What’s happening right now with “Terrifier 2” is something that basically never happens. A modestly-budgeted independent slasher movie gets a higher-budgeted (but still very modest) sequel? Sure, fine. That’s not unheard of. That sequel getting released on hundreds of screens across the U.S.? That’s a rarity. Even rarer still is that sequel continuing to gain momentum as the weeks go by. Yet, that is exactly what “Terrifier 2” is doing.
Racking up a gross at the box office that is substantially higher than its aforementioned budget and getting steadily increasing mainstream attention. It’s baffling in the best possible way- not just because “Terrifier 2” is such an extreme horror film. It’s because you never see a movement like this in horror or even film, in general, these days. On top of that, the film is an incredibly fun slasher movie that manages to transcend its restrictions to end up as something far more epic than one might ever even dream a sequel to “Terrifier” could possibly be.
I had the opportunity to talk to Damien Leone, the writer/director (as well as the editor, producer, etc.) about what it’s like to see his creation become recognized as something special, get his thoughts on some of the controversy surrounding the film (and conversely, being shouted out by Stephen freakin’ King), and possibly learn about what the future has planned for “Terrifier.”
I’m actually really, really stoked to be doing this because I love both “Terrifier” movies.
Oh, thank you man.
I drove an hour the other day to see it on the big screen.
Did you? Oh, thanks dude. I really appreciate that.
I am curious though, did you ever think that something like this would ever be possible? That it was going to be like, it’s in its second theatrical weekend? It’s about to be in its third theatrical weekend and it just keeps snowballing.
Not even close. Not in terms of a theatrical release. I thought it was going to play in a couple of festivals and maybe a couple of Alamo Drafthouses sprinkled throughout the country and that was it. This is just mind-blowing. It’s so surreal.
Yeah, I saw the… I mean, obviously, you did too… but the Stephen King tweet and everything. I’m like, “What’s even happening?” It went from a movie that I had to tell people existed to being-
-something where it’s in the news. What’s that like?
Man, I woke up this morning to all of my friends texting me that I’m on Howard Stern. So we were on a 20-minute segment of Howard Stern today, specifically talking about Terrifier. It was just, it’s mind-blowing.
Did you ever think that when you designed all of this, Art the Clown and the movies and all of that, was there any kind of endgame of it being something that gets adopted by popular culture? Did you ever think that that was even something that would be possible? Especially with the fact that they’re lower-budget movies?
Well, I did know I had something special with Art the Clown when I made this second short film of mine with him [also] called “Terrifier.” which was, they’re both in- the first one was “The 9th Circle.” That’s when he was introduced. And then the second short film I made was [the one] called “Terrifier.” They’re both [in] “All Hallows’ Eve.” But so when I made “The 9th Circle,” and I designed Art for the first time and I saw him on set and on camera, I said, “Wow. I mean, this character looks really cool and he’s creepy.” But that was it. I mean, it wasn’t anything like, “Ooh, that’s the next face of horror kind of thing.” It was just like, “Wow, he looks really cool. I like this guy.” And then everybody I showed that short film to, they was… Because there’s other things in it. It starts with Art the Clown. He abducts this woman, injects her with a needle, and then she wakes up underground with monsters and demons and shit. And that’s it. And Art’s out of the picture. And everybody said, “Yeah, the demons are cool. The makeup’s cool, but that clown at the beginning is insane. He looks so cool. He was so freaky. You have to do more stuff with him.” And I got that note across the board. So I said, “Yeah man, I’ll definitely put him in something else and we’ll make another short film with him. Now I’ll focus solely on Art the Clown.” And that’s when I turned him into a slasher and I really started developing his sick sense of humor and where he is shitting on rules and he’s really fucking with his victims as much as he can and just being really sadistic with them. And when I saw that finished product and I just was like, “This guy is cool. There’s really something there, and he needs to be in a feature. I have to get this guy in a feature.” And that just became my obsession. It was, “How do I get Art the Clown in his own movie?”
