Ever since he took his full length feature bow in 2016 after his debut in Halloween-themed anthology All Hallow’s Eve three years earlier, gore-happy mime, Art The Clown has been seeing his popularity steadily and insidiously rise over the last few years. Enthusiastically embraced by rabid gore hounds and horror throwback enthusiasts, Terrifier’s cult notoriety has been steady spreading, like a stain of blood rapidly spreading across the white of a clown suit.
The main reason for this is that the malevolent brainchild of Damien Leone dispensed with such things as plot and three dimentional characters in order to stage a dream logic nightmare that saw its grinning antagonist stalk his way through a single Halloween night while inflicting astounding atrocities on the random people he meets after fixating on two party girls after a chance meeting. Well, that cult adoration has now led to an inevitable sequel – but while many sequels seek to expand on the original, Terrifier 2 goes full epic with an actual plot and a massively lengthened run time. So now that Art is playing in the big leagues, can he continue to prove the old adage of mime over matter?
It’s been a year since the Miles County Clown massacred a bunch of people before taking his own life, but as a gruesome prelude takes back to the moment the first movie ended, we find out that a little thing like a self inflicted bullet to the brain isn’t going to slow his roll for long. Virtually liquefying the head of the coroner with a hammer, Art loads up his garbage bag back up with tools and head back into the night only to be triggered a year later when the heavily mutilated survivor of his rampage give a television interview enrages him.
However, as he saunters around town, looking for a prime target to latch onto, the troubled Shaw family try to work their problems out after the father recently passed away due to the effects of a brain tumour. Daughter Sienna has thrown herself into her talents as an artist, hoping to emulate her dear departed dad by manufacturing a costume of warrior angel he once designed while younger brother Jonathan is acting out with progressively weirder and antisocial behavior.
However, both have been having visions of Art and the similarly Little Pale Girl, a seemingly imaginary figure who introduces herself by defecating on the floor and who only the murderous clown can see and soon their visions are destined to become gruesome reality when the unstoppable mime starts shredding his way through their friends and family as he works his way toward an unfathomable endgame.
But what of the visions and what’s going on with the fact that Sienna and Jonathan’s father had been scrawling sketches of the victim of Art’s victims from a year prior – and most intriguing of all, what exactly is the deal with the Little Pale Girl?
Damien Leone really needs to be commended for not resting on his laurels and simply shoving out another Terrifier clone as so many other slasher sequels have chosen to do. Taking the understandable complaints about the former movie’s lack of anything that resembles a plot, the writer/director has obviously thought long and hard about making his protagonists have more going on than just party>scream>die and while his efforts have ironically yielded an arguably more straightforward product, his expanded canvas allows him to act like one of Art’s scalpels and go deep.
Firstly, keeping slightly within the realms of a thoughtful female lead with flaky friends, the movie presents a much more rounded heroine to root for who has a past, feelings and personal issues that go far beyond getting brutalized by an inhuman prankster who actually has a family and whose entire existence isn’t encapsulated by the events of a single night. Not only does it diffuse some of the misogyny of the original flick (cosplay boob armour notwithstanding), but it raises the stakes when the people who might get boned like a fish actually feel more people and less like ciphers with a rapidly weakening pulse.
Of course, all this is resoundingly positive stuff, but it’s all for naught if the star of the show doesn’t deliver, but thankfully, David Howard Thornton’s Art The Clown is as memorable and malevolent as ever, still exuding a gleeful, larger than life personality despite being as silent as a Jason Voorhees spoken word album, but Leone also adds to the mystique of this budding horror hero. Thankfully skipping over any attempts of an origin story, Leone opts to make shit weirder, adding a sidekick in the form of the Little Pale Girl who is sometimes imaginary and seems to be a demonic manifestation of one of Art’s earliest victims. He also connects Sienna and Jonathan to Art with numerous visions and an extended dream sequence that also remain tantalisingly unexplained that continues to tap the original’s pulsating vein of experiencing a waking fever dream. However, those expecting another simple slasher may be somewhat perplexed by the more overtly supernatural and even spiritual places the movie goes to when it’s not perpetrating a more nauseating genital mutilation than that time Robocop shot that guy in the dick. It really seems to be hinting that there’s much larger themes of good and evil going on here as it truly seems that Art has some sort of Satanic benefactor (possibly whatever the Little Pale Girl truly is) while Sienna and her mystic blade (not mention her angelic themed costume) has more divine backup, but it bravely leaves any explanations frustratingly vague, possibly hoping that a third movie will shed more light on matters.
But until then, the rapidly expanding lore (and everything else) still takes a backseat to the truly gobsmacking gore that still effortlessly put most other bloodletters to shame. While initially feels like the kill count is lower, it’s mainly because the sequel is far less leaner than its predecessor as it clocks in at an admittedly unnecessary two hours and eighteen minutes surely making Terrifier 2 to slasher flicks what James Cameron’s True Lies was to action comedies. Still, when old Art gets those juices flowing, he’s still remarkably tough to beat but perversely impossible look away with head choppings, chest crushings and heart eating topping the menu. However, its centre piece, an extended mauling that sees Art unleash blades, scissors, a scalping, multiple stabbings and even bleach and salt on a girl until she’s barely held together by sinews and bone (but still alive enough to croak “mom” when her horrified mother walks in the room) is an impressive show stopper.
The fact that Terrifier 2 has been an overwhelming success as a limited 7 day theatrical window ballooned into an outing that netted the indie flick an impressive $11 million (and counting) means that a Terrifier 3 is all but inevitable. Here’s hoping Damien Leone continues to expand this universe while jumping the shark in all the right ways (a mid-credits sting involves the kind of birth you don’t see on One Born Every Minute), but until then revel in the kind of epic brutality rarely afforded to a mere slice and dice.