Dir. Damien Leone (2022)
Art the Clown is back with a vengeance, and this time he's after a pair of siblings who recently lost their father to suicide.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
One of the more controversial films of the last decade was 2016's Terrifier, a true love-it-or-hate-it film if there ever was one. It amounted to more of an effects showcase than a narrative feature, a film that alienated some members of the audience for focusing much more on gore than it does on storytelling. To be honest, while I love the film and all of the things that it accomplishes, it is certainly not a good movie by any stretch, feeling much more like one of the German goremeister films that just involved blood, guts, a few boobs, and not a whole lot else. The question as to whether that's a good or bad thing depends entirely on your point of view, so Terrifier was a movie that was difficult to find agreement upon. Thankfully, director Damien Leone has learned a lot since then, taking the last three years of global shutdown to develop a movie that is both story and gore. And boy, is there gore.
To say that this was a gory movie is an understatement. I haven't seen such realistic gore since the last time I watched a live autopsy. I gotta be honest, it's been a loooooong time since I've walked out of a movie with this big of a smile on my face. I could not stop grinning like an idiot as I drove home, so delighted was I by what I had just seen on the big screen. This may well be the goriest movie I've ever seen in theaters. The movie was almost two and a half hours long, sparking online debate as to whether there is any need for a horror movie to have such a long runtime. Honestly, it doesn't feel half that long, because the "lulls" in action were filled with terrific character development and WAY better acting than I expected. Where Terrifier felt like an effects demo reel, Terrifier 2 is a fantastically developed movie, showing Leone's growth as a filmmaker and storyteller by delivering a plot that was coherent and a story that was enthralling.
Once the action kicks in, though, the violence progresses at almost breakneck speed, each murder scene leaving the audience feeling that they are watching something that they shouldn't be watching. The gore was shockingly realistic: as someone who has seen more than my fair share of death and trauma, this one is almost as real as it gets. It hearkens back to my review of American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore, because when Art the Clown is showing you the inside of a human body, that's what it actually looks like. The effects folks for the film were outstanding, and I could devote an entire review to singing their praises. Leone and Co. managed to make a vicious, mean-spirited film for which those words aren't insults, giving the audience each ounce of gristle and bone for which they have been clamoring.
One of the things that I've seen a lot of reviews skimping out on is exactly how good leading lady Lauren LaVera was in this film. She was absolutely incredible as the badass Sienna, who takes some serious inner inspiration from her Halloween costume as an ass-kicking angel. She put some legitimate emotion into the role, delivering a performance that was equal parts dangerous and empathetic, prey and hunter, terrified and terrifier. LaVera seems perfectly capable of delivering a dramatic performance, but I hope she sticks to horror because she is absolutely fucking amazing in this role.
Fuck, even the soundtrack was amazing, a delicious 80's-inspired cacophony of hammering synth that fits the film perfectly and helps to ratchet up the action. Every piece of the film was incredible and innovative, especially in regards to mainstream gore. I would watch a dozen of these films, and I have to give every last bit of kudos to a new horror legend in David Howard Thornton for crafting the role of a lifetime in Art the Clown. While Terrifier may have just been a lot of creepy clowning around with a few interesting kills, Terrifier 2 serves to elevate Thornton among the genres greats, and he deserves to become a household name like Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, and Robert Englund. Art has quickly become a lasting face in horror, a new slasher villain that doesn't pull any punches and is about as evil as it's possible for a clown/demon to be. And I am absolutely fucking here for it.
Who this movie is for: Extreme gore fans, Terrifier devotees, Clown Cafe patrons
Bottom line: I just cannot rave about this film enough. I had five walkouts in my theater, so this isn't going to be a film that is for everyone. For me, this was one of the best horror movies of the year and one that I will not be able to shut up about for weeks to come. Highly, highly recommended if you're a gory movie fan. The only gripe that I would have is that it will definitely be one that shouldn't even be watched by people who don't like gore, because it is filled to the brainstem with buckets of entrails and viscera. Leone, Thornton and LaVera are incredible and I can't wait to see what they come up with next, and I will be first in line to buy tickets.