive gore, dipping back into a crimson well that never runs dry. Terrifier 2 offers the best bang-for-buck kill count of any slasher that’s come out in longer than I can remember — Leone’s special effects team deserves every lick of praise coming their way.
That’s what makes Terrifier 2 so difficult to critique. Lauren LaVera rules as Sienna in her angel-winged fantasy armor as a final girl fighting for family, facing her demons, and screaming bloody war cries in Art’s mocking face — but Leone’s spotty storytelling stunts her enthusiastic survival arc. Other supporting performances like Kailey Hyman’s reckless bestie Brooke are less appealingly evocative of cheesier ‘80s stereotypes. There are attempts to introduce Kandarian Dagger-like items with that level of importance but zero revelations why, as focus stays on Art’s sensational slaughtering throughout commercial shoot daydreams, seasonal Halloween storefronts, and haunted circus attractions (that explain the film’s “Terrifier” title). Everything you love about Terrifier gets better — everything you don’t still exists, just to much lesser degrees (progress requires patience).