The sadistic clown is back. Terrifier 2, written and directed by Damien Leone, is a graphic, violent, grotesque clown slasher film that doesn’t disappoint. 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. Damien spoke to us about his favorite scene in Terrifier 2, the crowdfunding process, and the huge fanbase the property has acquired. Read on for the full exchange. Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Wicked Horror: What was your inspiration for Terrifier 2 and this storyline?
Damien Leone: Well, I always knew that I wanted to make a sequel. Obviously, I had a cliffhanger at the end of Terrifier 1, where Art comes back from the dead, and now it’s known that he’s supernatural. I had the character of Sienna, played by Lauren LaVera, who’s the female protagonist in Terrifier 2 for a long time – since about 2008. I knew I wanted to make a film, a horror slasher with a final girl dressed as this sort of badass angel, warrior Valkyrie, and specifically a costume on Halloween. But as the film goes on, she sort of transcends and actually becomes that character. So it was more about just starting with Art the Clown and this visual of this Valkyrie and then finding the story…how did these two worlds meet? And it was really interesting when it came time to inject the supernatural element into, you know, Art the Clown, but also Sienna, who’s sort of the counterpart to Art the Clown, and seeing how that affects her journey. So yeah, I mean, it was pretty organic. It came to me pretty easily because I obviously love slasher films, but I also really love fantasy films, especially sword and sorcery movies that I grew up with when I was a kid from, you know, the early 80s, like Red Sonja and Conan the Barbarian, Beastmaster, things like that, Excalibur. It was organic, there was just a lot of things, bubbling around in my head that I knew I wanted.
WH: Can you explain a little bit about the crowdfunding process, what that was like and what it meant for the film?
Damien Leone: The first Terrifier was very low budget. It wound up…we started with like a $35,000 budget. We wound up making it for $50,000 and I was just trying to really do more or less the same thing with part 2. But our fan base was bigger, so there was a specific scene in the movie – The Clown Cafe scene…where I knew it was going to be so big and we just did not have enough money to shoot it, so I said, hey, the fans are so supportive, let’s do an Indiegogo, we’ll get them involved for like cool perks and everything that could actually be in the movie. So I was trying to raise 50 grand and in under a day, we the goal we met was like 225,000 or something…in less than one day. So that was a big eye opener for me because I didn’t realize just how popular the franchise was and how dedicated and supportive fans were, so that was amazing. But that money really helped us so much when it came to making this movie. We wouldn’t have been able to make the movie. I mean pure and simple. It helped us build all of our sets and all of the special effects that I packed the movie out with, so, it’s a godsend. We just love the fan base because they are the best people.
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WH: Are they any particular kills you loved or maybe you loved filming for Terrifier 2?
Damien Leone: Yeah, I’m proud of most of, if not all of them. But the big kill – what I call the alley kill – in the bedroom, because we knew going into it that was going to be the big one, that there had to be at least one where we tried to rival or come close to the big one in part one, because that’s what everybody was expecting. That’s what everybody asks Dave and I, at the conventions. How are you gonna top that hacksaw scene? What are you gonna do next? Which you know, provides a lot of stress and pressure also because you don’t want to let the fans down. So, I remember thinking, what the hell are we gonna do? And I found a book about Jack the Ripper, and it showed actual photographs of his victims, and there was a photo of a woman – her body, her remains on a bed, and she was so horribly mutilated that you couldn’t even tell it was a human being. It was so bad it just looked like a skeleton with meat on it and I said, oh my god…well, that’s disturbing. So if we take that and I reverse engineer it and we show the character goes from her everyday life and then ending up in that stage – that could be really disturbing. So that was the scene we really focused on and it took us months to prep all of the effects in that sequence and it took about seven days to shoot just that sort of four-minute scene. So I’m really proud of the way that came out and that was by far, you know, the toughest scene we had to shoot.
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WH: How do you think Art the Clown is different in Terrifier 2?
