You can’t keep a killer clown down.
The soulless Art the Clown got an ultra-low budget closeup in 2016’s “Terrifier.” He’s back for the belated sequel, which spills more blood than any film in recent memory.
And, if you’ve seen the original, you know how high director Damien Leone previously set that bar.
The sequel expands the clown’s world while doubling down on the macabre humor that makes Art a worthy successor to Michael, Jason and Freddy.
In fact, he may trump them all in terms of sheer terror.
The film opens seconds after the original film wrapped. Art the Clown is recovering nicely from a gunshot wound to the brain, and he’s eager to launder his blood-stained costume.
He’s a showman if nothing else. (He could even get a side gig as a detergent pitchman given all the blood he spills in a given film)
The timeline then flashes forward one year, and we’re introduced to a single mom and her two children prepping for Halloween night. The oldest, Sienna (Lauren LaVera), is eager to show off her homemade Halloween costume, but the pall of Art’s rampage makes the holiday bittersweet.
The younger brother (Elliott Fullam) keeps getting into trouble at school, and the teenage girls steer clear of his jerky friends.
It doesn’t help that Sienna’s late father has an odd connection to the killer clown, something writer/director Damien Leone teases early on.
It turns out Art prefers to work only once a year – on Oct. 31. Sienna and friends will learn this the hard way.
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Leone knows his fan base, which ponied up plenty to make “Terrifier 2” happen, wants more extreme bloodshed. And he delivers.
The practical effects are as disgusting as possible, and the camera rubs our nose in it. Yet Art’s maniacal glee softens the blow, to a degree. His impish joy ensures the franchise doesn’t revive the torture porn era, thank goodness.
The first “Terrifier” aped ’80s horror, down to some disinterested performances and that old-school bloodshed. The sequel continues in that vein, eschewing the prudish trend in modern horror.
LaVera’s curves are on full display through much of the film, for starters. One of the potential victims lights up a cigarette, another 21st century no-no. And then there’s the score by Paul Wiley, which leans into synthesizer riffs that accentuate the mayhem.
None of the gore would matter if Leone didn’t know how to build suspense. His tactics are similar here to the first film. Some shocks we see coming a mile away, and we greet them with a wicked smile.
What does Art have up his blood-splattered sleeve next?
The rest? Leone understands the element of surprise remains critical to the genre. It’s one of many reasons the recent “Halloween” reboot started strong but quickly ran out of creative gas.
“Terrifier 2’s” best scare is of the jump variety, but it’s so perfectly executed you won’t feel guilty for being startled. It’s a work of grind house art, and we won’t spoil it here.
Enough can’t be said of David Howard Thornton’s work bringing Art the Clown to life. Thornton’s masterful turn demands a real clown’s tool kit, and his garish makeup accentuates that skeletal sneer. We’ve seen serial killers slaughter without emotion or crack wise, a la Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, respectively.
Art the Clown delights in his murderous ways, silently guffawing as his victims draw their final breath. He died the last time around, so he’s a sinister entity in the sequel, a fiend powered by, well, some questions remain unanswered.
The little flourishes add up in the film.
Watch Art lose his balance after whacking someone with a mallet. It’s a slight wobble, but it adds to the carnival-like atmosphere Leone and co. brings to the screen.
Rob Zombie’s redneck horror quickly lost its appeal after “The Devil’s Rejects,” but Leone’s sense of disturbing imagery is already light years beyond anything Zombie could conjure.
That said, the franchise’s extreme gore may spawn plenty of think pieces on pop culture’s dark underbelly. Fair enough.
None of “Terrifier 2” would matter, though, if Leone didn’t know the genre fundamentals by heart. His skill, passion and willingness to break horror boundaries, have made this series essential viewing (assuming your stomach is made of cast iron or similar stuff).
That explains why the critic reviews of his work aren’t as nasty as one might expect. Modern critics no longer grade gross horror fare on a downward curve.
Art the Clown takes Christmas in the first teaser trailer for Terrifier 3 – in theaters Oct 25, 2024. pic.twitter.com/5R3Bpx0g6T
— Rotten Tomatoes (@RottenTomatoes) November 13, 2023
Not every element of the sequel clicks to perfection. Art’s ghastly accomplice, a clown girl who may or may not be real, feels like a stretch. A subplot involving a clown-related eatery, complete with its own jingle, adds to the sense of unease but is still a curiosity item.
The film’s most shocking part?
The running time is roughly two hours and fifteen minutes in a genre known for its brevity. But “Terrifier 2” moves. You can spot moments to be trimmed, but the film’s momentum never lets up. (Just don’t leave after the end credits begin…)
“Terrifier 2” doesn’t stray from the saga’s core DNA, but it doesn’t have that “sequel” feel like we’ve been here before. That may change with the inevitable third installment.
For now, savor Leone’s original voice and the best horror performance in ages.
HiT or Miss: “Terrifier 2” is not for the faint of heart or even casual horror movie buffs. If you’re not in either camp you’re in for one heckuva ride.