I’ll preface this by saying I own a legal copy of Terrifier, and I’ve watched both that one and the original short film of the same name and, on balance, I liked them both.
But the writer/director (Damien Leone) seriously needs to see a therapist about his obvious problems with women, because it’s daubing an unnecessary stain on his otherwise fantastic films.
Despite the buzz, I neither passed out nor vomited while watching this film (the closest I came to doing so was during particular scenes in Raw and Teddy). However, I have severe OCD, and Art the murderous clown’s bathroom antics were so obscene enough from the first one that the fact that he’s shown mopping up and doing laundry after his murders made me think he’d turned over a new hygiene leaf (perhaps due to covid?). But no such luck. But Art has evolved in other ways: Because his creator has more money and a much longer runtime to play with (an inexplicable 2 hours and 18 minutes), his kills are longer, bloodier, and reach a level of gore I think would be genuinely uncomfortable to watch had the blood and guts not been a cartoonish level of bright red.
That said, they are still utterly fucking grotesque. I think I need to mine a thesaurus for stronger synonyms to describe just how monstrous these kills are because they’re not just kills – they’re tortures, maiming, disfiguring, and the majority of them are concentrated, yet again, on women – in terms of screentime, intensity and frequency. It’s a shame because many of them make for macabrely memorable shots, such as one particular scene in a person’s room – but did she have to be half-naked, in lingerie, on a bed? I get that the film is going for retro exploitation vibes but can we leave the sleazy pseudo-rape in the past where it belongs? Nobody is craving that part of that nostalgia/aesthetic. We can also leave behind ‘throw in one black person and kill them off in one scene’, too.
It’s also a shame because Art is close to an iconic villain – he’s old-fashioned, cosplayable, and with a distinctively creepy design, right down to his silent mime-like mannerisms, and it’s the fact that the film derives so much humour from that that doesn’t sit well with the aforementioned cruelty, meaning the film’s tone runs face-first into a wall it created.
There’s also no ultimate justification for its 138-minute runtime, because only the main character Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and her brother Eric (Griffin Santipietro) are given any material to flesh out their roles, but only barely: Eric is a typical pre-teen who atypically is actually nice to his sister and Sienna has some moments to grieve over her father. But, like every woman in this film (and in the first one), she’s written poorly: She has zero agency around the males in ther life, only empowered via the skimpy armour her late father designed for her (eww), and is later resurrected by the calls of her brother. Her friends are either varying shallow stereotypes of superficial and slutty, and the mother reads her lines like she’s a comically harangued sitcom mom.
I would welcome the runtime if it used it widely in terms of storytelling. But the plot watches like a mobile game cutscene because none of that bloated runtime is being used to tell a real story about real people that we give a shit about doing anything other than just surviving the terror of Art – who seems to be unkillable to the point where it stops being entertaining. Three fucking times it felt like this film ended; the finale felt like its own short fucking film. It just KEPT GOING.
Yet, still, on balance, I still genuinely liked this movie. I wouldn’t recommend it to a single person I think has a problem with girls or women but instead to genre freaks like myself because I can see that a lot of great work went into making it – especially that photography by George Steuber. So many of those shots are now burnt in my memory. I’m happy we got a Terrifier sequel and I’d love to see more of Art, but I truly think he deserves better-written films with actualised, realistic characters.