TERRIFIER 2. Bloody breath of fresh air
Apparently, at screenings of Terrifier 2 in U.S. theaters, people vomited, fainted (hopefully not in reverse order, because you could end up like a rock star), called ambulances and left the theater mid-screening. Perhaps just to pee, and the hype-seeking media made a big sensation out of it. Strange these Americans are, I guess they didn’t see the trailer or didn’t get that it was a slasher, and took a family trip to the cinema on Halloween for a movie about a clown with a trumpet and wearing a funny hat. And at the screening, once the youngest of the kids started to puke, the rest of the family followed its steps and it was done. Anyway, the info about the weak American viewers went out into the world, which made Terrifier 2 a free promotion, which is a good thing, because I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I had missed this marvel. What’s all the fuss and excitement about? You’ll read below, unless the blood-colored images alone encourage you to see Terrifier 2. That’s fine, too.
The era of the reign of horror slayers stuck by their roots in the last century seems to be coming to an end. Freddy Krueger, played by Robert Englund, has hung up the gauntlet that Jackie Earle Harley tried to take up in the 21st century with no small failure, and Jason Voorhees ended with Kill ‘Em All… that is, he was last seen with a machete probably in 2009. Chucky, which finally made it to television, draws its last breaths, and the Scream series’ reboot-sequel, brought nothing new to a franchise still reaping the benefit from the original movie. Moreover, Michael Myers was definitely (I swear!) killed in this year’s Halloween Ends, though we know well it’s not really the end. For the masked psychos of a bygone era, whose march through movie theaters lasted a solid few decades, it was time to retire. And as nature, including the nature of horror, abhors a vacuum, there was also the inevitable passing of the knife in the horror relay. And that’s how we got the great clown from the remake of It (I’m skipping the tenuous sequel), the very interesting Fear Street trilogy 1994 / 1978 / 1666 with a veritable flurry of masked men, and most recently, like a bolt from the blue, the screens were shaken by a psycho hidden behind great mask and played by Ethan Hawke in Black Phone. Today, this truly epic and venerable group of iconic horror masks is joined in glory by Art the Clown from Terrifier 2. Round of applause, please.
Why only from Terrifier 2, since Art, played by David Howard Thornton, had already been killing five years earlier? The first installment of the series was a typical slasher with the intriguing character of a clown murdering his victims. But at the time, Art the Clown didn’t live up to the enormous potential that, as it turned out in 2022, the character had. Practice makes perfect, one might say; the first part of Terrifier was a slight disappointment among critics, with only 56% positive reviews, and 53% positivity among viewers. The second part, on the other hand, is already certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with 87% from critics, and an audience appreciation of 81%. And that’s quite a success!
The character of clown Art has been a companion to his creator Damien Leone, director of the awful Frankenstein vs. The Mummy, since 2011, when the moderately received short film The 9th Circle starring Art was made. At the time, he was played by Mike Giannelli, who reprised his role in the better received 2011 short Terrifier. Thus, looking at the evolution of the characters and the leaps in quality of the films, one can confidently compare Damien Leone’s perseverance to the remarkable case of Sam Raimi (Within the Woods / The Evil Dead / Evil Dead 2) or James Cameron (Terminator / Terminator 2: Judgment Day), who, by making sequel-remakes of their own pictures, showed the world how much can the skill of the director, film crew and actors evolve from film to film. So, according to the well-known rule, in the sequel we have more crime, more characters, etc., but above all everything in the second part hass been improved compared to the first one. So here we have an A-MA-ZING antagonist and a great protagonist in a cool outfit, as in the film’s finale – which takes place during Halloween time – she is wearing angel wings and armor of her own design. Played by Lauren LaVera (the actress, who knows martial arts herself, performed all the stunts on the set), Sienna is a flesh-and-blood character, a real strong female character, not created using Netflix template. She wasn’t written for the audience to tick off some parity, she’s embedded deep in the plot, and can go toe-to-toe with Sidney from Scream or Laurie from Halloween with her head held high.
