Terrifier 2 is quite possibly the gnarliest movie I've ever seen – and I've seen The Human Centipede. Actually, the movie makes The Human Centipede look like A Bug's Life in comparison. This is the follow-up to director Damien Leone's 2016 horror film which, in the name of full transparency, I'd somehow never even heard of before the sequel's release. Terrifier 2 is gaining notoriety for reports of people throwing up or passing out at showings. I'm proud to say that I did neither. Leone's clear vision is admirable, leading to super-mega-ultra-gory fun for fans of hardcore horror.
The central figure is the murderous Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), who apparently died in the original and is now resurrected. This time, he's got a cohort in the form of a little girl clown. Art's new targets are teenage Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and her younger brother Jonathan (Elliott Fullam). The kids are reeling from the death of their father, and dealing with it in different ways. Jonathan has become obsessed with serial killers, whereas Sienna is making an elaborate “sexy warrior” costume for Halloween. As Art gets closer and closer to them, he viciously kills just about anyone they come in contact with.
If Terrifier 2 ever explained why Art is after them specifically, I missed it. Logic is not the movie's primary concern. The story has multiple elements that you simply have to take at face value, including a prop sword that abruptly reveals magical powers and the fact that the girl clown is seemingly a figment of Art's imagination, yet Sienna and Jonathan can somehow see her during the big finale.
To say Art kills people would be an understatement. He decimates them, leaving their bodies mangled and mutilated, often beyond recognition. Perhaps the most gruesome murder shows him using a homemade weapon – essentially a club with forks and blades sticking out of it – to beat a character so badly that they become a pile of tissue and viscera on the floor. Leone lingers on his violence, showing it in nauseating, stomach-churning detail. That's the quality that defines the film.
Why would anyone in their right mind want to watch this? The director hits that sweet spot where the violence is so outrageous and over the top that it's generally hard to get too offended by. We know it's being delivered with a bit of a wink. An additional part of the appeal is the ability to appreciate really top-notch effects work. Terrifier 2 is designed to be a showcase for what Leone and his team can accomplish. They take the art of gore effects to another level. It's impressive, even as it grosses you out.
A pervasive macabre sense of humor helps the incessant nastiness go down a little more smoothly, too. I did not expect to laugh as often as I did. One scene finds Art cutting a woman's head off, then using it as a bowl and allowing unsuspecting trick-or-treaters to take pieces of candy from it. How do you not laugh at something so demented? David Howard Thornton does an excellent job straddling the line. Visually, Art is a genuinely unsettling figure. Part of it is his white-face/black-mouth look. Thornton gives him a freaky body language that adds to the impact, yet also incorporates tiny pieces of physical comedy here and there. Having those pieces serves to lighten the character up just enough to remind us that the film is intended to be ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek.
Length is the major flaw with Terrifier 2. It runs 138 minutes, which is way too long for the relative thinness of the plot. Plenty of places exist where Leone could have trimmed to tighten the pace, including a poor taste scene where a 12-year-old boy is flayed Passion of the Christ-style. Those matters aside, the movie is extremely effective at what it wants to do, thanks to skillful effects work and good performances from Thornton and LaVera. I'll never watch Terrifier 2 a second time, but I'm definitely glad I saw it once.
out of four
Terrifier 2 is unrated, but contains pervasive strong bloody violence and gore. The running time is 2 hours and 18 minutes.