Damien Leone’s Terrifier is a notoriously grisly horror film. The feature-length forays of Art the Clown, portrayed with such ghoulish physicality by David Howard Thornton, opted for squibs over substance, with a slasher that veered towards the mean-spirited. Six years and one pandemic-induced delay later, and Terrifier 2 is here to pick up on Art’s mysterious resurrection one year later. And in a rare case for the horror genre, this is a sequel that breezes past the quality of its original.
Picking up a year after Art died and was reborn by a lightening bolt, Terrifier 2 actually makes the effort to humanise its clown fodder. The film focuses on a high school student called Sienna, a ‘final girl’ archetype made deeper by her desire to act out her late father’s desires of seeing her dressed as a warrior for Halloween. Her family is a broken one: no father, a distant mother (Sarah Voigt) and a teenage brother teetering on online indoctrination by gruesome accounts of Art’s original massacre. When Art, now accompanied by hallucinations of his first victim, strikes it’s up to Sienna to put an end to it.
It’s not a ground-breaking plot, but compared to the original Terrifier there’s so much more meat on the bone. That’s best exemplified by the considerably longer runtime, with Terrifier 2 clocking in at an hour longer than its predecessor. It mostly warrants this elongated stay fortunately, with a first act that takes its time to introduce us to the Shaw family and their nuances. In fact, Art is a fairly moot presence to begin with, relegated mostly to Pennywise-style hallucinations and a slightly disjoined musical sequence that feels a little out of place.
But of course, when Terrifier 2 bears its fangs, it holds nothing back at all. This is far more visceral than the original, which is saying something. You’ll truly squirm at the quality of visual effects here, with scalps ripped off, heads crushed, and eyeballs slit in half – all looking so convincing. There aren’t many films gorier than Terrifier 2, and if it’s that bloodlust that drives your horror viewing, it’ll more than hit the spot. Even better, the violence doesn’t feel as mean-spirited or gratuitous as the original, which makes it a lot less daunting to sit through. Rather than murder after murder, there’s more connective tissue to help move Terrifier 2 out of exploitative territory.
Sadly, the main sticking point with Terrifier 2 is its length. Horror films tend to be short, but there are plenty of examples that buck that trend with aplomb, from It Chapter Two to the Suspiria remake. This film isn’t quite as justified in its runtime, with a third act that meanders and begins to drag quite badly for the last 40 minutes. There’s a fairly turgid confrontation sequence in an amusement park, a plot to rescue a main character, and a whole lot of aimless walking around. As expected, Sienna and Art do end up face-to-face, but this confrontation goes on for too long without getting to the point.
In fact, Terrifier 2 would be a far better film if it was half an hour shorter. It doesn’t use the extra time to its strengths: opting not to dig deeper into Art becoming local folklore, or the clown’s origins, but instead giving us overplayed melodrama and a painfully slow final battle. The film’s early stages toy with the narrative development of both Art and Sienna as an evolution of the final girl, but this never quite materialises. Leone’s script hints at a sacred bond between the antagonist and protagonist, but we’ll likely have to wait for the third entry for more.
But none of this is deter from the fact that Terrifier 2 is a marked improvement on the first film, and one of the most grisly, gore-filled horror films of the century so far. Art the Clown is fast becoming a cult horror icon, and this film shows even more of the atrocities he’s capable of – even if it sometimes overstays its welcome.
Signature Entertainment presents Terrifier 2 on Digital Platforms, DVD and Blu-ray alongside Terrifier 1 & 2 Blu-Ray box-set on 24th October.