It’s not easy to create a horror icon. If you look at history’s greatest horror villains, you’ll find that they’ve been with us for a very long time. Some of them were born in novels and Gothic literature, like Dracula or Frankenstein (well: Frankenstein’s monster) that emerged in the 19th century. In cinema, we have been accompanied by loved characters for decades: “Leatherface” from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or Michael Myers from “Halloween” (the 1970s), Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th”, Freddy Krueger from the series “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or Chucky from “Child’s Play”, (the 80s) or at most the 90s, for example, Ghostface from the “Scream” series. It’s not that there haven’t been some good horror characters since then, but that the last few decades have not really Produced “new” crazy killers who murdered countless victims in over-the-top movie series, and are even responsible for countless merchandise of all kinds.
After this bombastic introduction, one point needs to be made clear: I’m not here to claim that Art the Clown, the super-creepy hero of what’s becoming quite a bloody movie series, is the next icon. He still has a whole lot of bodies he needs to tear apart to get that definition. But “Teriffier 2” emphasizes that he is one of the most threatening, chilling, and cruel characters we have encountered on the big screen.
Pennywise, Behind You!
Clowns are some of the most effective horror characters out there. According to many, the most memorable scene from “Poltergeist” is the clown who almost chokes one child to death (in the film and reality). The most successful horror film of all time to date, “It”, centers of course on a clown named Pennywise. In between, we saw some other lovable clown characters, such as Captain Spaulding from Rob Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses” or Twisty the Clown from the fourth season of “American Horror Story”. Art the Clown, in my opinion, ranks one of the highest on this list. Moreover, I’m almost sure that a crossover movie featuring a showdown between Pennywise and Art – in the style of “Freddy vs. Jason” or “Alien vs. Predator” – could be hysterical.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Art the clown is the product of the wild imagination of director, producer, and screenwriter Damian Leone. He appeared in several short films and managed to get positive reviews from the few who saw the short film “The 9th Circle” in 2008. Art appeared in several scenes in Leone’s 2013 full-length anthology film “All Hallow’s Eve“: The final scene starring Art the Clown, who emerges from the television screen to slaughter a family’s children, is the best in the film. Then came the first “Terrifier” from 2016, with a ridiculous budget of about $35,000. There were a lot of problems with this movie: the plot was non-existent, the acting was pretty bad, and the effects matched the budget.
Even then, the film shows how much Art, played by David Howard Thornton, is a kick-ass clown. He is dressed in black and white, with a black peaked hat placed crookedly on his head, and is made up in these shades: the black mouth receives most of the attention, on his hideous smile and sharp teeth. Art does not speak and performs pranks and childish gestures from the arsenal of birthday parties for toddlers. He walks around slowly with a black bag, which does not contain surprises for children but dozens of murder, sawing, and cutting tools. As we learned at the end of the previous film, he is probably also supernatural.
Welcome: Script and Acting
To Damien Leone's credit, he certainly took the criticisms of the first Terrifier to heart. It starts with the plot, which this time does exist. Leone said he wrote the script for three and a half months, and at the same time, he read books on constructing stories and listened to interviews with screenwriters. The result is that "Terrifier 2" lasts, believe it or not, almost 140 minutes.
"Terrifier 2" focuses on a talented girl named Sienna (Lauren LaVera), who is working on making an angel costume for the upcoming Halloween party. She lives with her mother (Sarah Voigt) after her father - who also showed creative skills that we will reveal later in the film - passed away. Her little brother (Elliot Fulham) is drawn to the story of Art the Clown and dreams of dressing up as him because that's what people do. As happens in many slashers, Art will try to get to that girl while brutally killing everyone close to her.
Here's Terrifier 2 Trailer:
The improvement here, certainly compared to the previous film, is that LaVera seems to have done a reasonable job in shaping the characters and building the relationships within the family unit. The dialogues are also reasonable, and several scenes add a comic dimension to Art and the entire film: for example, the moments when Art arrives at the laundromat or accompanies the heroine on her visit to the costume shop. The result is not perfect on the level of the script - you can easily cut about 20-30 minutes from the film to make it tighter - but this time there is definitely... some plot here. It has to be said that the script doesn't answer some questions that were left open at the end of the first film, and also added some new questions that it is doubtful that we will get an answer to soon.
David Howard Thornton's performance as Art continues to do the trick. Thornton, who took the job after the retirement of Mike Giannelli (who played Art in the short films and "All Hallow's Eve"), said that he was influenced by comedians such as Charlie Chaplin, famous horror killers such as Robert Engeld as Freddy Krueger or Tim Curry as the first Pennywise, and especially from the various representations of the Joker character. Bottom line, he manages to create a character that manages to be threatening and funny at the same time, with the help of physical gestures and without words.
