As we continue Horror Week at Capes and Tights we discussed the Terrifier films with filmmaker Damien Leone and the actor who fills some big shoes as Art The Clown, David Howard Thornton at Bangor Comic and Toy Con.
The first Terrifier feature film released in 2018 after a few film festival showings in 2016 and 2017. In Terrifier, Tara Heyes finds herself as the obsession of a sadistic murderer known as Art the Clown on Halloween night.
The sequel, aptly named Terrifier 2, released with smash-success in 2022 to the tune of $15.4 million on a $250,000 budget. In the followup film, After being resurrected by a sinister entity, Art the Clown returns to the timid town of Miles County where he targets a teenage girl and her younger brother on Halloween night.
While Art The Clown has quickly become a cult classic slasher character, his first appearance on screen was not in the first Terrifier film. Art made his screen debut in Damien Leone’s first short film 9th Circle, followed by a horror anthology film All Hallow’s Eve. He finally made his feature film debut in Terrifier, but was not portrayed by Thornton.
In the short films and All Hallow’s Eve, Art was played by Leone’s friend Mike Giannelli. Therefor all the prosthetics where designed around Giannelli’s face and build. However, Mike wasn’t an actor and wasn’t keen on the idea of continuing to play the character. With the love people where showing for Art The Clown Leone was worried what to do next if he wanted to keep working with Art and his craziness.
“People went crazy for Art The Clown, while people may have had other complaints with my movies in other departments, Art was always working.” said Leone. “Now all of a sudden, Mike didn’t want to do it anymore because Mike wasn’t an actor.”
Damien was forced to hold auditions at an office he rented in New York City. He put out a posting stating the need an actor for a killer clown movie, but not much else. “Obviously, art doesn’t speak, so there was no sides or anything,” said Leone.
Enter David Howard Thornton.
“I was familiar with All Hallow’s Eve when I saw the audition notice and it said, Killer Clown. I was like, wait a minute, and I had to double-check my Google. I was like, yeah, holy shit,” said Thornton.
Before taking the auditions, Leone knew he needed someone who was tall, skinny, and again because Art doesn’t speak, someone who could do more physical comedy. Once David entered the room they knew they had something.
“We saw about five or six people. They were coming in. I wasn’t crazy about what they were doing or how they look,” said Leone. “Then David walked in. As soon as I saw David physically, I’m like, oh, and he said this big smile. That’s my guy. He’s going to look great in that prosthetic.”
Playing a voice-less character, one that’s only way of communicating with the audience is via super goring violence takes someone special. It can be difficult to find the right person with little to work with. Damien says ” I want to see you decapitating somebody and having a really good time doing it. And action.” Once he started acting, Damien knew he had his new Art The Clown.
“I don’t know where this came from. I turned off my brain and let what happened to happen,” said David. “I just came up this whole thing where I snuck up behind my victim, knocked him out and took out a saw, a hacksaw and saw it off his head, picked up the head and tasted the blood. Didn’t like the taste of the blood, so I took a salt shaker, seasoned it. I’m like, just good and skipped out my little Mary Way.”
That’s it, shut down casting Damien thought. We have found our new Art The Clown, saying “What else are we really looking for?”
While Leone is an outstanding filmmaker in his own right. His ability to make back-to-back outstanding slasher-splatter films and be working on a third right now you have to be good at what you do. Additionally, in the first two feature films Leone was not only writing the films, but directing and handling all the special effects and editing. However, the hiring of David is going to go down as one of the best decisions he has made in his film career.
Thornton’s ability to creep us all out, give us goosebumps, gross us out and just plain scare us without saying a word is truly outstanding. His physical comedy is towards the top in Hollywood right now and he is having fun while doing it. This is evident in not only his on-screen persona, but when he dons his makeup and prosthetics at conventions.
“It’s more fun for me,” said Thornton. “I want people if they’re going to have photos with me, I want to give them a real experience. How weird would it be if I was just like how are you doing? Let’s take a photo. They want to meet the real Art The Clown.”
The first two Terrifier films as well as Art The Clown have become cult classics in the horror and slasher genres, therefor cementing Leone as a cult classic filmmaker. Leone has his work cut out for him with the third film that is currently in pre-production with a hopeful release of fall 2024.
The third film, which Leone has stated is not necessarily the final installment, has a much larger budget allowing him to hire a top-notch special effects team and better filming equipment, allowing him to focus on writing and directing the film. However, the original mold and some of the original costume will be used.
If you missed out on seeing the first film, do yourself a favor and watch it online. However, if you missed out on the sequel you are in luck. Terrifier 2 returns to theaters for a special run beginning November 1, 2023 with an additional few minutes of footage as well as a first-look at the teaser trailer for Terrifier 3.