Taking no prisoners, Terrifier 2 breaks down the door to a new quality of horror filmmaking with big bang. The film, thanks to excellent cinematography, atmospheric set lighting, dynamizing action music by Paul Wiley, a regular collaborator of the director, and of course, the main character played by David Howard Thornton, his sidekick Little Pale Girl (Amelie McLain) and the aforementioned Sienna, has an unique atmosphere, and in the finale it turns a little into great fantasy movie. There’s no trace of digital blood, the methods of murder are surprising, and the shots of torturing victims are shocking, though also entertaining, once you remember that this is a film and not excerpts from the documentary. Importantly, Terrifier 2 has some of the best practical effects in the history of the genre. I don’t know how they did such naturalistic decapitations, I guess they cut these actors for real, because how else? On top of that, Art the Clown, following the example of his best colleagues and not uttering a single word in the film, uses a variety of weapons unlike that bore Ghostface with a knife or Jason with a machete. Here, all sorts of saws, sticks trimmed with nails and forks are in motion, but also a classic bifurcated pistol and – oh Christ – a Tommy Gun!
I love this kind of ingenuity and pure, untainted by any worldview or political correctness, formal-fabric treatments that don’t give a damn whether they offend someone or make Mrs. Theresa from apartament two sad. This is truly Hollywood, though so much independent anti-cinema! The film guarantees a juicy, blood-tinged feast from the first to the last minute of the screening. In addition, after the credits there is an added scene so offbeat that it almost leaps over what we have seen throughout the screening. And all this in a spectacular running time of 140 (!) minutes. Well, let me tell you, the last time I had so much fun was only during Mandy with Nicholas Cage, or X (plus the prequel titled Pearl as a bonus), which I also recommend wholeheartedly.
The most important thing is HIM! Played by David Howard Thornton, who took an active role in writing his character, Art the Clown in Terrific 2 draws the viewer to the screen and doesn’t let go. He mesmerizes with a similar attraction as the Joker or Pennywise, whom he could boldly give a quality high-five. He behaves in a frighteningly grotesque manner; his facial expressions, gesticulations, the juxtaposition of his infernal grin with his black-and-white costume and the comfy hat on his head, make him a horror villain complete and another iconic figure of the genre. And it’s hard to believe the progression made by an actor for whom the role of Art in the first Terrifier was a debut in front of the camera. I don’t know if Thornton benefited from Stanislavski’s method, but he doesn’t play that clown, he IS that clown. Thanks to his strong embodiment of the character, scenes as surreal as the sequence in the main character’s dream about the televised bloody show at the Clown Café or the irrational scene in the Halloween accessory store, when Art, standing at a rack of glasses, tries them on one by one, frowning at our main character peeking over his shoulder, could have been created.
These are moments so off-putting, disturbing, terribly surprising and amusingly unreal that I was almost stomping my feet with the joy I derived from watching them. While in the first part Art had only flashes of awesomeness, here every sequence, scene, shot with his participation deserves to be called a gem and to receive mini-Oscar. Apparently, there’s a petition floating around the internet to submit Terrifier 2 for Academy, THIS Academy, Awards. What the actor pulls off with his eyes, his facial expressions, his grimace, his smile, his hands, his body, his whole self, deserves the highest praise. Art’s characterization and his manner, by the way, is reminiscent of the legendary mime Marcel Marceau, revered for his unparalleled pantomime that moves the audience without uttering a single word. Tying everything together with a great buckle, the entire visuals perfectly complete the work of bloody destruction wreaked by the character of Art. And this clown from hell not only rips out hearts, but bites into the beating organ with taste. Not like the weakling Rambo, who also ripped out a guy’s heart recently, but stopped himself from eating at the last minute. Maybe in the next part.
Terrifier 2 is by all mean original, the plot twists are surprising, and the classic jump scares works just as well here, as the stoicism-preserving Art induces anxiety by his mere presence, standing motionless in front of the camera. In addition to the scenes of shooting victims with a machine gun, we have here the classic quartering of victims, or putting puree inside a head blown apart moments earlier by a shot from a double-barrelled shotgun. In general, I don’t recommend eating lunch, for example, during the screening, but if you grew up on Braindead, Bad Taste, The Toxic Avenger and other gore or slasher films, you should have no problem eating even a pudding while watching Art scalp his victim. So if you like pudding … I mean, this kind of cinema, you’ll be fully entertained at Terrifier 2. If, on the other hand, you don’t like this kind of cinema… you won’t be entertained. In that case, I don’t know how you even got to this point of the review and what you are still doing here.