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It’s not often a horror film reaches into the depths of my soul, grabs my heart and shatters it into a billion terrified pieces, and rarer still that a sequel manages the trick. But Sex and the City 2 managed to do just that, proving that Michael Patrick King, that baron of the grim and terrifying, didn’t blow all his tricks in the 2008 horror masterpiece.

Allow me to paint a scene: a middle-aged man, minding his own business, reading the newspaper on the couch, is terrorized by the shrill banshee (Sarah Jessica Parker) with whom he swore a blood oath with to save his own life at the end of the first movie. She unreasonably demands he take his feet off the sofa. He flees to the bedroom in another scene and turns on the TV. With a preternatural ability to stalk him and cause further misery, she storms in and demands he turn it off. The man bargains with the banshee for some time apart, and his wish is granted only when the beast teams up with three kindred dark souls in order to regroup in the Middle East to plan further exploits.

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From there the scene shifts to a house of horrors in which none other than Liza Minnelli — the Boris Karloff of our era — unleashes a grotesque performance of “Single Ladies” that puts Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” to shame.

If you get to that early point in the movie and are too terrified to proceed, I’ll understand. I only stuck around because I was too afraid to move.

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I applaud the job of the makeup department for truly crafting some terrifying monstrosities. Parker is a dead-on replica of the Wicked Witch of the West. Cynthia Nixon resembles Richard Nixon’s re-animated corpse and Kim Cattrall is a ringer for Swamp Thing in a yellow wig. It’s understandable that the effects wizards had little left to ugly up Kristin Davis, given the extensive resources put into the other creatures.

Most horror films try to get you with shock value, loud scores and copious gore. But not Sex and the City 2, which grinds away your suspension of disbelief and confronts you with the prospect of endless mental torture. Throughout the 146-minute running time the monsters top one another with dreadful puns, revolting sexual innuendo and strained catch-phrase inventions, such as “interfriendtion.” At one point, Swamp Thing is on an airplane and grabs a date off a plate. There’s an infinitesimal pause as you cringe, wondering if she’ll actually say what she thinks she’s about to say, and then, yes, she remarks that she just left and “already has got a date,” prompting her evil companions into a hideous cackle. You stare at your watch: still 90 minutes to go.

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Many horror films lose their punch when they cross the seas, losing their cultural relevance, but because this film is centered around a journey to Abu Dhabi I can only imagine the film would be even scarier in the Middle East. Assuming the role of ugly, xenophobic Americans to horrific perfection, they mercilessly mock the fundamentalist culture surrounding them and try to apply their vapid worldviews and sensibilities to the foreign culture. At one point the antagonists gather for a tortured karaoke performance of “I Am Woman,” which threw me into shock and very nearly caused me to soil myself.

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Only the brave and stout will dare take this movie on. Beware, for you will emerge changed. Your soul blackened, your hairline receded, your eyes wilted in defeat and part of your heart forever dead. Bravo, Michael Patrick King, you have made me afraid not only of your characters, but of the entire world for spawning such a chilling franchise.

Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall. Written by Michael Patrick King, based on characters from the book by Candace Bushnell. Directed by King. 146 minutes. Rated R.

Phil Villarreal’s humorous money-saving book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, is available on Amazon.

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