Nope. Well, sort of. Damian Leone’s 2016 first Terrifier tale gave us no handholds, no real horror tropes, it moved from one set piece to another, without any real reason but with absolute intention.
Art The Clown
Clowns can be scary; coulrophobia, fear of clowns, is a real thing, Pennywise would tell us that. And at the basis of the Terrifier movies is a clown. But it isn’t as easy as that.
Here, David Howard Thornton doesn’t play Art in the way you would expect. Yes, he has the bared teeth and pulled-back lips of a horror film demon, but he works this character deep in his own life; Art is delighted with his work and not only amuses himself whilst he’s dismembering victims, but he also finds himself hilarious, which creates a strange separation from the activity.
There’s also a disarming personal feel when Art is faced with setbacks, which jar just as much as Norman Stansfield in ‘Leon’ reacting with a weary sigh to a spot of blood on his suit after leaving a trail of carnage.
Art also has a wish to connect with other characters, to almost appear as a party clown, showing his wares by showing his jazz hands, but always with a feeling that he can’t make friends. EM Forster asked us to ‘only connect’ and Art seems to agree, which just makes it even more disturbing.
That Diner Scene
It lasts for so long in the first Terrifier movie, or so it seems and that’s what matters. Art wants to connect with two diners and won’t take no for an answer; which leaves us with two thoughts;
Don’t engage, if you don’t give him anything, he can’t take anything
If he’s picked you, there is nothing you can do
That scene is painful because of the anticipation of the attack and, unlike the long-lens hospital corridor scene in ‘Exorcist 3’ perhaps, this one isn’t about pacing, it isn’t about the atmosphere, it’s about people.
Art seems to want to connect, perhaps with their vital organs, but perhaps not, perhaps on an emotional level. As he returns to the 2 diners over and over again, there’s a sense that something will happen soon and also the embarrassment of an unwanted interaction. The personal feel is the most disturbing thing here.
This Is Not ‘Saw‘
Not to denigrate that franchise at all, it made an extraordinary statement which is still being felt in horror now and the Terrifier movies take that to heart. And spleen. And pancreas.
But although Art destroys bodies with implements and his bare hands, which is pushed even further in Terrifier 2, there’s a disconnection, Art is almost watching himself doing the full deed, almost as if he’s compelled to do it, taking no disgusting pleasure in it, whilst his almost superhuman ability to pluck out eyeballs and cave in heads is almost comic in its outrageousness.
It’s odd and unsettling; we’ve been desensitised to the show of offal by other movies, so by linking the perpetrator to the action in Terrifier, even if he is locked in his reverie, we aren’t allowed to stand off it.
As The Guardian have it;
‘…the film is absurd fun instead of outright cruel, more in the vein of The Evil Dead than the torture-porn of Saw.’
The little top hat which Art wears. It isn’t meant to be frightening, particularly as David Howard Thornton wears it at a jaunty angle. And that makes us think.
He isn’t wearing a boiler suit. A leather mask. Or a set of claws. Thornton has the lithe body of a dancer and the moves of one; his angular, ‘Cabaret’ EMCEE look and extreme precision are something seldom seen in horror.
Terrifier 2 Isn’t Just A Horror Movie
It has an 80’s almost Dario Argento credit sequence and theme music, it references many other horror movies almost with a wink and then it adds something else. Fantasy.
Credit; The Focus
The Terrifier 2 heroine, Sienna, dressed in a Halloween costume designed by her father and very Zena Warrior Princess and with a sword of justice which appears to have magical powers, ends up in a tube of liquid after being stabbed in the gut. She dies.
And then magically comes back to life to have another go at Art who was strapping her brother with a fishhook. Yep, she came back to life. The rules don’t seem to matter. They aren’t as we would expect.
And Art’s companion, a woman who resembles him, appears to be a fantasy item. After all, Art is desperate to connect. Variety has it right, a ‘slasher dreamscape’.
No Horror Film
So what is Terrifier 2? I don’t know. But it never treats the genre with irony. It spreads its wings and touches so much film; a rare thing indeed. And one to be celebrated. A touch of the (tiny) cap to Messrs Leone and Thornton…