[The following review contains MINOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
I read the reports of viewers fainting and vomiting during screenings of Terrifier 2. I never actually believed them, of course, assuming that they were merely clickbait—sensationalized, attention-grabbing headlines designed to drum up publicity. Besides, I’m pretty desensitized to cinematic violence; it is, after all, only pretend—even the most convincing special effects are the products of misdirection and movie magic.
Despite my strong stomach, however, the film’s sheer brutality tested the limits of both my endurance and the “R” rating. This throwback to ‘80s slashers is gritty, grimy, grungy, gory, and gruesome. The killer, Art the Clown (who borrows elements from such horror icons as Leatherface, Pennywise, and especially Freddy Krueger) is sadism and malice incarnate. He’s no mundane murderer; he’s a butcher. He bludgeons his victims, gouges their eyes out, shatters their teeth, flays and scalps them, and snaps their limbs like twigs, prolonging their suffering for as long as possible. Why? Simply because it amuses him. In one particularly chilling moment, he serves a group of trick-or-treaters candy out of a severed human head, silently chuckling to himself as the clueless children happily accept the sweets.
Fortunately, Terrifier 2 doesn’t revolve entirely around its villain (though he gets plenty of screen time). Protagonist Sienna Shaw elevates the material, distinguishing herself as one of the genre’s very best “final girls.” She’s resourceful and vulnerable in equal measure; she struggles with trauma and mental illness, but that doesn’t prevent her from defending herself and her family from harm. The supporting characters—her brother, her mother, her classmates—are likewise complex and nuanced; their recognizable and relatable flaws ground the otherwise supernatural conflict.
The movie isn’t perfect. At 150 minutes, it feels bloated and unwieldy; several scenes could have been trimmed down without sacrificing anything crucial. Additionally, while I generally enjoyed the surreal tone of the narrative, a few of the more ambiguous plot twists came off as needlessly cryptic—weird for the sake of being weird. Still, if the spirit of Halloween has made you hungry for a good old-fashioned scary story, Terrifier 2 will certainly satisfy that craving.