Interview: Damien Leone talks ‘Terrifier’

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There’s a new killer clown coming to town next month as Art the Clown from the All Hallows Eve series is back in his own film Terrifier from original Director Damien Leone.

We caught with Leone to talk all about the return of Art.

Tell us when you decided to bring Art the Clown back for Terrifier?

My goal ever since he appeared in my first short film The 9th Circle was to give Art his own feature film. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to raise money. I wound up maxing out a credit card to make Terrifier the short film in 2010.

After that I was approached by Ruthless Pictures to make All Hallows’ Eve but that was a preconceived anthology in which I still couldn’t make the Art the Clown film I really wanted. I’m very persistent when it comes to filmmaking and getting personal projects off the ground. Luckily I ran across my producer Phil Falcone and he was gracious enough to fund the feature length version of Terrifier I’d been trying to make for years.

This film looks very different to All Hallows Eve, was this always important?

I still tried to incorporate a retro look but we didn’t go as extreme as I had gone in the short. We eliminated any sort of digital scratches and grain as to not be so gimmicky.

All Hallows’ Eve was also shot over the span of 6 years on three different cameras with four different directors of photography. Terrifier was shot by my good friend and cinematographer George Steuber. He created a look that is much more credible and consistent.

Did you take inspiration from Grindhouse for Terrifier?

I’m definitely a fan of Grindhouse the movie but other than the old school, worn film look I had used in the short film, there was no inspiration. However, I am a huge fan of real 70s grindhouse films and there is a ton of inspiration sprinkled throughout Terrifier thanks to a number of them.

Where does the title come from?

I wanted the title to reflect the film as an experience and not necessarily have anything specific to do with the events or characters. Many people refer to Art the Clown as the Terrifier and that’s cool.

He certainly is but my intention was for the film to feel like a roller coaster whereas once it starts, it’s just this fast, wild ride that will make you scream and maybe even make you sick. I figured if I ever had to name a rollercoaster it would be called Terrifier.

How many practical effects did you use on Terrifier?

Geez, too many to count. I would say 98% of the film is practical and I used the smallest amount of CGI to just enhance the practicals. Sometimes there may have been a need to remove a blood tube, or make a gash look deeper than it was in reality.

One of my great loves is practical effects. I was fascinated by special effects make-up at a very young age thanks to Tom Savini – years before I got into directing. This is why I will always choose practicals over CGI unless absolutely necessary. I think Guillermo Del Toro has it down to a science when it comes to using both tools to the best of their abilities.

How does David Howard Thornton compare to Mike Giannelli as Art?

Both actors did a fantastic job. Physically, David is thinner so it makes his facial features seem more gaunt. This helps elevate the facial prosthetic.

Davis is also a trained theater actor where Mike wasn’t so Dave brings a wider range to the character and a bit more personality. He also brought a more silent-film style quality to the Art which is perfect for a character that doesn’t make a sound.

 Is the aim to create a franchise going forward?

Absolutely. There is definitely a lot more to explore with Art and I think the genre can use a fresh slasher. I can see us making 3 solid Terrifier movies before the well is completely dry. It also depends on how well the film is received and if people want more.

What was the reaction to the screening at Frightfest Halloween last year?

I wasn’t there unfortunately but I heard the turn out and response was fantastic. The best experience I had with an audience was when we screened a very rough cut for the first time at the Telluride Horror Show in Colorado. It was like a rock concert.

The audience was cheering, shrieking and screaming at the top of their lungs from start to finish. That was definitely a rewarding feeling and gave me hope that we may actually have a decent flick on our hands.

How does Art compare to those other killer clowns in horror?

There are a lot of awesome clowns out there but the only clown I consciously created Art around was Pennywise. First of all it’s important to point out that Art was created back in 2006, way before the IT remake was even a thought.

But even still, Pennywise was the killer clown king even back then so I knew if I was going to step into that arena, I was going to have to do something drastically different. If you compare Art to Tim Curry’s Pennywise side by side, you’ll notice they are almost polar opposites. Pennywise is colorful, Art is black and white. Pennywise has hair, Art is bald. Pennywise speaks, Art is silent.

Pennywise doesn’t use weapons, Art carries around a garbage bag filled with weapons, etc. I also took personality traits from my favorite slashers and attributed them to Art. For instance, Art is essentially the silent stalker a la Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers but with Freddy Krueger’s sense of humor.

Art is ultimately my tribute to everything I loved about slasher movies growing up. I wanted to take familiar elements that we all embraced from American horror movies combined with the graphic violence and atmosphere of Giallo films — hopefully creating something fresh and exciting at the end of the day.

Pre-order Terrifier on DVD HERE

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