With All Hallows' Eve headed to DVD and digital services next week, we caught up with director Damien Leone for our latest Q&A feature. He tells us about his first work with Art the Clown, how it evolved into All Hallows' Eve and what's next:
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Before All Hallows' Eve, Art the Clown appeared in a couple of short films you directed. Can you tell our readers about those films and the creation of Art?
Thanks for the interview! I never intended for Art to become a lead villain. He first appeared in my 2007 short film, The 9th Circle, where he abducts a woman in a train station and delivers her over to a satanic cult. He only has about four minutes of screen time but the scene was so effective I knew we’d only scratched the surface. The next logical step was to make a short that featured Art as the sole antagonist so we made Terrifier.
Were you scared of clowns as a child? Why do you think people find clowns scary and why are they perfect to use in horror films?
I was never really afraid of clowns nor did I have any particular obsession with them but I completely understood why they scare the crap out of people. Their facial expressions and mannerisms are so exaggerated, it’s almost as if they come from another planet. They’re also unpredictable. You never know what sort of trick a clown has up its sleeve so they keep you on your toes. Most of all, it’s the white make-up that really does it for me. I think it’s the main reason why Reagan from The Exorcist is so terrifying. There’s something about a white face that is just synonymous with death.
You worked with Jesse Baget on this feature. Is this something he approached you about or did you have this idea and pitched it to him? Can you tell us about your work together on this story/project?
Jesse reached out to my via email. He saw Terrifier and The 9th Circle on You Tube and asked if I’d be willing to incorporate them into a anthology consisting of films by all different directors. I selfishly talked him into letting me be the only director and thankfully he agreed. I’ve worked with Jesse on three projects so far. Two as a make up artist and one as a director. I think we collaborate really well because we trust and respect one another. Jesse’s also a writer and director so he believes in letting the director get his vision across and as an added bonus he actually has many great ideas which I use more often than not.
This movie has a definite 70s/80s feel to it. What are some of the movies that you used as inspiration?
Those are my favorite decades of horror, especially the 70s. I hope a bit of John Carpenter came through and Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I was also heavily influenced by Creepshow and the original Twilight Zone which is my favorite show of all time.
Going back to Art the Clown, I think you were able to get a really great look for the character. Can you tell me about the process concept/make-up process? Who did the work on this character and are you happy with how he turned out?
I designed and created him both on the page and physically. I knew from the start his color scheme was going to be black and white and that he was never going to mutter a sound. For The 9th Circle, I took a life cast of Mike Giannelli and sculpted some gaunt facial features, a pointy nose and chin, and then painted his teeth yellow. For Terrifier, I sculpted a whole new face. I decided to make him even more zombie-like so I intensified all of the things I’d done on the original sculpture and added rotten dentures. I’m very happy with how he turned out. I think we hit all the right notes.
Being an independent production, filmmakers usually run into time and budget challenges. What was the most challenging aspect of making this feature? Was there anything you weren't able to film or had to change on-set?
Oh, man. Plenty of things! That’s always going to be an unfortunate reality of filmmaking. Some things will never turn out the way you planned and lots of things will have to be sacrificed. We were really given an impossible deadline. If I remember correctly I had roughly 3 months to shoot the additional shorts and deliver a completed film to the distributor in order to make the Halloween release. This included writing, casting, creating effects, finding locations, assembling a crew, etc. And all for a budget that you wouldn’t believe if I told you...so I won’t!
Out of everything that we shot, the alien segment was the most difficult and disappointing. I bit off more than I could chew and it turned into a rush job, not to mention it was all night shoots in an abandoned house with no heat. I originally built an alien puppet for the film. I didn’t want it to be a man in a suit. Unfortunately, due to time, the puppet was a disaster and we had to resort to a man in a
suit. Lucky for me, Brandon deSpain, who played the alien did an awesome job so it wasn’t a complete catastrophe.
Are there plans to work on a sequel? Is that something you'd be interested in moving forward with right away?
There’s definitely more of Art the Clown to come! The well is not dry yet. Right now I have an opportunity to do an All Hallows’ Eve sequel or a stand alone film with Art. I have great ideas for both but only time will tell. Either way it could be ready for next Halloween.
Do you have any upcoming horror projects in the works that you can tell our readers about?
I do and I’m super excited about it! I’m about to start pre-production on Frankenstein Vs The Mummy. It’s another film I will be writing, directing and creating FX for. Jesse Baget is producing this as well. He came to me with the title and a poster. Total Roger Corman style! My first instinct was to chuckle at the premise but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how truly awesome it could be if done right. I also realized that these two horror icons have never been pitted against one another before. The last thing I want to do is make a corny horror film that’s about two monsters wrestling. It’s tricky but I think I’ve written a very serious and scary film that will not disappoint. It will be gory as hell, too!
With Halloween coming up, what do you have planned for this year? Can you share with us a favorite Halloween memory or tell us why you love the holiday?
I’m going to a club in the city with my girlfriend and some friends where I will be dressed up as Vincent from the 1980s Beauty and the Beast show. I’m a huge Rick Baker fan and always loved that character. I attempted to be this character last year but applying a gelatin prosthetic to my own face was no easy task. Of course, after hours of applying and sweating, the gelatin began to melt and the prosthetic was destroyed before I even had a chance to leave the house. This year I’ve made the appliance out of silicone. It should stay on all night. Fingers crossed!
I actually do have a stand out Halloween memory! Back in high school, my friends and I were driving home from a Halloween party in the middle of the night and came across a car that was literally tipped over on its side along the guard rail. Apparently, this accident had just happened so no authorities were called. We immediately pulled over and my friend, wearing a Spider-Man costume, jumped out of my jeep and hopped onto the wreckage were he pulled two young women to safety. Thankfully they were okay and we can laugh about it now.