So even when it was picked up for “All Hallows’ Eve” and the producer wanted to put the short films and stuff, I said, “Listen, eventually I want to make a film with this guy. I need to retain the rights.” Because I don’t want him to be just this character in an anthology movie. It’s not what I had in mind with the character. And even after he made the movie and stuff, I went back to him and I pitched him “Terrifier”, and he kind of did some research and talked to people in the industry that he knew. And everybody was like, “No, we’re not interested in giving you money to make this. Clowns can’t sell a movie.” That was literally what… And yeah. I mean, in all fairness, it wasn’t the producer saying that to me. It was the people that he was trying to get money. They all said, “Clowns cannot sell a movie. We’re not interested.” And it just goes to show, this was at the time where there were already rumors that “It” was coming out and also it was already known that Rob Zombie was making “31”. And I specifically remember telling him, I’m like, “Are you sure man? Clowns, things are cyclical. I mean, these other clown movies are coming out now.” I said, “I think we have something here and I think we should take a shot.” But that went out the window. So really the only person who was willing to take a chance on me is now my partner in crime who’s the producer of “Terrifier”, my buddy Phil Falcone. He was the only person who… We tried to do an Indiegogo at the time for “Terrifier 1” and it didn’t make any money. Whatever we were trying to raise, we raised a fraction of that. And I just sent it to him because I was sending everybody I knew, everybody in my Rolodex, and I was just saying, “Hey, we’re at this Indiegogo campaign killer clown movie if you want to be involved.” And he just kind of called me aside and he was like, “What are you trying to do with this? How much money are you trying to raise?” I was like, “Oh, $30,000 I can make it for.” And he’s like, “I’ll give it to you tomorrow.” He’s like, “I just want to be a part of it.” He’s like, “I love your special effects. I want to be by your side while you’re making all the effects. I want to learn how to do that.” Dude, and that was it. That was the spark. That was the thing that I needed for it to take off. And that’s how we got to make “Terrifier.” If I never met that guy, I don’t know where the hell I’d be right now or if we’d ever have “Terrifier”. It’s insane.
That is. It’s just like, because the whole thing with the effects. I do think it’s crazy, the stories of people fainting and vomiting and whatever. Because I feel like there’s a difference between extreme horror that’s really hard to watch and stuff that’s mean-spirited.
There’s a sense of fun to it. It’s so over the top that it doesn’t feel to me like, “Oh my God, what am I watching?” Why you’d think that people would have such a severe reaction? I guess if you’re not into it…
Well, right. That’s it exactly, because that’s what I’ve been saying. It is “Terrifier” part 2, so you should see part 1 before you see this, and you would know what you’re getting into because part 1 is just as insane. It’s just as violent, honestly. But I do think that part 2 could appeal to a broader audience, I think. It just has a more traditional narrative. It has better characters. The production value’s bigger. It looks more like a real movie than part 1 does, even though it’s still super low budget. But I’m not surprised that some people can’t handle it because it might be the goriest slasher movie ever put into mainstream movie theaters. It really could be.
The scene, I’m pretty sure I’m willing to bet the farm that the three-minute bedroom kill scene is the one that’s making people a little woozy. And you don’t typically see that. You don’t see three-minute long kill scenes in a very brightly lit yellow room. We’re not hiding the makeup in the shadows. We’re not cutting away. I mean, everything he does to this poor character, you see him do, as graphicly as you can imagine. So I’m [not] surprised that people are fainting or somebody has fainted, multiple people have fainted. But I told my crew while we were shooting this movie, I said, “A couple of people are going to walk out of this. There’s no doubt in my mind this is going to be too intense for people.” But like you said, which is so important, this movie has such a heavy layer of fantasy over… It’s draped in fantasy. You know from the first two minutes that this movie, it could not take place in reality. You have this character being resurrected from the dead and Art is so funny where you’re having a good time with him. I think that’s part of his appeal. I love people saying, “One minute I’m laughing my ass off with this character. Then the next minute he’s doing the most repulsive sadistic thing and I want to look away from the screen. And then the next minute I’m laughing with him again. But how am I supposed to feel?” I’m like, “That’s the whole point.” That’s the fun.
