It’s been quite a year for Terrifier 2 and its director, Damien Leone. After the original showed the promise of Art the Clown, a sadistic supernatural killer, beyond the shorts he’d previously appeared in, Terrifer 2 hit the right notes and refined what made its predecessor work. Now, the low-budget horror is on a second theatrical run, and Art the Clown and Final Girl Sienna are modern horror icons in the mold of the classic slasher pairings.

Now comes the tricky part: making Terrifier 3 with the fans of Terrifier 2 in mind, but freshening up the act with a bigger budget. Damien Leone is confident he’s heading in the right direction, and having independence ensures it will not skimp on the grisly slapstick and mean-spirited kills of Terrfiier 2.

ComingSoon’s Senior Editor for Horror Neil Bolt spoke with Leone ahead of Terrifier 2’s return to theaters (today and tomorrow, with a first look at Terrifier 3 included). He discussed what great things have come from Terrifier 2’s success, balancing expectations and creative freedom, returning to the tone of the first Terrifier for Terrifier 3, and picking the horror icons he’d love to see Art the Clown team up with and face off against.

Neil Bolt: A year on from Terrifier 2’s release, how are you feeling about it? Obviously, with it going back into theaters as well?

Damien Leone: Very exciting! And I feel it’s still growing, especially in the past three months there’s been a little surge and momentum going. I’ve been hearing from a lot of people at Hollywood Horror Nights in LA that they’ve been seeing more Terrifier shirts being worn, with more than any franchise, even those being featured as houses there. It’s all Art the Clown this year! So it’s still very hard for that to sink in, but it’s wonderful.

With that in mind, what’s been the coolest thing to come out of the film’s success?

Wow, it’s hard to pick just one thing because it’s been relentless; there’s been so much, but David (Howard Thornton – Art the Clown) and I go to conventions all the time; I think we have one every week in October. We recently went to one in Kentucky, and I had a woman come up to me dressed as Sienna, Lauren LaVera’s character from Terrifier 2; made her own costume, and she was literally crying because of how much the character meant to her and how much she relates to her, how she’s not just a strong final girl, that she’s very vulnerable, and has relatable afflictions. It meant so much to her, and my God, that transcends it just being this killer clown movie, right?

Absolutely, yeah.

It’s affecting people’s lives, And that’s a very common situation; we see that more than you’d imagine, so that’s been one of the most surprising and cool things to happen.

Terrifier 2' - Several Fans Have Reportedly Fainted and Vomited During  Theatrical Showings?! - Bloody Disgusting
Credit: Dark Age Cinema

 It must be a source of great pride for David and yourself to see the film and characters gain such popularity so quickly, even if it had been a long road with the characters for you personally.

It really is, it’s wonderful. It makes you feel like you’ve got a responsibility to these people, that you don’t want to let them down. I always say whenever someone comes up to me with a terrifier tattoo, ‘’I’m going to try and make you not regret that you have that on your body.

So when I’m writing Terrifier 3, all that stuff is in the back of my head, and it’s like I got to keep repeating what makes people love this movie and never lose sight of that, but also allow myself a certain percentage of freedom where I can also make it fresh and give you something different because as an artist, you don’t wanna be creating the same movie over and over. To me, that’s pointless. That’s the balance and the challenge we’re always faced with. 

In your previous interview with ComingSoon, you talked about expectations in creating Terrifier 2 and said, “This has to be our Dawn of the Dead. Our Evil Dead 2. Our Nightmare on Elm Street 3.” Fair to say you succeeded with that, but what’s the focus for Terrifier 3?

Well, I always want it to be bigger and better, no matter what. But at the same time, with this one in particular, I want to go back to the tone of the original. Believe it or not, I want to recapture the atmosphere of what got us here to a degree. I think now more than ever I think it’s important we go back tonally to, as an example, the tone of A Nightmare on Elm Street as opposed to going further down the franchise and trying to capture the atmosphere of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 or 6 where Freddy’s shrunk away from what he was originally. It’s so important to remember what got you here in the first place or what worked.

So we’re still following the characters and mythology from Terrifier 2, so you’re still gonna have some of the epic larger Dream Warriors supernatural film, but now really focusing on the tone of what made Terrifier work, so marrying those two gives you something different in Part 3. Not to mention the entire setting of Terrifier 3 is completely different, the way it’s gonna be shot, the cameras and lenses are different, we’re working in a different format. So the whole movie is gonna feel very unique compared to what we’ve seen before, but you know, like I said before, it’s important that we’re still checking the boxes that keeps this franchise work as a safety net, but I’m feeling really confident about it, as confident as I did about Terrifier 2. You never know, though! You can’t assume you’re gonna get a free pass. I always approach a movie like I’ve got to make the best film I ever made and like it could be the last one I ever make. I put my all into it, whatever happens.