Lauren LaVera, who plays the main protagonist, is impressive. She has appeared so far mainly in short films, and this role may open the door for her and make her another "Final Girl" from the arsenal of recent years. Don't expect a performance here that will raise questions as to why acting in horror films does not earn an Oscar nomination (for example, Tony Collette in "Hereditary ", Anya Taylor Joy in "The Witch" or even Mia Goth in the latest "Pearl") because it's not there yet. But LaVera does manage to carry "Terrifier 2" on her shoulders (or more precisely: her wings) in the moments when Art is not on the screen, which is not an easy thing. She has charisma, she is sexy and sometimes manages to add emotion or humor in the appropriate places, although the script does not necessarily make life easy. Unlike other characters, including the protagonist of the first film who returns here in a gruesome role that may be more central in the expected third film, she also manages to behave for the most part sensibly and evoke some sympathy.
The rest of the actors are not really impressive - and yes, we mean mainly the overacting of the mother and the little brother - but one should not exaggerate. We didn't really expect too much here.
"Terrifier 2": Longer, Bloodier
And there is also the subject of effects, or if you like: the gore. Art the clown, as we've already learned, doesn't use any means. He is not satisfied with murdering his victims, and there were quite a few of them in the Halloween massacre shown in that film, but mostly enjoys tormenting them and grinning at the macabre result.
In one of the memorable scenes of the first "Terrifier" film, he holds a naked woman in the air, upside down, and cuts her down to half - from below. In the sequel, there are more extreme images because independent cinema of this kind allows, and probably the budget also allowed Leone to go wild a little more. "Terrifier 2" was already produced with a bigger (but still ridiculous by Hollywood standards) budget, much of which was the result of a successful "Indiegogo" campaign. The campaign, which set a goal of 50,000 dollars, managed to generate about a quarter of a million dollars. "Terrifier 2" Budget is still modest, but the film manages to use it for it's own good.
Leone, who at the beginning of his career worked in special effects in cinema, stretches the boundaries of the genre here. The result combines"Splatter Films", which focus on atrocities and violence against the human body with other subgenres, such as "Torture Porn" or "body horror". This combination is clear in the scene that is probably the most horrifying in "Terrifier 2", which some call "The Bedroom Scene".
Without spoiling it for you, in the scene Art the Clown brutally tortures one of the secondary characters for a couple of minutes, as if she were nothing more than a doll. He creates rivers of blood, cut organs, and for dessert pours a lot of salt and bleach on the wounds (literally). It's hard to say that the result here is too realistic or scary - Leone and his team used a puppet, which was operated by the crew behind the scenes, and for a few seconds also in digital work. At this point, the film works mainly on the gore area, and the result is a kind of "horror slapstick", during which we wonder how the hell this character stays alive and don't know whether to be afraid, laugh or cry. Like other movies, there are reports that this scene, along with several other brutal murders, caused fainting, vomiting, and other exaggerated descriptions used in the movies' PR campaign.
Meet The Little Pale Girl
It is safe to say that "Terrifier 2" manages to be more bombastic and richer than the previous films. He is also much more ambitious. In what might become a franchise or even a new horror icon, there is an entire mythology surrounding the character of Art the Clown. It even has a new song that repeats several times in the film and the end credits. I wouldn't say that this song, "Clown Cafe", will go into the classics of horror songs, but its use did remind me of that song from "A Nightmare on Elm Street". This connection is especially noticeable in some nightmarish dream scenes, just like we saw in the world of Freddy Krueger.
The biggest surprise in the film, in my opinion, is the new character we got here: "The Little Pale Girl" (Amelie McLain), as she is described. The girl, who is connected to Art's bloody past in a way that we will understand during the film, is used here as his sidekick. She is dressed similarly, uses similar childish physical gestures, and is responsible for some great moments. I guess we will get to see her in future films as well, and according to the best cinematic tradition, maybe even in her spin-off film. Even the survivor of the first film, with a particularly worn and gruesome look, shows that imagining and designing horror characters is probably one of the strongest aspects of Leone's work.
Although it is far from perfect, "Terrifier 2" is a significant improvement over its predecessor. The fact it has reached wider commercial distribution and grossed over 12.5 million dollars so far is excellent news for slasher fans. This way, we will probably get to see one of the most successful characters of horror cinema in recent years continue to cut skin and sinew. Maybe, a new horror icon will be born.
“Terrifier 2” (2022) – Full Details
Countries of Origin: United States
Director: Damien Leone
Cast: David Howard Thornton, Lauren LaVera, Amelie McLain, Elliott Fullam, Sarah Voigt
Runtime: 138 minutes
Budget: $250,000 (estimated)
US & Canada: $10,640,105
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): Not Rated
IMDB Rating: 6.2
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