Art the Clown is finally back in “Terrifier 2”, and he’s more bloodthirsty, more twistedly hilarious, more unhinged, and better than ever.
At the North American premiere of Terrifier 2, writer/director Damien Leone briefly introduced the film by explaining he expected to finish the film in three months. It ended up taking three years.
Ever the perfectionist, the dedicated filmmaker — who also serves as the film’s editor and one of its lead special effects artists — had a very particular vision for Art the Clown’s sadistically triumphant return.
It was a vision that included horrifying and delighting fans with some of the bloodiest, most inventive, and shockingly gruesome kills imaginable.
That kind of lofty ambition on an indie budget, in the hands of a man with an obsession for painstakingly created practical effects, translated to a lengthy wait for fans of the surprisingly brutal and comically twisted hit, Terrifier, which introduced the world to the brilliance of David Howard Thornton as the most terrifying yet oddly endearing clown to ever grace the screen.
While that wait may have been frustrating for those eager to soak in more creepy clown carnage, I’m here to tell you it was worth it.
Let’s all bow down and thank the horror gods that Leone refused to settle and remained true to his singular and demented vision.
Terrifier 2 takes everything you loved about the first film — that sick sense of humor, those wildly inventive and unforgettable kills, and that jaw-dropping spectacle of special effects — and cranks it all up to eleven.
It left me so gobsmacked after the screening that I had to let it marinate overnight before writing this review, leaving only my initial three-word review on Twitter:
First #terrifier2 review from #fantasticfest! Lol— Steve Barton (@UncleCreepy) September 23, 2022
Look for #terrifier2 to escape into theaters on 10/6. Get your tix before they’re gone!
Get tix:https://t.co/dD5l5oY58J#terrifier #arttheclown pic.twitter.com/5HXCU3WYij
Leone explained in a post-screening Q&A that he was committed to infusing the film with enough of what fans fell in love with the first film, specifically that gritty old-school slasher aesthetic — without simply rehashing all he had done before. The film should feel familiar but fresh.
He succeeded in spades.
That glorious hack-and-slash havoc is present and fully accounted for. But Terrifier 2 also ramps up the devilishly dark comedy while adding compelling characters, a believable family drama, and some gleefully off-the-rails supernatural elements.
The latter keeps audiences guessing at every turn and helps move the franchise into the realm of the genre’s most iconic slasher properties, making Art a force of eternal evil rather than just a bloodthirsty bad guy.
Leone also delivers a seriously kickass final girl courtesy of Lauren LaVera as Sienna. She’s smart, sexy, multi-dimensional, and fierce as hell. And unlike in Terrifier, where Art was the center of the unholy universe, Terrifier 2 gives us a formidable foe for Art, with Sienna serving as the story’s hero in the tradition of final girl royalty like Laurie, Nancy, and Sidney.
Remember that horrifying hacksaw scene in Terrifier where the lovely and talented Catherine Corcoran gets hung upside down and bisected in one of the most memorable kill scenes in all of slasher history?
Of course, you do. You loved it. Leone knows you loved it.
And Leone also knew he had to find a way to top that fan favorite scene in the sequel — or at least deliver a scene sick and twisted enough to rival it.
Enter the adorable Casey Hartnett as Sienna’s best friend Allie. She makes the mistake of being a little rude to Art and pays the ultimate price, suffering the full brunt of his brutality and barbarous creativity.
Her death scene took five days to shoot and months to prepare for. It’s exquisite in its savagery.
Alli’s demise takes several agonizingly long minutes, and Art keeps her alive as he toys with her like an animal playing with its prey. As a result, Hartnett really gets to showcase her extraordinary talent and scream queen pipes.
Meanwhile, Leone and special effects assistant Phil Falcone get to showcase their inventiveness and abundant gift for the gruesome. Just when you think everything has been done that can possibly be done, these evil geniuses manage to raise the stakes and throw some other unspeakable horror into the fire.
One of the hallmarks of Terrifier 2, and what really helps elevate it beyond standard slasher fare, is that it somehow manages to be hilarious while it’s horrifying you. Alli’s death scene, for example, sacrifices nothing in terms of gore and true terror. But it’s also so demented, and Art is such a giddy and jubilant killer that it’s laugh-out-loud funny in parts.
It’s enough to make you feel like you need your head checked, wondering how you can smile so much while witnessing so much depravity.
But it’s all by masterful design, and it all just works — even better than you think it should.
One of the best examples of this is an unforgettable scene in a Halloween store, already made infamous thanks to the magic of internet memes (hello, Art in sunflower shades).
Art is stalking Sienna and delighting in getting under her skin. While she attempts to pay for her purchases and get out of the store, Art tries on a series of silly glasses while posing like a psychopath.
It’s such a simple scene that manages to be wildly funny and entertaining while also being creepy as hell.
Leone lets the audience in on a bit of behind-the-scenes movie magic at the Q&A, explaining that most of that scene’s effectiveness is owed to Thornton’s brilliance at improvisational physical comedy.
In fact, it’s that ability to tell a story with his body and chew scenery with little to no direction that landed him the gig as Art. (Watch the two discuss Thornton’s casting below.)
Thornton explained how he nailed the audition process, which required him to sell a character with no lines of dialogue and no screen direction other than, “act like you just killed someone and find it wildly funny.”
It took one audition for Leone to know he had his killer clown, and he immediately invited Thornton to return for a makeup test.
Thornton embodied Art so completely that he became a breakout star after Terrifier and a hit on the horror convention circuit. If you weren’t afraid of clowns before that film, you damn well were afterward. And if clowns gave you the creeps before Thornton’s Art invited you into his hellscape, god help you!
With Terrifier 2, Thornton somehow manages to elevate his game and easily helps Art join the ranks of iconic villain status, more than earning his place alongside the best of the worst.
It’s nothing short of a master class in physical acting, combining visceral horror with humor in a way that’s rarely been achieved so successfully.
I could talk about this film for hours, but you deserve to experience the magic like I did — as unspoiled as possible.
The entire cast brings their A-game, including Elliott Fullam as Sienna’s brother Jonathan, Kailey Hyman as her friend Brooke, and the excellent Sarah Voigt as the beleaguered mom trying to hold her family together after the tragic death of her husband. We also get some fun cameos from horror icons Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) and Tamara Glynn (Halloween 5), as well as beloved wrestler, turned singer-actor-author Chris Jericho.
I will admit when I saw the run time for the film, 2 hours and 18 minutes, I thought Leone might have lost his mind.
How did he plan to make a slasher unabashedly boasting the same length as an epic Marvel movie or an Oscar-baiting dramatic period film? It’s a ballsy move, to say the least.
It’s a testament to how much Leone — and everyone involved in bringing this passion project to life — truly believes in this film, carefully crafted as a love letter to the fans. It’s fan service at its finest, and the gamble pays off.
There wasn’t a minute of that epic run time that I was bored.
There wasn’t a minute I wasn’t absolutely delighted and on the edge of my seat waiting for the next bit of insanity to be heaved at my eyeballs.
It’s long. I would have gladly sat for longer. When it was over, I was already eager for more.
That brings us to the final question of the posts-screening Q&A, one whose answer from Leone had us on the edge of our seats.
“Should we expect a Terrifier 3?”
Leone smiled and slyly retorted that Art is too rich of a character to retire, and there is still so much story to tell.
All, hail the horror gods! Hopefully, the next one won’t keep us waiting for quite as long. But, if it does, I think Leone has more than proven it will be worth it.
See this film as soon as possible, preferably in theaters while surrounded by fellow midnight movie horror fans. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.