Terrifier 2 was always going to be too long, too brutal, too insane. When its 148-minute runtime was revealed earlier this year, and horror fans learned that Damien Leone’s long-awaited sequel to his 2016 killer clown film would run almost a full hour longer than its predecessor, some were surprised. How could a film like this possibly justify running that long? What could be left to say that 90 minutes couldn’t hold?
The answer, at least according to the film itself, is that Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) and his garbage bag full of violent tricks do not care about adhering to conventional wisdom. Six years after his last film, Art is back to make sure you never, ever forget him, and if that means he has to rampage across the screen for more than two hours, slashing and crushing and grinning his way through victims, so be it. In that spirit, Terrifier 2 feels like it was destined to be the ultimate overkill horror movie, and whatever else it might turn out to be, it’s certainly not forgettable.
Set one year after the Halloween night rampage of the previous film, Terrifier 2 picks up as a resurrected Art dusts himself off, brutalizes a few bystanders and sets out for another night of mayhem. This time, though, something is different. Art shouldn’t be alive after what happened to him last year, and he definitely shouldn’t be seeing a demonic little clown girl (Amelie McLain, easily the most unsettling part of the movie) who spurs him on in his quest to claim more bodies. Yet here he is, grinning through the pain, eager to increase his body count, driven by some supernatural force.
That force points him in the direction of Sienna (Lauren LaVera, the movie’s MVP), a teenage girl with a passion for crafting and a certain sense of impending doom about her. With Halloween on the horizon, she’s mostly thinking about the loss of her father, and even paying tribute to him with a costume based on a character he created: A warrior woman complete with a wicked-looking sword. That sword, and certain other ingredients in Sienna’s backstory, make her both the perfect target for Art and possibly the only person who can put him back in the ground. With the collision course set, the two unlikely opponents head out into the night.
Like the original film, it’s easy to see the classical slasher tropes Leone and company are playing with for Art’s second rampage, but it’s also clear that the bigger canvas and established fame of Art as a known quantity allow the filmmaker to play with a more sophisticated brand of slasher carnage this time around.
There’s nothing new about slasher films setting killer and victim on their respective courses for a date with fate, but in Terrifier 2, those courses take on an almost mystical quality; a sense of magical thinking permeates the narrative and Sienna’s own mind as her Halloween gets more and more unhinged. It’s a feeling that’s helped along by the presence of the being known in the credits as Little Pale Girl, McLain’s grinning, wide-eyed figure who serves as a silent companion, advisor and supernatural aide to Art himself. Little Pale Girl’s presence is terrifying all on its own, and the more you understand her role, the more you come to realize that there’s a sense of dark fate hanging over the entire movie, something the first Terrifier never achieved. It imbues the sequel with a sense of fresh ambition, one that drives it forward even when the runtime starts to show and the film begins to sag under the weight of its own sheer mass. LaVera, tasked with injecting humanity into the sequel, lives up to this task with pure star power. Even when the film is flagging, her light isn’t diminished.
But you came to see a Terrifier movie, which means you came to see gore, and you’ll get it to brutal, goopy excess. Leone has lost none of his knack for elaborate death scenes in the six years since the first Terrifier, and the grander scope of the sequel means he has even more room to play with his practical effects. Art’s kills this time around are suitably elaborate and suitably stomach-churning, often going from ridiculous to horrifying and then right back around to ridiculous in the span of a single scene, but there’s something else at play beyond meeting expectations. If you’ve seen Terrifier, you know that Art has a “go big or go home” policy when it comes to maiming and killing, and Leone knows that you know that. So, his kills get bigger, but they also get more sadistic, more driven by Art’s character (such as it is) than by the sheer surprise of watching someone get ripped to shreds in great detail. There’s an art (pun intended) to it, and while it won’t necessarily win over newcomers to the world of gore, fans of Leone’s splatter-laden aesthetic won’t be disappointed.
“Overkill” is a word that comes to mind quite a lot when watching Terrifier 2. It’s long, it’s ultra-violent and it’s packed with sequences—from a tense interaction in a costume shop to the climactic showdown—that another filmmaker would’ve made at least a little shorter. It feels like too much, but if you’re among the horror viewers who get swept up in Art the Clown’s impish act, you get the feeling that’s exactly the point. Art was born to be an overkiller, to embody Leone’s appreciation for blackly comic gore, and Terrifier 2 is his magnum opus of blood and guts. If you get it, you feel the inherent charm in that. If you don’t, well, there are plenty of more subtle horror films out there this Halloween—but a lot of them aren’t having nearly as much fun.
Director: Damien Leone
Writer: Damien Leone
Starring: David Howard Thornton, Samantha Scaffidi, Lauren LaVera, Elliot Fullam, Sarah Voigt, Kailey Hyman, Casey Harnett
Release Date: October 7, 2022
Matthew Jackson is a pop culture writer and nerd-for-hire who’s been writing about entertainment for more than a decade. His writing about movies, TV, comics, and more regularly appears at SYFY WIRE, Looper, Mental Floss, Decider, BookPage, and other outlets. He lives in Austin, Texas, and when he’s not writing he’s usually counting the days until Christmas.