Damien Leone: Dave, who plays Art the Clown, likes to say that Art is more confident in this one, but I think that’s just Dave being more confident because Terrifier 1 came out and he was accepted. You know, I think Art the Clown was very confidence even in even in part one, but there is sort of a little bit more of an arrogance to him in this one, especially, knowing that he’s definitely unstoppable. He’s seemingly immortal in this one, being resurrected and being driven by this evil force. So, but, you know, going into this, believe it or not, Art the Clown was my personal safety net, making Terrifier 2. I felt very secure in writing him and I knew he was going to deliver with the laughs and the kills. But it was the other things in the movie that I was taking big chances on, like this big supernatural, mystical element and the new characters and bringing this family drama into it with all these characters that were not in Terrifier 1. So that’s what made me nervous more than anything else. That’s what was different about this film.
WH: Speaking of – How did you go about casting everyone?
Damien Leone: Primarily through like Actors Access and sites like that online. One of my co-producers acted also as the casting director, so he organized everything for me and he would send me a lot of headshots and resumes, and reels…I mean just looking for the best people possible. Especially with Lauren and Elliot, who plays Sienna and Johnathan, there were really never any runners-up, especially for Lauren. As soon as we saw her reel, I knew that was going to be Sienna and when she came in to audition in person and I got to meet her, and then she turned out to be a sweetheart…thank god. I said, this is her…this is Sienna and it was just a dream..absolute dream, working with her. I never had someone else, I never had actor care more about a character that I wrote than I did…I mean, you’re talking about…like it’s your child. She was so in love with Sienna and she just would go off and write journals of things she believed Sienna loved or what was going on internally and she would call me all the time…like a few times a week and just asking me these questions. You think Sienna would like this? Think she would listen to this? I’m like, I don’t know, but it’s amazing.
WH: What do you think about social media’s response to loving Terrifier? I mean, the fandom is pretty huge. People are even getting tattoos. What do you think about that?
Damien Leone: Oh my god…that’s probably the best part, honestly. It’s so surreal and we’re so grateful, but it goes even further than that. I mean we were at a horror convention, Dave and I, like 2 weeks ago and we literally had this girl in her early 20s come over to us and when she saw, she saw me…like I was talking to people in the middle of the room and I see this person in the corner of my eye, almost like creeping over to me and I looked at her and she gets up to me and she goes, are you, Damien Leone? And no, no, she goes…who are you? And I go, Damien, and she freaks out and starts crying, like hysterically crying, and she just goes on to tell me, like, how much I’ve inspired her as a makeup artist and how much Terrifier means to her, and then I like, I got chills just like thinking about it. That’s happened to us before, you know, like people say they met each other…they bonded over Terrifier and now they’re married…like, it goes so much crazier than that because we do all these conventions and we constantly meet fans. So that’s the best part…and little kids who are obsessed with, especially little girls…believe it or not…who are in love with Art the Clown, and whenever I see that, that really touches me. But you know, every day we’ll see new tattoos popping up and beautiful artwork and it’s the greatest feeling and but that’s one of the reasons why we try so hard and one of the reasons why this movie took so long to make is ’cause we, you know, people are starting to put him on a pedestal and it’s like oh my god, we can’t ruin this or at least I’m going to swing for the fences and try and give them my all, not to let them down. That’s one of the reasons why it took almost three years to make ’cause I needed this thing to be really kickass.
WH: Do you have any advice for young horror filmmakers out there?
Damien Leone: Of course, I wish it was more unique. It’s sort of every filmmaker’s answer to this, but you really just have to…you can never stop and you have to just follow your dream no matter what it takes you have to, you have to make films, and now everything is more accessible and cheaper. You can make movies on your camera, or on your phone. So, and you know editing software is easier. You have YouTube tutorials now that you can learn almost everything. The only thing I could say based on my own personal experience is how I, sort of, of had a leg up or I broke in…was knowing that I needed to show people something really grotesque, honestly, really exploitative and something that you know, so when I made my short films…I would put really disturbing things in them or really striking visuals. I put Art the Clown in it and when people saw that clown, they said, oh wow, that’s really memorable. I want to see more things with him. Or if I made Terrifier 1 for a $30,000 budget, I made sure I put that hacksaw scene in there… where you walk away talking about that, you start telling your friends…you got to see this scene…this scene is crazy – so put something in your work that doesn’t necessarily have to be graphic violence, but put something in your work that’s really going to stand out because there’s so much competition out there…but never stop, never stop following your dream.
TERRIFIER 2 will be in theaters on October 6, 2022 from Cinedigm in partnership with Iconic Events.