Director Damien Leone Thinks Terrifier's Key Is That It's Never Tongue In Cheek

It's been wild to see the "Terrifier" film series branch out beyond the horror crowd in 2022. The destructive bloody rampage of Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) has been going strong since 2008 with director Damien Leone's short film "The 9th Circle," along with the 2013 horror anthology film "All Hallows' Eve." But once the bodily-spewing headlines of "Terrifier 2" made the rounds, it piqued the curiosity of folks who would have otherwise never seen Leone's gory horror creation.

Art is still a ways off from being a household name like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, but if he keeps up the pace going into "Terrifier 3," the pantomime slasher stands a good chance of standing alongside them some day. What separates Art from the rest of the pack is his shtick. Imagine if a classic silent movie comedian dressed up in the most terrifying clown makeup imaginable and then started brutalizing unfortunate victims in ways you never thought possible.

But silent film wasn't the main inspiration for Art the Clown. When you look at the short form work Leone did before reaching this iteration of Art, it's clear that he holds a great reverence for a bygone era of exploitation filmmaking. In a 2018 interview with Dread Central, Leone has said that he's "a fan of so many different types of movies, not just horror movies, and the seventies is by far my favorite decade of film." It shows in his work.

The first "Terrifier" was largely a makeup effects demonstration, with Art as the demented cheerleader. People are flayed with little to no mercy. For better or worse, that's one of the reasons why the film series really stands out as a true throwback.

Leone wanted to make a true Grindhouse flick

When it came to "Terrifier," Leone knew that if he wanted to make an ode to the Grindhouse era, it would have to come from a place of sincerity. He explained to Dread Central:

"You see a lot of people going out of their way to make a modern exploitation movie and they purposely make them corny. Those original grindhouse movies weren't purposely corny, the beauty of them is that they suffer from low budgets but they're trying their best to be a serious movie, it just becomes inadvertently comical. That's the charm of those movies."

Trying to make something bad or corny on purpose can backfire tremendously. There's little fun to be had in the Asylum knock-offs because they're purposely trying to capitalize on the next big movie with a "Let's do that, but purposefully worse" approach. "Sharknado" fell into this same trap.

Rather than trying to convince you that the movie wants to pay homage to a specific period of film history, the "Terrifier" films just up and do it. They are, by definition, grindhouse flicks in their purest form: uncut splatter films built upon the foundation of making you feel as if you've seen something you really shouldn't have.

If "Terrifier" wasn't released independently, there's a very high chance that its infamous hacksaw scene would have been significantly trimmed down, or excluded outright from the finished film. Whether you like these movies or not, the one thing you can't say about them is that they're holding back.

"Terrifier" is currently streaming on Screambox, The Roku Channel, and VUDU.