With less than a week to go in Halloween Month, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the controversial new icon of horror cinema: Art the Clown from the Terrifier series. If you’re tired of the endless reboots and retcons involving Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, then check out the assorted films of Damien Leone’s depraved slasher.
I usually find killer clowns boring, but in my opinion Art is far more disturbing than Pennywise or other horror clowns. This “terrifying” character has gone from short films to an anthology movie to a pair of feature films, the second of which was released this year.
Leone first presented Art the Clown in his film short The 9th Circle in 2008. That film depicted the deranged, silent and sinister figure, played by Mike Giannelli, striking on Halloween night on behalf of a Satanic Cult.
Art’s second appearance came in 2011 in another Damien Leone horror short, titled Terrifier. Art, still portrayed by Mike Giannelli, struck with uncompromising violence and conveyed his vile, sadistic nature entirely through facial expressions and body acting since the slasher never speaks. Picture Freddy Krueger remaining as silent as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, and that’s Art.
Both of those short films were included in the horror anthology movie All Hallows’ Eve in 2013 as segments of an unmarked VHS tape watched by a babysitter and two of her charges on Halloween night. Additional footage of Art the Clown was added as the deranged figure wound up preying upon the babysitter and company after they watched the supernatural tape.
In 2016, Art got his first feature film treatment in Damien Leone’s movie titled Terrifier, just like one of his earlier shorts. A new actor stepped into the role of Leone’s slasher figure – David Howard Thornton. Adding to Art the Clown’s lore, viewers at last learned his stomping grounds were in fictional Miles County.
For hardcore horror fans seeing Art for the first time, they fell in love with Damien Leone’s non-commercial approach to the blood, gore and uncompromising violence of the figure’s attacks on his victims. Here was a slasher who made the overexposed Freddy, Jason, Chucky and others look as silly as cereal mascots Count Chocula and Frankenberry.
And be aware, Art the Clown’s mutilation of his targets is not for the squeamish. For example, Art amputates body parts on one of his female victims and carves words like “cunt” in her flesh in bold, bloody letters.
As hinted at by the slasher’s affiliation with a Satanic cult and supernatural ties to a cursed VHS tape, he is more than human. In the coroner’s office at the end of 2016’s Terrifier, Art rises from the dead to continue his reign of terror another time.
Now in 2022 comes Terrifier 2. Art (David Howard Thornton again) has become a nightmarish part of Miles County’s history as a “true crime” bogeyman still on the loose. The killer clown stalks even more victims, including a weird young man who has decided to base his Halloween costume on the notorious slasher. Talk about poor taste!
On the downside, in my view Terrifier 2 runs too long and strays too far from the gritty simplicity of Art’s depraved rampages in his previous appearances. A supernatural nemesis for the gore-soaked clown has been added in what may prove to be a case of Lore Overload.
This sequel does showcase some very effective kills and doesn’t quite ruin Art’s status as an “adults only” slasher. However, if Damien Leone continues down this same path in his next Art the Clown film it may permanently damage the disturbing mystique of his envelope-pushing creation.
For now, however, Art is still just unknown enough to the general public to count as a “new” horror icon despite his fourteen-year history.