TERRIFIER 2 **** USA 2022 Dir: Damien Leone. 140 mins
Though the first TERRIFIER arrived at the point where it looked like a possible cash-in on the success of IT CHAPTER ONE, it was the first full-length outing for Art the Clown, the antagonist of writer-director Damien Leone’s earlier short films, themselves adapted for the feature portmanteau debut ALL HALLOW’S EVE (2013). TERRIFIER merged the format and old-school gore FX of 1980s slashers with graphic, mean-spirited death sequences closer to the more aggressive trends of early 21st century American horror -notably the bisection of a naked blonde.
Originally played by Mike Gianelli, Art is essayed by David Howard Thornton in the TERRIFIER films. He’s a fabulously amusing and unnerving presence and, for the sequel, Leone has amped up the gore even further – in addition to the running time: yes, that’s not a misprint, the film is 140 minutes long (and, yes, it does have further scenes during the end credits). Depending on your stance, this is either an outrageous indulgence for a sub-genre that has typically clocked in at less than 90 minutes or an entirely justified bumper does of you-know-who doing his thing. Certainly, TERRIFIER 2 could have easily ditched some backstory stuff and a lengthy dream sequence interlude. Then again, in an age where movies as soulless and joyless as JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION run for two and a half hours without an ounce of charm or invention, it seems churlish to grumble about our first dose of Art the Clown in five years delivering such an exuberantly gruesome and witty value-for-money experience. (Even bigger bonus: No Chris fuckin’ Pratt!).
Most importantly, Leone is so eager to please on the gore front, the running time whizzes by; with so much jaw-dropping splatter spectacle, few genuine fans will feel gipped just because they had to pause for a pee. It’s set, like its predecessor, around Halloween, with Art returning to terrorise Miles County one year on from the original film’s events. Among the biggest assets is an impressive, sympathetic performance by Lauren LaVera as the heroine: few Final Girls have gone through quite such arduous emotional and physical Hell as she does here, and she does so with appeal and aplomb. Her character arc quite nicely relates to a dead-father backstory (she spends much of the film crafting the warrior-angel costume he originated to honour his memory), while Art racks up another astronomical bodycount, threatening the lives of mom (Sarah Voigt) and precocious, serial killer-obsessed kid brother (Elliott Fullam).
Once again, Leone is big on equal opportunities slaughter – savagely assaulting men, women and children alike, with regular splashy bouts of glorious ultra-violence in which people are scalped MANIAC style, eyeballs are gouged with Fulci levels of enthusiasm, faces and knees are smashed to a pulp, heads roll and cocks fall. The make-up effects – like George Steuber’s evocative cinematography and Paul Wiley’s terrific synth score – are top notch. You get a couple of cameos from past slasher stars Felissa Rose and Tamara Glynn (and Chris Jericho for some reason), but, most importantly, you can relish over two hours of Art action.
Review by Steven West