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Is Damien Leone Reviving the Slasher Genre with 'Terrifier 2'? | Movie Review

Slasher flicks have been a part of my life’s obsession since attending middle school with my first true love being the Lakeshore Strangler – Chucky. Once his deformed and stitched up face stopped giving me nightmares, his films were all I cared to talk about. I learned trivia, cast and crew names, and even had a DeviantArt page with a large portfolio of my version of a 2007 emo Chucky – and yes, I RP’ed, or role played, with my emo Chucky as any pre-teen girl with an obsession online does. Closer to the age of 30 than I am my pre-teen years now, I’ve continued to have a passion for anything slasher-centric and am still active in online slasher communities. When the first Terrifier film came onto my radar it had a much smaller audience and I was lucky if I found a handful of people who had seen it – and you can forget about finding anyone acknowledging All Hallows’ Eve. Thankfully with Terrifier 2 there seems to suddenly be more people aware of the film, perhaps because of the higher budget for marketing. Now, I see more girls and women swoon over a damn clown than I do girls who can’t let go of Michael Myers. But what is it about the Terrifier franchise so far, specifically Terrifier 2, that’s causing a revival in the slasher fandom? Is it pure luck and starvation for a new slasher, or is creator Damien Leone truly a savior for the slasher genre?

Terrifier 2 (2022, dir. Damien Leone) picks up a year after the incident from the first film but follows a new cast of characters, primarily a pair of siblings Sienna (played by Lauren LaVera) and Jonathan (played by Elliott Fullam). With Halloween night approaching and a killer’s corpse missing, many in the town fear what may happen on the one year anniversary of Art the Clown’s (played by David Howard Thornton) first attack in Miles County. With the assistance of his new sidekick The Little Pale Girl (played by Amelie McLain), Art continues his demented torment through Miles County leaving horrendously mutilated bodies in his path as Sienna and Jonathan attempt to put an end to this supernatural mime.

One of my personal queries going into Terrifier 2 was how the budget might change the film, and if there’s a noticeable difference in quality since the first film. The Terrifier series started as a B-movie franchise with All Hallows’ Eve having an unknown budget (but guaranteed to be very low) and Terrifier having a budget of only $35,000 USD. While the sequel is still low compared to Hollywood horror, with a budget of $250,000 USD, it has made a world of difference for Leone’s gruesome vision. The best way I can think to describe the visual appeal of Terrifier 2 is to imagine the cheesiest B-movie possible, but it has the budget for ultra 4k resolution and a killer practical effects department. In other words, the budget did change the quality of everything present in the film, but Leone kept his writing to classic B-movie plot devices – which I have steadily become obsessed with. This became apparent to me upon the second watching and during the cold open.

Art’s revival from death reminded me distinctly of how a B-movie might bring back their main antagonist, a specific example being films produced by Full Moon Features (if you know, you know). The fog, the lighting, the dingy alleyway, Art being resurrected out of a portal of flashing lights and electricity – it’s reminiscent of some of my favorite B-movies like Evil Bong, The Ginger-Dead Man, and of course Killjoy. B-movie devices such as a comically unstoppable killer, blissfully ignorant supporting characters, and a dramatically costumed heroine to name a few continue throughout the film all the way to the end of credits scene. Personally, I was thrilled to see that the significantly higher budget didn’t also create a more serious plot. After some of the films I’ve watched lately, I found it very refreshing and nice to finally watch a film that isn’t afraid to be silly and comedic, and asks viewers to suspend their disbelief rather than attempting to make things realistic. Art the Clown himself does much of the lifting here as he’s a clown/mime first and a blood thirsty, supernatural killer second.

I believe one of the main make-or-breaks within a slasher film is the slasher themselves – who are they? What does the audience get to learn about them? What makes them memorable, or not? And, more importantly, how much does the slasher cater to their target audience? Art the Clown’s character is one of the most likable and charismatic slashers I’ve seen. Although Art is a mime and has no speaking lines what-so-ever, he makes up for this by being very expressive and playful. Art’s actor David Howard Thornton does an incredible job at making a slasher audience want to root for and love Art the Clown. In some ways, Art’s charisma makes him a more dangerous slasher as there were moments where I wished to befriend this weird man, even though it would result in a painful and slow death. This dangerous charm became apparent to me during the costume store scene where Art, rather than attempting to be intimidating, decides to act as the most annoying customer on the planet. As the soundtrack grows more suspenseful, Art only acts sillier in the store as he tries on funny glasses, plays with celebratory noise makers, and, right as Sienna whispers, “Please don’t”, obsessively honks a clown horn as if he’s a child.

