Breanna Lucci says Terrifier 2 is one of the year's best horror films with graphic gore, hilariously frightening performances, and an ode to the 1990s.
[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS]
Writer and director of All Hallows’ Eve (2013) and Terrifier (2016), Damien Leone, returns us to Miles Country in Terrifier 2. With a terrifyingly giddy smile and blood-stained teeth, Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), with his black garbage bag of murder weapons, terrorizes teenagers and audiences alike. Starring Lauren LaVera and Elliott Fullam, the film has generated well-deserved buzz for its graphic gore, hilarious and frightening performances, and nostalgic ode to 90s horror films.
Sienna (LaVera) and her younger brother Jonathan (Fullam) are excitedly preparing their costumes for Halloween. Sienna has been crafting hers for months, while Jonathan wants to dress as the Miles County Clown, the still-missing murderer that went on a bloody rampage last Halloween. As Halloween night approaches, Art the Clown sets his sights on the siblings, who are soon forced to fight for their lives.
If we thought Terrifier was bloody—Art saws one of his victims in half as she dangles upside down—its sequel turns the volume on gore way up. Terrifier 2 boasts incredible makeup, art, and special effects. It features the slaying of a doctor, his skull beaten in, a vulgar decapitation of an annoyed costume store worker, and Art’s upsetting scalping, skinning, and gutting of Allie (Casey Hartnett). Art has a taste for blood, and Leone doesn't hold back.
The film introduces a sidekick for Art in The Little Pale Girl (Amelie McLain). Depicted as a childlike version of Art with a crazed, knotted pigtail instead of Art’s signature little hat, she's as hilarious as she is upsetting. The girl and Art have a father-daughter relationship, and she adds a certain level of creepy-kid energy to the film that we didn't know the franchise needed.
While the story takes place in the modern day, the homes and ominous dreamscape of a Clown Cafe look straight out of the 90s. Sienna and Jonathan’s house adorns sturdy oak cabinets, Lay-Z-Boy recliners, and small box televisions playing black-and-white films. The Clown Cafe shines vibrantly with its neon-clothed characters and extras gleefully singing as if they’re in an intensely disturbing episode of Barney & Friends (1992). The film is reminiscent of Scream (1996) in many ways but with smartphones and a crazed clown in the place of Ghostface.
Cinematographer George Steuber follows this mentality with his photography. The film appears grainy and sepia-toned with a flickering storytelling approach, jumping between a typical, easy-going moment and a moment of foreboding horror. While Allie meets her fatal demise, the camera pans away from her and onto her phone, lit up with Sienna’s name. Then the shot switches to Sienna and Brooke (Kaliey Hyman) discussing Allie’s absence before ordering drinks and partying the night away. This does wonders for propelling the story. It always feels like the characters are one step behind Art.
While other antagonists are depicted as emotionless or angry, looking for some type of revenge, Art is unique in the method of his murders. This is thanks directly to Thornton’s terrifying performance. Art will often smile, exposing his harrowing teeth in a way that reaches his eyes. He’s also goofy, as exhibited when he follows Sienna through the Halloween store. While checking out, Sienna shakes in fear as Art stands just a few feet behind her. He stands next to the sunglasses rack, and every time the camera moves to him, he adorns a different set of sunglasses—one with oversized sunflowers on it—with a different playful expression on his face. Thornton’s depiction of Art’s satisfied humor, combined with his graphic, merciless murders, creates a genuinely humorous and terrifying villain.
LaVera’s performance is similarly captivating. She creates a modern "Scream Queen" out of Sienna with her intense and determined facial expressions as someone completely consumed by fear. She truly shines when she first appears in her dream of the Clown Cafe. At first, she looks confused and alarmed as she takes in the happily singing people and gleeful woman strumming the banjo and singing the dreaded Clown Cafe song. When Art appears inside the food truck, LaVera's demeanor immediately becomes terror. Her fear is almost tangible as Sienna, wide-eyed, jaw-clenched, and shaking, watches Art happily greet his swooning fans. As the film progresses and Sienna silently gains grit and confidence, it’s impossible not to cheer her on.
Terrifier 2 exceeds expectations and plants the seeds for more chaotic and gory films. It’s one of the best films of the year and will undoubtedly generate a cult-like following with its ability to make audiences want to laugh and vomit simultaneously. Art’s sunflower sunglasses stole my heart, and his murders stole my appetite in this hilariously upsetting and deeply satisfying sequel.
Terrifier 2 is now streaming on Screambox.