Who is Art the Clown, and why is Terrifier 2 so disturbing? We discuss the horror film and delve into some key questions.
Terrifier 2 has recently had a screening at Frightfest in the UK in August, followed by a limited theatrical release in the US on October the 6th. The film has since received a DVD and Blu-Ray release, and the first outing for Art the Clown, Terrifier, is available to watch on various streaming platforms. However, who is Art the Clown? Where did he come from, and why is Terrifier 2 being called the most disturbing horror film ever?
Who is Art the Clown?
You would be excused for thinking that the character of Art has appeared in the two terrifier films, but oddly he actually has a bit of lore behind him and has appeared in other productions before his first big break in terrifier.
Art was featured in a short film called The 9th Circle, from 2008, which shows Art in his familiar clown suit, although it is slightly makeshift at this point, and sporting glowing eyes. Art here is kidnapping poor female victims and dragging them into a tunnel to be “supplied” to some kind of ghoulish, demonic cult that dwell there.
It is implied that Art is a servant of the Devil himself in this outing. Fan theory suggests that Art is playing his part in bringing a demonic presence to Earth, but that’s fan fic for you.
Another short film, called Terrifier, focussed solely on Art and was again a short, low-budget flick, but it captured the imagination of horror fans everywhere.
Creator and director Damien Leone saw the popularity of his creation, and this led to a compilation movie being released. This feature, called All Hallows Eve, was a compilation of the two Art short films, plus another segment included to pad things out. and a wraparound segment featuring a babysitter watching the segments on VHS tape with the children she is caring for. Obviously, this does not end well. This eventually led us to the first big-budget full-length appearance of Art in Terrifier 2016 and its current sequel Terrifier 2 in 2022, both written and directed by Art’s creator Damien Leone.
Why Are People So Scared of Art the Clown?
It could be asked why many people are so scared of clowns, and it is so widespread it has its own name, coulrophobia, and scary clowns have long been a staple in horror. Perhaps the most famous supernatural clown is Pennywise from Stephen King’s It. However, Art’s creator, Leone has stated that he wanted Art to be the opposite of Pennywise. First of all, Art never speaks, and he relies on body language and props to convey his emotions, and the black and white aspect of Art’s makeup and costume is deliberate to avoid any comparisons with other killer clowns.
This silent and colorless clown makes Art automatically scary in an uncanny valley way, and his supernatural abilities make him even scarier. Much of the effect though comes from the actors that portray Art, specifically in Terrifier and Terrifier 2, with art being played by David Howard Thornton. The actor here drew inspiration from silent films, particularly Charlie Chaplin. He also cites inspiration from The Joker and Freddy Krueger, and the previous actors who played Art in the shorts. Art’s silent presence, creepy demeanor, and reliance on body language make him a screen presence that is disturbing to viewers, and of course, his sadistic and violent behavior doesn’t help either.
Is Art the Clown a demon?
In his initial appearances, it could be argued that Art is just an incredibly sadistic and violent serial killer, stalking his victims al la Michael Myers. However, as the lore has developed, there is definitely no doubt that Art is a being with supernatural and demonic powers. In Terrifier, we actually see Art applying makeup to his admittedly already bizarre face, implying that Art, at this point, does not look the way he does all the time, so perhaps he is not a demon at this point in the timeline. Also notable is Art shooting himself at the end of the first film, implying he does not know that he may be a demon. When he resurrects himself in the morgue, there can be no doubt that he is in fact a being of supernatural powers, and at this point he is demonic.
Why is Terrifier 2 so disturbing?
With a bigger budget and more resources at hand, Damien Leone pulls out all the stops on Terrifier 2 to give horror fans exactly what they think they want. At screenings, sick bags were handed out to the audience members, and there were also stories of ambulances being called to deal with cinemagoers that had passed out while watching the movie.
The bigger budget is certainly easy to spot. The run time of Terrifier 2 is almost double the run time of the first film, coming on at 2hrs 15 minutes, an incredibly long run time for a horror.
The gore factor is also ramped up to 11, and there are scenes of heads being ripped in half, and arms being broken and ripped off. It is quite relentless and pushes the boundaries of horror into realms that even films like Saw and Hostel back away from.
However, it should be noted that there has been some pushback about the long runtime and excessive gore from some critics, who found the film self-indulgent and bloated, but this has not hurt the movie at all.
Perhaps the fact that Art the Clown has not come from a mainstream cinematic release, has added to the cult status that the character has achieved. He has slowly grown in the consciousness of horror fans that may have initially found him online in short low budget films, giving Art the same kind of perception as Slenderman.
This followed by clips of people dressed as art the Clown in YouTube prank scare videos, has also added a layer of uncertainty about the character, with some people wondering what on earth he is meant to be. The lack of mainstream coverage for previous Art features has allowed viewers to discover Art on their own, adding to the feeling that this depraved, violent portfolio of horror is a secret not known to fans of Jason or Michael but is instead almost a secret only known to a select few, making the Terrifier films even more alluring, and disturbing.
Is Art the Clown Sienna’s dad?
It is never made clear what the real connection is between Sienna, Jonathon, their dad, and Art, and there is a train of thought that Art could in fact be Sienna’s dad. We know that Sienna’s father has a sketchbook filled with pictures of Art, as well as drawings of Sienna’s avenging angel costume, so it certainly appears that Art and Sienna’s dad is in some way connected.
Perhaps a lot of speculation arises from the fact that in Terrifier 1, Art the Clown shoots himself after his killing spree, leading people to wonder if Art does not know he can resurrect after death. This could infer that Art may have been human at some point. Add to this the fact that Sienna returns to life in Terrifier 2, and you can see why this theory may have evolved. It is more likely though, that just as Art is a force of evil, Sienna may, in fact, have been chosen to be a force of good, sent to combat Art. Her father may have had knowledge of Sienna’s destiny and tried to prepare her for battle with the costume and sword.
There seems just now to be no definite answer, and fans are desperate for Terrifier 3, in the hope more secrets are revealed.
Who plays Art the Clown in Terrifier 2?
In both the first and second films, Art is played by actor David Howard Thornton. David was inspired by the greats of the silent era of cinema and has stated in interviews that Charlie Chaplin was one of many inspirations for his portrayal.
As Art never speaks, David had to make sure that his expressions and body language would convey the way Art is feeling, and it is hard not to be enthralled by his performance.
David has many live stage performances under his belt, and this may be another aspect that he has added to Art, with expressive and almost mime-like qualities that enhance his performance. Oddly it seems that David played the part of The Joker in a fan-made YouTube film “Nightwing Escalation”.