Set to arrive in theaters tomorrow is Terrifier 2, the ambitious sequel that follows the even more outrageous exploits of Art the Clown as he squares off with the ultimate badass final girl named Sienna (Lauren LaVera). A few weeks back, Daily Dead had the opportunity to chat with Terrifier 2 writer/director Damien Leone, Art the Clown himself—David Howard Thornton—as well as wrestling icon Chris Jericho, who also appears in the sequel (we also interviewed Jericho separately and you can read that HERE).
During our conversation with the trio, they discussed coming back for the sequel, wanting to amp things up for the fans, pushing the character of Art the Clown even further, the sequel’s totally bananas special effects, and more.
Damien, you're a madman, creating a slasher that runs for like two hours and 18 minutes. Like, holy shit [laughs]. What I thought was really great about this is that you guys did a great job of building upon and exploring the really fun aspects of the first Terrifier. You deliver some really fun things for horror fans in general with Terrifier 2, but also, this just feels like a really fun throwback for your career as well. Can you talk about your approach for Terrifier 2?
Damien Leone: Well, look, we knew we wanted to go bigger. We felt like this was our opportunity. People were starting to really embrace Art the Clown, but they're like, “Does this guy really deserve a seat at the table?” There are still two camps: people who are really resistant about letting somebody in as a new horror icon and other people saying, “Oh no, no he's there.” Now, this was my chance to just swing for the fences and be like, “Look, you either take this guy or leave him, but we're going to give you everything we could possibly give you in this film.”
I injected a big supernatural element in this one that wasn't in the first one, but even more importantly, Art the Clown was my safety net in this movie. I felt very secure with this character. There's so much more I know I want to do with him, but I know his personality, I know his kills. I know things that people are going to relate to, but now bringing in my hero, my female protagonist Sienna and having her be Art's counterpart, that was my favorite part of making part two and I think that's the heart of the movie and what's really going to separate it from part one.
For you, David, what was different about stepping into Art's very oversized shoes this time for you?
David Howard Thornton: Confidence. I mean, just both for myself and the character himself. I was a lot more comfortable because when I did the first one, I wasn't sure how the fans would react to my performance versus Mike Giannelli’s performance, the original Art the Clown in All Hallows' Eve. I was like, “Well, hopefully they like me. We'll see.” This time I was like, “Okay, they liked it. Now I know what they like, so now I'm okay, I’m cool.” But also, I saw Art being a lot more confident with himself because now he's come back from the dead and he realizes that he’s kind of hard to kill. He can have a lot more fun now. He can take some more risks. He can go out in public. He can go out in the daytime. That's how I looked at him this time. He's a lot cockier and he has a little bit more of an edge to him. I had a lot more fun with those things.
You also have a fun little tiny counterpart in Terrifier 2. How much fun was it playing off of the little demon girl?
David Howard Thornton: Oh, she was fantastic. With child actors, you never know what you're going to get sometimes, but she was such a natural and she was able to mimic me immediately and we had only just basically shared the makeup room together at the start. But when we started filming with her, the first thing we did together was the possum scene, and it was just instantaneous—like, wow. I was even sitting there just trying to keep the character going, and she was so good. It's like, she was just going with it, playing with me and I loved that. I love having that dynamic of having another evil character to play off of that's just as deranged as I am. It's like that first time you see her when she just messes on the floor right there. That's such a great introduction to a character. I loved it.
Chris, for you. I know you're a really big horror fan, but I'm curious what was the appeal of coming into Terrifier 2? Were you really familiar with the first one, or was this just a situation where you were like, “Sign me up for anything?”
Chris Jericho: I was a big fan of the first one and did a lot of promotion for it as far as spreading the word with my fanbase and really believed in it and loved the character of Art the Clown. It was just very refreshing after watching thousands of horror movies, where they get more and more generic, to find one that's original and unique. It's harder and harder, but I found that right away with Terrifier. When Damien started talking about doing Terrifier 2, I wanted to be involved as much as I could behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, in front of the camera, whatever it was. We had talked about a couple of ideas where I could actually be in the film, and he came up with a great idea for the end of it.
So absolutely, of course I wanted to be in the movie. But that's not the reason why I became friends with these guys. It was more about a mutual respect for the work that they had done. The fact that, like I said, to find something new that really intrigued me. It reminded me of when I first saw Cabin Fever or Hostel, like Eli [Roth]'s movies, or Ti West’s movies—I knew that this was something very different that's got a lot of legs that could really become something great. Like I said in an earlier interview, if I could have bought Terrifier stock, I would've bought it.
How did you and Damien work together when you guys were on set? What was that collaborative process like?
Chris Jericho: Damien had a script that was pretty well-written. There might have been a couple of little things here and there, just a couple of choices, but it was really natural and he just told me to do whatever I thought was best. The only bad thing was having to eat about 50 fucking jelly eyeballs because they were starting to gross me out. They were really cold and in this yogurt, and where we filmed was literally an abandoned mental health hospital in Staten Island, so even eating in there grossed me out. It was creepy.
I did a Chef Boyardee commercial years ago in The Bahamas and I kept having to eat the fucking Chef Boyardee, but it's cold. It has to be cold and these fucking ravioli were congealed and that's what this felt like. But overall, it was a great, very easy set. I had a lot of fun and it was a great experience.
Damien, I've read that you do want to do Terrifier 3, and I think there's so much potential after this one. I'm just curious, your experiences so far, in terms of being at FrightFest and at Fantastic Fest, too, and you guys are going theatrical in October, which is pretty awesome, how does that amp up what you have already planned for Terrifier 3, or has any of the responses you’ve experienced so far changed anything for you at all in terms of what you'd like to do with another sequel?
Damien Leone: I'm sure it will, as we move forward and I really start to see how the fans react to part two. I'm a big fan of believing in just getting criticisms from people out there from fans. I look at all YouTube videos and I read comments, I'll go on Letterboxd and IMDb. I'll sift through everything. I don't mind looking at negative critiques, especially because usually typically someone's either trolling or they have a genuine criticism that you could learn from. There's a lot of stuff that I took to heart based on what they would say about part one and I thought about how I could really improve upon that stuff. When making a part two of anything, it should be your job as an artist to grow and get better. Who knows what’s going to happen from here, we'll see on that front, but I'm all about just making it bigger and grander and really giving fans something that they're not expecting. I think that's the only way to grow and the only way to make an impact is that you can’t just keep repeating yourself. You really have to take chances to bring yourself to another level.
Before we go, I’d love to talk about the effects in Terrifier 2, because they are ridiculously awesome.
Damien Leone: Thanks. They were done by myself and my producer Phil [Falcone], who is not a makeup artist by any means. He wanted me to teach him how to do as much as I could on the set of Terrifier 1. He just wanted to be my assistant and learn, and I taught him how to do a lot of mold-making and things like that. He's not a trained makeup artist by any means. I actually tried to hire a team this time because I knew part two was just impossible and overwhelming. But about a month before we started shooting, they bailed out because they couldn't agree on money for their budget, so we had to go into filming without a lot of the special effects. We'd go a week and then we came to a kill scene. We'd have to break for maybe a week or two and Phil and I would build all the special effects. Then we'd go back and film, and it's one of the reasons why it took so long. But I think it all came out great.
[Photo Credit: Above photo courtesy of Cinedigm.]