You’re in that fortunate position where you’re there for the third part of your franchise, having been there the whole way, like Wes Craven was with Scream, for instance. Then you have a level of quality and consistency that can be kept because you know what it should be and what it needs to be. Other franchises have suffered dips in consistency due to studios, changes in script, directors and the like, so at least you have that strength when creating Terrifer 3.

Yeah, for sure, I’m a bit of a gatekeeper here! And like you said, I don’t have a studio looking over my shoulder, which is great because I realized it was going to happen. I spoke to some major Hollywood studios who were very interested, but I was just too apprehensive to hand it over to them. Too many red flags. Even those there’s an allure to a Hollywood Terrifier, big time, I had to stick to my guns and stick to what made it work in the first place.

It’s kind of unprecedented. I mean, all of these franchises usually get scooped up by a studio, and they go into that machine, so the fact that we still haven’t done that is exciting, and I can’t wait to see how far we can go and how much we can do with this.

With Terrifier 3, you’ll have a bigger budget to take things to another level. Obviously, effects are a great place to invest in, but what else are you looking forward to improving with more finances?

Two of the big things are, number one, obviously the effects because this is the first time I’m actually able to hand over the responsibilities of the effects to a Hollywood makeup team, which is so exciting, and that process has already been so fun and encouraging. That’s a large chunk of the budget, and it really opened my eyes to how much work me and my producer did for effects in Terrifier 2. Unbelievable. One day, I’ll be able to throw numbers out there, but it was just wild.

So that’s top of the pyramid because that’s such a big part of the franchise. The other one is the production value alone; the lenses we’re using are so expensive. I want this film to look like an actual vintage John Carpenter movie with anamorphic Panavision lenses. It’s just light years away from what I’ve been used to, so that’s gonna be big. 

We’re gonna have more sets and a little more VFX to rely on for certain things. Post-production sound design! That’s another thing I was doing all on my own for nothing. You bring in a Hollywood team to do that; the cost is astronomical, but you really get something out of it. When you watch a movie with superior sound design, it’s just night and day. It elevates horror in particular.

Especially so!

Right! Especially. So right there, that’s your budget! It’s gone! You’re right back to making Terrifer 2. But seriously, it’s going to be spread all over the place. We’ll be able to pay a lot of people from Terrifier 2 more money this time. They put in so much work, so that’s good, but trust me, the money is going to be on the screen.

Is Terrifier 3 continuing the story with Sienna, or will you choose a new lead again?

TERRIFIER 2 | 2022 | UK Trailer | Horror | Art The Clown is back! - YouTube
Credit: Dark Age Cinema

No, absolutely not. I always wanted to have Sienna be the other side of Terrifier 2 because the stars of all these films, I mean, everyone’s going to see it for the killer, but the real stars are these Final Girls. It’s their movie, and the killer just pops up 10 or so times until the climax. So I really wanted to embrace having a Final Girl and place her next to the killer and make her on the same level, like she could just jump off a comic book page just like the killer.

I don’t just love killers; I love great characters and visuals. I grew up loving comic book characters so much and also sword and sorcery like Conan, and Beastmaster. With Terrifier 2, I wanted to see what would come out of that. Sienna’s my heart and soul of this franchise and we’re definitely going to continue on her journey and it’s now a very fascinating chapter in her life post-Terrifier 2. She’s still in this metamorphosis and dealing with the trauma of what’s happened.

As Art is now an iconic horror villain in his own right, the question has to be asked: who should he be fighting in a horror villain crossover movie? Who would be the perfect foil?

If I could have him team up with another horror villain or something?

Yeah.

Oh, yeah, that’s a great question. I would see him team up with Freddy Kreuger because Art has the personality; he’s a silent Freddy. They’re both charming, sadistic, and have a black sense of humor. I think they would play off each other so well. And they’re both supernatural, so you could meld their worlds together if needed. That would be wonderful. Or I would, in a perfect world and in his prime, I would have him face off against Ash from Evil Dead 2, who is my favorite horror hero.

TERRIFIER 2 slashes back into theaters beginning November 1, 2023.

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