The nightmare never stops in Terrifier 2. Art the Clown returns but isn’t alone in a sequel that does what few follow ups manage. Improving on the first film, writer-director Damien Leone utilizes myriad outstanding practical effects and tight editing to bring this bloodbath to life. However, the most shocking aspect may be the surprisingly human story at its heart, anchored by a solid performance from Lauren LaVera. Terrifier 2 is growing into a franchise, though where it’s going is anybody’s guess.
David Howard Thornton returns to the clown shoes, and the expressiveness of his face cannot be undersold. Just by changing the angle of his head, Thornton effortlessly transitions Art from a disquieting presence into an outright malevolent one. Without his performance, the murderous mime might be just another killer clown. However, in Terrifier 2, Art is a tangible night terror. Worse, he’s got company.
Introducing The Pale Girl, played by Amelie McLain, this childlike mimic of the malicious mime is as disturbing as he is, and she brings a new dimension to the overall story. The mystery of her presence as well as her appearance will hound audiences throughout the feature. Reddit threads are definitely destined to weave speculation about her in the days ahead. The reason for this is Amelie McLain, who does as impressive a job as Thornton conveying everything in silence, yet still scraping nerves.
The bulk of the story, though, centers on a young lady named Sienna, played by Lauren LaVera. She comes from a family fractured by tragedy. In some seemingly supernatural way, Sienna is tied to Art, so The Pale Girl leads the two into direct confrontation with one another. This path, unfortunately, leads through Sienna’s friends and family. Consequently, many of them meet unbelievably gruesome ends.
At times, Terrifier 2 borders on being a melodrama about a family on the verge of disintegration. One where things haven’t gone over the edge, but the brink is fast approaching. LaVera does a laudable job expressing the emotions of someone determined not to breakdown. It makes her believable as not only victim but someone who can truly fight back. When it’s time to turn the tables, LaVera isn’t simply following the final girl formula, she seems genuinely pissed and dangerous. Helping achieve that authenticity, she did most of her own stunts.
Sarah Voigt portrays Barbara, Sienna’s mother, and she too shines in the role. Scenes show her snapping at her kids then in private breaking down, cut by her own sharp tone. She solidly conveys a person at their wits end. This helps add a facet to the family which makes them more than fodder for the kills in Terrifier 2. Thanks in no small part to these performers, there’s a real sense of people who’ve been through enough, especially as the backstory emerges, that one can’t help feeling bad when the kills come. And the kills are coming.
Terrifier 2 hits the ground running with a grotesque slaughter right from the start. Yet, it’s only a taste of what’s to come. Though the pace slows a tick afterward, the resulting build is worth it. Instead of hopscotching quickly from one corpse to the next, Damien Leone pumps the brakes. The story then constructs plausible reasons main characters dismiss the presence of the Art even as he creeps closer. This adds not only tension but also a sense of the unreal.
Along the way, a few bloodless jump scares prod the audience, lulling some into a false sense of safety. Even when a fright feels obviously inbound, there’s either time enough for the anxiety to build, or the strike is unexpectedly vicious. I heard people in the theater wince at certain moments and couldn’t avoid a visceral discomfort from one stab in particular.
Superb practical effects blend with tight editing to make for some truly amazing slaughter. More than one gory display will have audiences speculating how filmmakers managed the shot. Something they’ll be wondering while the rest of the crowd is being brain-scarred speechless by the brutality. Terrifier 2 is a top tier atrocity exhibition.
The first Terrifier film did well as a showcase introducing audiences to Art the Clown. However, at times it felt like a stretched out short film. There’s little in the way of plot and the whole feature centered around showing off some amazingly gruesome, high quality practical effects. Despite the cult following the film produced, it could be considered, at best, prologue or proof of concept more than anything else.
With the sequel, though, writer-director Damien Leone clearly set out to expand the narrative aspect of this burgeoning franchise. By the end of Terrifier 2 there’s certainly room for a sequel. Some of the supernatural elements almost beg for elucidation in a future film. Meanwhile, cinematographer George Steuber does an admirable job conjuring a dreamlike atmosphere with tinted lighting that makes Terrifier 2 feel like someone’s retro ’80s nightmare.
All this praise isn’t to say there aren’t a few debatable stumbles. At 138 minutes, the runtime may cause hesitance in some. The length stems from a few moments that could’ve been tighter. For instance, a prolonged dream sequence. Despite providing the suspicion the movie may all just be a nightmare the scene goes on a bit longer than necessary. Likewise, the end overdoes the use of the horror trope where folks aren’t quite as dead as they seem. Still, these are minor staggers in an overall smooth slasher flick.
Although a classic killer intends to dominate this Halloween season, audiences would do well to see Art the Clown first. Even those unfamiliar with the first film will find references seamlessly woven into Terrifier 2. The movie is a step in the right direction for any horror franchise, and the potential for this to carry on is abundantly clear. Solid performances and stellar practical effects combine for an unforgettably sanguine spectacle. Terrifier 2 takes the familiar frights of a slasher flick and sends them to hideous new heights of gore.
Looking for more on Terrifier 2? Check out Sean Parker’s review: “Terrifier 2 Doesn’t Clown Around on Brutal Kills”