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Movie Review: 'Terrifier 2' is the Surprise of 2022

Absurd levels of gore and viscera are underlined with meta-textual dark humor and a genuinely great 'Final Girl' in Terrifier 2.

By Sean PatrickPublished 3 months ago 6 min read
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Terrifier 2 (2022)

Directed by Damien Leone

Written by Damien Leone

Starring David Howard Thornton, Lauren LaVera, Elliott Fullam, Chris Jericho

Release Date October 6th, 2022

Published October 24th, 2022

I went into Terrifier 2 with a chip on my shoulder. I had made many assumptions about the movie before seeing it and my cynicism was beginning to shape my perception of the movie without seeing it. What a surprise it was then to have walked out of Terrifier 2 having been turned into a huge fan of the movie. Rather than being edgy and perverted, Terrifier 2 is a triumph of both incredible DIY gore and a sense of the absurd macabre of the horror movie that is employed to make the movie watchable beyond the off-putting if groundbreaking approach to horror.

Terrifier 2 stars David Howard Thornton as the terrifying horror villain, Art the Clown. I'm told that Art the Clown made his film debut in Terrifier 1 and became such a cult phenomenon that a sequel became a demand of the fans. The sequel over-delivers on the original in which, though I have not seen it, I've been told, Art has less personality and even more brutality. In Terrifier 2, writer director Damien Leone and star David Howard Thornton have fully realized the potential of Art the Clown by leaving him silent but giving him an even more terrifying physical personality, that of a mime with a highly expressive face.

Opposite Art the Clown is our hero Sienna (Lauren LaVera). Sienna is a teenager dealing with the suicide death of her father with whom she shared a very special bond. Sienna's dad used to write comic books and dedicated his stories to her, especially a beautiful and strong female hero. On Halloween, Sienna plans to pay tribute to her dad by using her incredible cos-play skills to re-create the look of the female hero her father created. She may be the only one who knows the character, but regardless, the costume means the world to her.

Sienna's little brother Jonathan however, he's another story. Jonathan's costume is an edgy homage to a massacre in their rural New York state town. Jonathan wants to dress as Art the Clown, something that infuriates both his sister and their mother, Barbara (Sarah Voight), who orders Jonathan not to wear his favored costume. This scene and another that comes up in the wake of a disturbing slaughter, play our love of Halloween blood and guts and serial killer obsessions against us, calling us out for turning real life terror into entertainment.

#Blessed

That scene, the slaughter scene, is easily the most disturbing and illness inducing. You've perhaps heard stories about moviegoers becoming sick while watching Terrifier 2. Well, as much as that is merely a marketing campaign for the movie, I can see where this slaughter scene might cause people to become unwell. As Art scalps his teenage victim, cuts out their eyeballs, and is discovered playing with the victims' entrails, while the victim is still alive, we are kept at a distance by the absurd level of graphic visceral human destruction. Art's horrifying rictus grin casts a gaze directly at the audience as if accusing us of enjoying what he's done. It's chilling and farcical all at once.

And that's a good way to describe the whole of Terrifier 2, chilling and farcical. Director Damien Leone does an incredible job of striking a tone for Terrifier 2. Tone is a tricky thing in a movie with this much blood and guts terror involved. Leone brilliantly manages the tone via Art who is a quick hitter, a demonic clown who wastes no time in offing victims and then posing them for maximum horror effect for his next victim to find them and be overcome by the horror they find. Art's crimes are absurd but they are grounded in the movie universe in a way that makes these scenes outlandish and impressive while also being so gross that you can't stand it.

The key to Terrifier 2, if you can handle the blood, guts and feces involved, is the strong roots in the classic slasher movie. Damien Leone is not always performing homage in Terrifier 2. Rather, he uses established tropes like 'The Final Girl' and the jump scare to offer us, the audience, things we have grown accustomed to in the horror genre so that he can take his gore to unexpectedly grotesque places. The familiar and predictable tropes are the vehicle to what Leone really wants to show us, a talent for, and a twisted appreciation of high level bodily mutilation.

Do I find bodily mutilation entertaining? No, not in and of itself. But, I do find the gory mutilation of Terrifier 2 highly compelling. The reason I didn't want to walk out of Terrifier 2, or become ill from the experience, is due to one of the best 'Final Girl' characters in the recent memory of the genre. Lauren LaVera's Sienna is a believable badass. She has her own slightly supernatural story, a tribute to her father's work as a comic book artist in the movie, but she's mostly mentally tough, tough enough to give Art the Clown the kind of final fight he deserves.

Writer-Director Leone has the rooting interest in the right place. While he creates several disposable characters who die horrifically, the main characters of Terrifier 2 are sympathetic and Art the Clown is never anyone to enjoy, let alone root for. It's basic stuff but many film like Terrifier 2 fail at this rather easy aspect of horror filmmaking. We need a proper hero, someone whose life we are rooting for versus the all consuming, murderous evil. The rooting interest in Terrifier 2 isn't merely because Sienna is a victim or because she's attractive, Leone gives her an origin story of sorts, he sets the table for her to develop into a strong leading character in an impossible situation. That strong rooting interest, that sympathy for her, and by extension the people she cares about, makes the mutilation violence easier to cope with.

Terrifier 2 shocked me but not because of its insane levels of gore and dark, edgy humor. No, Terrifier 2 shocked me by being so good at insane levels of gore and edgy humor. The film is genuinely, darkly funny. The absurd horror visual of an actual human head used as a Halloween candy bucket, to hand out candy to kids, is a meta-textual delight without anyone having to explain the joke. There are a number of nods in that direction, little digs at the way we've normalized horror violence as part of our celebration of Halloween and a deconstruction of that violence by taking it to the most extreme places. I expected edge lord, shocker stuff and I got something closer to Cannibal Holocaust in terms of meta-textual commentary on our obsession with extreme violence. Neat.

Find my archive more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews at SeanattheMovies.blogspot.com. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about Terrifier 2 on a new episode of the Everyone's a Critic Movie Review podcast on your favorite podcast listening app. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my work here on Vocal. If you'd like to support my work you can make a monthly pledge or leave a one time tip here on Vocal. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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