Terrifier 2

3 out of 5

Directed by: Damien Leone

My take on the first Terrifier was that it was a good bit of dumb, gory fun, if a stretch of the same-old same-old during its story-less 90 minutes. So hearing that Terrifier 2 had upped the gore ante, then also increased the runtime to over two hours… what was I supposed to make of that? To be clear: I really wasn’t sure. Is this a good thing or not?

To writer Damien Leone’s credit, for the majority of Terrifier 2’s runtime, I was convinced that it was all towards improvement. Having taken the nigh across-the-board criticism of Terrifier as being slim on plot, Leone decided to center character in his sequel, establishing lead Sienna (Lauren LaVera) as more fleshed out, well before turning her into a final girl. So we learn of her father’s passing; of her brother’s (Elliott Fullam) obsession with that tragedy that happened last year – y’know, the stuff from the first flick – and witness her having nightmares / visions that seem to tie her to our crazy killer clown, once again played with wondrous physical knack by David Howard Thornton. And Leone isn’t avoiding gore during this stuff: Art is resurrected somehow and on the loose, causing face-smashing mayhem within the first few minutes, and murdering his way toward Sienna, whose aforementioned nightmares also have some good ol’ bloodshed.

Through this stuff, a couple things can be noted: while Leone is making good on trying out character development, it’s not really any different from one of the positives of Terrifier: his dialogue, and his direction of his actors, is all very naturalistic. No one comes across as pure horror movie fodder – excepting when needed, for ‘don’t go in the house’-type decisions, and brief cheesecake flashes (that I’d say are actually done pretty tastefully, tossed in in a nude-less way that satisfies the genre requisite and then comments on it a scene later) – and that simply gets more runtime here, which is, for sure, a good thing. The other bit that sticks out, though, is that Leone’s storytelling, visually and narratively, still rather stalls: shots are held for too long, and action/reactions play out for too many beats. There’s also an extended attempt at weaving lore into Art that is appreciated, but it’s sort of tacked onto things in a way that suggests a lack of resolution, and… yeah: spoiler-y, but at the end of the day, this is still just a movie about people getting slaughtered.

And oh, how. The gore gags in Terrifier were executed with gusto, though I mentioned that they often amounted to flimsy body bags filled with goop. That’s still how most of these things turn out – Art’s favorite move is to dig into a wound he’s inflicted and pull stuff out – but Leone definitely went above and beyond to try to capture more stuff in frame, requiring a lot of insanely impressive either puppetry or animatronics or makeup to allow actors to still wriggle around while stuff’s getting torn off of them or slashed to bits. It is… wild. Though rather cartoonish, which is furthered – positively – by Thornton’s over-animated performance, assisted by a creepy girl helper this time (Amelie McLain). Thornton’s part here also benefits from the runtime, as he’s given much more room to, yeah, act the clown, and further make his character unique from a Freddy type.

So: essentially you have some positives made more positive, and then some pre-existing negatives. And, alas, that does still grow tiresome by a certain point – pretty much when the flick inevitably gets back to another single-location cat-and-mouse bit a la the first movie. I wasn’t checking the runtime at all until then; after that I kept wondering how much more there could possibly be. Overall, though, this is still promising. While the first suspicion would be that Leone just went for overkill with his sequel, I do feel that he sincerely tried to do everything better. The good news is that it proves that what worked in film one wasn’t a lark, and also that he can hold a more expansive production / concept together, even if it’s ultimately held back by story gaps and blood-n’-guts repetition. However, while I was on the fence if a Terrifier 2 was needed, the positives from the flick give me faith that a Terrifier 3, even if it struck even with this one, would definitely be worthwhile.