Even if you're not a horror movie fan, you can't help but respect the Cinderella story that is the Terrifier franchise. After attending a matinee of Terrifier 2 yesterday, it's literally the craziest shit I've ever seen on camera.
See that scary motherfucker in the picture above? That's Art The Clown. He's the engine that drives the Terrifier movies, and is one of the most disturbing creations in all of fiction.
Let me put it this way: Michael Myers of Halloween fame? He's always just kinda loafing it. If you can run without falling and aren't an idiot enough to leave your doors unlocked, you can avoid him. Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It? Very scary to be sure, but all you really have to do is say you don't fear him and he loses his power. The rules of when he appears and disappears are ambiguous and inconsistent, similar to Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street. So at least you have that going for you.
As much as I love the Scream franchise, it's often a bunch of bumbling, uncoordinated, clumsy idiots who are doing the killing. Maybe it's the lack of visibility behind that Ghostface mask. Maybe it's the fact they're usually in high school or college. Whatever the case, not quite as dangerous as some other iconic horror villains.
Upon viewing Terrifier 2, in terms of sheer danger and terror, none of these dudes hold a candle to our guy Art The Clown.
You hear a lot of smack talk these days about how movies aren't original, how big-budget, watered-down stories and preexisting IP are the only projects studios are willing to make investments in. Gone are the days of mid-budget classics. It's either a super-tight budget or a potential tentpole in the vast majority of cases.
Horror films in general are a great recipe for turning a profit at the box office. They generally cost little to make, you don't need a lot of shooting locations, and with much smaller overhead, it's far easier to make back your money.
You want to talk about a micro-budget, little-engine-that-could situation? Director/writer/FX artist Damien Leone made the first Terrifier for a shoestring amount of $35,000. Not $350K. Not $3.5 million. Thirty-five thousand. That film debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in October 2016 before a modest wider release in March 2018.
Terrifier 2 bumped the budget ALL the way up to $250K, which is still the cinematic equivalent of peanuts. It has already grossed over $8 million.
The craziest part is, word of mouth is really giving this flick legs. As the data from Box Office Mojo reveals, Terrifer 2's box office performance has actually improved despite releasing in 100 fewer theaters from its opening weekend:
For a little more context, you notice that the second week saw a 157.8% increase in box office grosses, followed by 84% up from that, and a +29.1% bump. Recent superhero releases Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Adam saw second-week drops of 68% and 59% respectively. Those are kind of extreme examples, yet it's super rare for a movie's gross to continuously escalate. You're lucky to avoid, say, a 40% dip in Week 2.
Check out the movie's distributor, Bloody Digusting, openly trolling the entire industry in a press release titled, "We Have Officially Submitted ‘Terrifier 2’ for Oscar Consideration Because It’s Too Funny Not To":
"It’s absolutely insane that this ultra-slasher is actually playing in theaters across the country. The film managed to escape into mainstream theaters completely uncut and gory as can be. We broke all the rules and fans rewarded us with tremendous support that shook the system to its core. And we’ve got the vomit stories to prove it. Meant to play in only a handful of theaters over the course of a single weekend, Terrifier 2 just expanded to 1,500 theaters for Halloween weekend – the widest release for unrated horror… ever?!
"Terrifier 2 is about as anti-Hollywood as you can get and yet, it’s hanging with the big boys. To date, the gruesome unrated slasher sequel has sliced into more than $8 million in theaters, and not a penny of that could’ve been made without YOU, the fans of extreme horror who believed in Art the Clown’s epic return as much as we did when we first laid eyes on this beast."
What Terrifier 2 is doing right now is beyond abnormal. And that's because it's a beyond abnormal movie. Based on the growing momentum behind the franchise, how profitable this sequel is, and the fact that the creators had the audacity to needle the Academy by submitting themselves for Oscar consideration, it's very clear Leone is only getting started.
As a movie buff and MFA acting diploma-wielding person, I pride myself on knowing about things like this. The Terrifier franchise wasn't even on my radar until mere days ago, though.
I was at a Halloween party for a few hours this past Saturday with my acting school buddies, and they had Terrifier turned on. When I tell you that was the goriest, most brutal movie I have seen in my entire life, believe me, that's the case. I've warmed up to horror movies in recent years even though I'm still a big baby about covering my eyes/ears at certain parts. The frenetic, high-energy performances actors often have to give is something I've grown to respect. Then, if the filmmaker can tell a coherent story and have a singular vision while bringing something new to the genre? All the better.
That's what I saw in Terrifier. It was unabashed, gratuitous violence, and for the first time in my life, I actually had an appreciation for just how HARD the kills went. There is one scene in particular that I won't spoil, but trust that it's the most sicko thing ever committed to film.
Check out the trailer for the first Terrifier. The movie itself is only 86 minutes long and is worth your while. You'd never believe it was made for $35,000. When I watched it with my friends, it was one of those movies where you're just yelling, "Oh! OHHH!!" OHH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!"
The elements that make the Terrifier franchise special — trying my best to avoid spoilers here — are the subversion of the Final Girl trope, the pure mayhem Art The Clown is capable of, the creativity of the kills, a couple crazy twist endings so far, and last but not least (and most obviously), how much Damien Leone squeezes out of every dollar of the budget.
You know how, toward the end of a horror movie, you can almost always expect the Final Girl to survive? Or even during the course of the narrative, you can at least see how some prospective victims could escape the killer's grasp? Art the Clown is in such control of his killing situation and setup the entire time, that you really feel like the odds are stacked against all the protagonists. It really feels like zero help is coming, and even if/when it arrives, they have no chance.
While you can stream Terrifier 2 exclusively on SCREAMBOX, I highly recommend checking it out in theaters. In my opinion, you can see this one without seeing the original and still be able to keep up. Of course, ideally, watch the very-short OG if you can. Although Halloween has just passed, this is a singular experience you're certain not to forget.