In a genre filled with serious and silent killers such as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, finding a slasher with a distinctive personality is like finding a diamond in the rough. While Art is as silent as Michael or Jason, he displays much more of a personality by being witty and genuinely comedic. Two of the only slashers (I can currently think of) with personalities as big as Art’s are Chucky and Freddy Krueger who also have franchises based in comedy-horror. In fact, there are a few ways that Art reminds me of Freddy and the Nightmare on Elm Street series. I don’t mean to say this as if the two are identical, they aren’t, but they display similar qualities. Not only are Art and Freddy comedic, witty, smart-ass slashers but both of the franchises are more concerned with creative death scenes rather than simple stabbings. The Terrifier and Elm Street films don’t seem very concerned about how scary their character is, rather how the cast of victims meet their demise. When we watch Terrifier 2 we aren’t just watching a piece of torture porn where Art brutally dismembers and torments his victims, we’re watching the action leading to that point. How does Art lead up to the eventual first stab or slash, and then what are some of the creative ways he follows through?

As is a popular pattern in my horror reviews, I have to note the gore of Terrifier 2 which made people leave the theater vomiting. There is no greater happiness to a slasher director than to learn that your hellish creation had invoked cases of vomiting and fainting, and I think Leone should be proud of himself. The murders in this film go all in with no sympathy to audience members and the special effects are all practical and high quality. One of my favorite displays of how well done and extreme the special effects in Terrifier 2 are is the death of Sienna’s friend Allie (played by Casey Hartnett). I will not go very in-depth on this scene, however, as I don’t want to spoil how insane this death is. All I will say is that I heard they were bored during the COVID-19 pandemic, had plenty of time to record, and decided to make this death scene the most outrageous and over the top display of murder and gore. Allie’s death became so extremely ridiculous in its violence that all I could do was laugh – although, I don’t doubt this was the same scene which may have been vomit-inducing.

Another big seller for any slasher fan is the lore of Art the Clown that Leone begins to expand on. While the initial Terrifier film is focused solely on the brutal killings of some mildly annoying victims, Terrifier 2 raises questions about what Art the Clown is, and how The Little Pale Girl has become a mini-Art. In my notes, I have The Little Pale Girl defined as the same “species” as Art, however it’s possible too that she could have been transformed into a mime after Art murdered her. So far, it’s unclear how The Little Pale Girl came to be or how she was transformed into an entity identical to Art, but I’m sure all will be made clear in future installments. Also, Leone begins to reference elements used in All Hallows’ Eve such as the orange, glowing eyes. I was excited to see this characteristic return in Terrifier 2 and many fans have already begun to theorize what exactly these glowing eyes mean. So far, many have speculated that these orange eyes symbolize that the affected person is currently being controlled by Art, or at least are receiving telepathic communication from him. As Leone is already writing a script for Terrifier 3, and teases a potential fourth film to finish the series, I’m excited to see what more can be learned about Art, The Little Pale Girl, and the film’s final girl Sienna.

I give Terrifier 2 5 out of 5 coffins

Compared to other slasher films I’ve watched, Terrifer 2 is by far one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy, especially in an era focused on remakes and reboots. While I focused on Art a lot in this review, I wish to state that Sienna is also an amazing character in this film. She’s a strong final girl whose story I cannot wait to see continue. Even as Damien Leone finalizes his Terrifier series, I will continue to follow his future endeavors in the horror genre. If I had one fan-request for Terrifier, I would beg to see Art the Clown run the streets of New York City a-la-Jason Takes Manhattan style. Even as a 20-30 minute short, this could be so entertaining to watch and it’s within the realm of possibility in the film’s world as the fictional Miles County is incredibly close to New York City – the Abracadabra shop itself being in NYC.

Terrifier 2 is now available via streaming platform ScreamBox, or for rental and purchase through Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and select RedBox locations starting at $4.99.


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