I know obviously, you can’t tell me what’s going on with “Terrifier 3,” but you introduced Sienna in part 2. I think she is a really great counterpart for Art. And I just would like to know if she’s coming back in the third one because I think she’s what really ties it all together beautifully. Because I love the first one, but this one being just between her and Art. It feels epic.
Thank you, man. She’s the only reason. That character is the only reason I wanted to make this movie. I’ve had that character in my head for over 10 years. Just the Valkyrie costume, this high school girl in a Valkyrie costume becoming a final girl in a slasher movie. I had that idea for the longest time. And to finally weave her into Terrifier is everything I wanted to do because I love heroes as much as I love monsters and villains. You can’t have one without the other. And part 1 was really just a showcase for Art the Clown doing what he does and putting him in front of the horror community and saying, “This is what we have. This is what we could do. Do you embrace this character? Do you like him? Do you want to see more?” But now it’s like we have to walk the walk and we really need to tell a much better story, a much more compelling story, and now it’s all about really introducing a hero. And this is my shot at giving you a really cool hero. So it was just so important to me to really have the audience empathize with Sienna and follow her on this journey. And it was interesting to explore her sort of supernatural journey, whereas you never really see that. It’s all about the boogeyman coming back and the boogeyman being supernatural and the supernatural evil. Well, where I’m coming from is, well, how do you combat that? How do you defeat supernatural evil? And in a world where supernatural evil exists, shouldn’t supernatural good exist? So it was really important for me to create, like you said, a counterpart to Art the Clown and slowly have her understand or discover that she’s becoming this other supernatural character but for the good. So that was what excited me the most about this movie, and I’m so happy that people are really… They’re really taking a liking to Sienna and people are saying she’s one of the greatest final girls they’ve seen in a movie in the longest time.
She is such a crucial part of “Terrifier.” So part 3, we will absolutely be discovering more about Sienna and continuing to follow her on her journey because it gets wild. I already have everything planned out for the most part. So I can’t wait to show you where it goes.
I am so excited to see that. It’s funny how this one, the first one is awesome. It’s a really cool little slasher movie. And then this one just blows everything up and makes it…even though I know it’s not a huge budget…but it feels so much bigger. It’s an epic.
I appreciate it. I mean, yeah. I wanted it to be an epic slasher movie. I really did. I wanted it-
Which you never see!
I wanted this to be our “Evil Dead II”, our “Dawn of the Dead”. I wanted this to be an epic horror movie and really just tackle heavy-handed, classic mythological themes of good versus evil and heaven versus hell. Because on the most simplistic level, I mean, if you just resurrect your villain and now he’s back from the dead. I mean that to me, that just screams demon. This is just a demonic evil now. And if you’re going to introduce the supernatural good character, you have this blatant heaven-hell thing going on, this battle. So just to really dig into those motifs and those classic themes and everything was so much fun and so interesting for a slasher movie. Some people, it’s a little off-putting. I mean, a lot of the criticisms we’ve gotten is like, “Oh my God. The supernatural, the mystical element.” They’re like, “You had me and then you lost me.” But to me, that’s the fresh aspect and it felt so organic to me when I was writing the story. So, I’m so happy with it. I love where it’s going. But again, the important thing is to not let that completely take over. And we have to stick to the elements that made the first one work, which it has to remain a gritty slasher movie at the end of the day.
I am super stoked to see more of it.
Awesome, man. I appreciate it, buddy. I’ll try and keep delivering something that satisfies you.
TERRIFIER 2 is now in theaters from Cinedigm in partnership with Iconic Events.