The element of surprise is crucial in horror. AndTerrifier 2, an unexpected independent slasher movie box office success, is chock-full of pleasant surprises. Because the movie has already made $7.9 million at the box office, more than 30 times its $250,000 budget, no one saw it coming, much like any good scare.
Such box office success for this kind of movie is a true oddity in today’s film industry. Currently, it seems like almost every movie released in theatres is an addition to or continuation of an already-existing franchise. Right now, familiarity and nostalgia are the strongest draws. All but Elvis, which is of course also propelled by familiarity and nostalgia, if in a different way, are among the top 10 movie office draws of 2022.
This is what makes Terrifier 2’s unexpected box office success so astounding. Yes, it is a sequel. However, its predecessor was 138 minutes long, didn’t include any well-known actors, and was rather unknown. None of this highlights the fact that it only played in 886 theatres on opening weekend and brought in $825,000 domestically.
Given the film’s low budget, this number is nothing to be ashamed of, but what’s amazing is how the film’s box office earnings continued to rise over the following weeks. It made $850,000 in its second weekend, $1.9 million in its third weekend, and $1.8 million in its fourth weekend.
Terrifier 2’s remarkable success seems to be largely due to word-of-mouth marketing. Thanks to support from Bloody Disgusting and Cinedigm as well as a successful IndieGoGo campaign, the movie already had a modest but well-established cult audience. But the movie itself, which gained a reputation online for making people throw up and faint, is to blame for its meteoric rise at the box office.
The violent splattercore slasher, which Damien Leone directed, follows Art the Clown, a revived demon serial killer, as he mangles and mutilates the helpless residents of Miles County on Halloween night. The killings are among the most gruesome you’ve ever seen on a huge screen, and the majority of the heinous acts of murder are so horrifying they’re practically indescribable.
Leone’s portrayal of the violence is what makes the film so tough to watch. Without getting into too much detail, some of the most intricate and horrifying realistic makeup effects you’re likely to see at a movie theatre in this decade are used to show the slicing, stabbing, dismemberment, cannibalism, and acts of torture on exhibit. It’s absolutely amazing stuff, repulsive enough to make even those with iron stomachs squirm and wince. In one episode, Art even breaks into a woman’s house and disfigures her beyond recognition with a scalpel, scissors, bleach, and salt. The scene never ends, even when you believe it couldn’t possibly become any more horrifying.
The notion that the film’s worth or attraction stems solely from its extreme violence, however, couldn’t be further from the reality. It’s actually a very polished, expertly performed celebration of real-world filmmaking. While the film’s overall structure fits the mold for its genre, the scenes’ pace and rhythm are utterly out of the ordinary and unanticipated. When you expect Leone to cut away from the brutality, he doesn’t. It’s also unusual how he frames Art, a mute but incredibly charismatic villain portrayed by David Howard Thornton. He stays with him long enough for Thornton’s outstanding performance to be fully appreciated.
Although viewers may come for the gore and blood, Lauren LaVera, who plays the heroine Sienna, is the movie’s secret weapon. The battle angel costume worn by our protagonist while she battles Art is nothing short of amazing. LaVera’s physicality in the role is quite astounding, and she could just be the best last girl ever. She is ferocious yet flawed. Art is a difficult act to compete with, but Sienna manages to be equally as memorable in cinema, which speaks much about LaVera’s talent and the quality of the content.
Terrifier 2 is currently streaming on Screambox, which means its reputation and audience will only grow from this point forward, making the idea of future sequels appear more than likely. In a recent interview, Leone stated to Variety that he had a Part 3 in mind when composing Part 2. Could this be the next big-budget horror series to rule the box office in the future years? There may be a ceiling for the movie in the mainstream market given its strong gross-out factor, but you never know.
After a decade of elevated horrors that preferred to exist inside their own heads, there’s a chance that more passionate horror viewers are collectively acquiring a tolerance (or perhaps even a hunger) for more explicit, boundary-pushing entertainment. Midnight movies haven’t historically been big moneymakers at the box office, but Terrifier 2’s explosive success may signal an impending paradigm shift for a genre that has been moving away from the shock and schlock we typically associate with old-school slasher and grindhouse cinema for the better part of a decade.