David Howard Thornton on Upcoming Slasher Sequel ‘Terrifier 2’, Playing Art the Clown and Surviving 2020

Earlier this year, the eagerly awaited sequel Terrifier 2 fell victim to 2020 and experienced unavoidable delays in wrapping up. The indie horror, directed by Damien Leone, boasts a new cast of unsuspecting party goers, who will soon be introduced to the “Art” of survival.

The Squid was lucky enough to catch up on Zoom with none other than David Howard Thornton (A.K.A. Art the Clown) to discuss Terrifier 2, 2020 and everything in between.

Emily: What have you been doing to keep yourself entertained through this weird time?

David: Well, we got hit pretty hard in the beginning, so staying in and keeping safe. Oh, and lots of video games! Lots and lots. I’ve decided, as I’m an adult, if I want to play video games all day, I can!

Emily: How do you think Art would have coped with lockdown?

David: I think he would have gone stir-crazy, it takes away from all of his fun! Plus, with everyone dying from COVID, he’s like “Hey, hey, I’m supposed to be the one killing everyone!” Knowing Art, he would intentionally get it and go around infecting everybody with it. He would be coughing in everyone’s faces, then honking his little horn and going on his merry way, laughing.

Emily: So, Terrifier 2 is still coming to our screens, but not this year – is that right?

David: That is unfortunately correct. We originally wanted to release it in October because we thought we would be finished filming in April, and that just didn’t happen. It looks like we will be able to hopefully get it out mid next year. Damien thinks it might be earlier. Hopefully I’m wrong, hopefully it comes out earlier. I’m looking forward to it – it’s such a good movie and so much fun.

Emily: Do you have a lot left to film?

David: We were almost finished in March when we had to go into quarantine, so that was the good thing, but since then we were able to come back in late June, early July. But then it was so hot here, I couldn’t do a lot of filming as I was sweating and my makeup would literally start melting off my face. We tried to go with it one day but I looked like the wicked witch of the west – “I’m meeeltiiing!”
Every time we cut, Damien would have to come and start re-sticking things to my face. We had one last big kill scene to get through, and we thought there’s just no way we can get through it as I have to be very active and I would have been sweating like a pig by the end of it. So we need to wait for the cooler weather, so we will be filming that probably in October. That’s my last bit to film.

Emily: I bet you’re excited!

David: Oh I’m very excited. It’s going to be an awesome kill scene, and I think it’s going to rival the hacksaw scene in the first film.

Emily: There are a lot of controversial bits in the Terrifier, but there is that one especially infamous kill! So, are there deaths in the second one along the same lines then?

David: Yeah! We took that as a challenge because, when we saw how well that was received, we were thinking “God, did we set the bar too high for ourselves?”. So, we took that as a challenge to at least get to the same level as that kill. I will say that this film is even gorier than the first one. We recently filmed on some colder days in June and we were able to film the first kill scene. Damien’s attitude was, you know, we have to start the movie off with a bang, we have to end it with a bang. Those are the things people remember the most, how it starts and how it ends. We have to make this kill at the beginning of the movie HUGE – it has to be gnarly as hell! So we went full on! He had originally written it one way, but all this time off gave him time to think about what he really wanted to do with it, and to really build it up. So that’s what we did. We really threw everything into it. It’s crazy, I did my first huge smash in the kill and Damien said, “Dave, you realise that would be a whole entire kill in a Jason movie?” and I was like, “Yeah, and we have so much more to do!!”

Emily: So, do icons like Jason and Freddy inspire you? Was there anyone when you were a child that you looked up to, or someone you maybe channel into Art?

David: Oh yeah! I have a lot of those! Villain-wise, I would say a lot of Freddy Kruger and a lot of Joker. I think Freddy is probably the greatest horror villain ever created – he is such a creative character. First of all, he’s got the charisma that he just oozes. You want to watch him, you can’t take your eyes off him. But secondly, this idea of a killer that you literally cannot escape from… Unlike Jason, Leatherface or Michael Myers, those guys are physical, they’re in the real world. You can get into a car and drive away from them if you wanted to. Freddy, on the other hand, he’s in your dreams and everybody has to go to sleep. You cannot live if you do not sleep. He will find a way to get you. The possibilities, as it’s set in the dream world, are endless when it comes to the kills. You can do anything you want. It’s a brilliant concept.

Emily: I completely agree. He took me by the hand and led me into this world, so it is a pleasure to meet a fellow Freddy fan.

David: I absolutely love him.

Emily: Well what prompted me to ask you this is that Art the Clown is SO funny. I have never belly-laughed at a horror film before! He’s so sassy and sarcastic and he doesn’t speak once throughout the film! How do you do it?

David: Well, I guess I’m a sassy person in real life, so it comes to me naturally and I play around with it. Some was in the script, but a lot of the sassiness I added myself just in the moment. I thought let’s see what we can do with this, let’s play around with it. That’s what’s so great about Damien, he knows what he wants but he also is willing to hear other ideas and options and let you experiment. That’s not just with me – sometimes crew members come up with ideas, it’s a team effort!

Emily: As a horror fan, that’s really great to hear!

David: Oh yeah, absolutely! That’s how it was with the first film, and when he was writing the second film. He was always coming to me, bouncing ideas off me, and we would collaborate or just build scenes together sometimes. It was a lot of fun coming up with the second script together in that regard.

Emily: What would you say your favourite death is? I know we can’t talk too much about the second film, but is there one you’re really looking forward to doing, or one you look back on fondly?

David: That would definitely be the pizzeria scene. That was a lot of fun for me. For one, it was inside, and we had heat. The scene itself was a lot of fun – you see every aspect of the character in that scene. You see his creepy side, you see his playful side. He’s just downright malicious and sadistic as he’s killing the people who work there. Plus, I got to play a lot in that scene, I got to experiment and play off the actresses as well! Most of the time I’m just chasing people down, so I don’t get to interact as much, so instead of them screaming and running away from me, I got more of a one-on-one and got to act with them in more personal ways.

Emily: Nice! And does that carry over into the second film as well?

David: Oh absolutely. I guess this isn’t too much of a spoiler but there’s definitely a pizzeria-type scene in the second one.

Emily: I read that when she sits on your lap and boops you on the nose, that was improvised on the spot!

David: I loved it when she did that. I was thinking what a great character choice. That is the stuff I love, not just doing it myself, but when other actors bring things that weren’t written in the script. It’s something they just do in the moment, it gives me something to play off of. It gave me an idea for later on the in the movie – after I kill her, I boop her nose after I take the selfie with her. I was like “We have to bring that full circle, I have to boop her back”.

Emily: You even managed to seal it with the incorporation of the revenge selfie!

David: Absolutely. You don’t just sit on someone’s lap and start taking selfies with them – you know, stranger danger.

Emily: Well, she learned her lesson, didn’t she!

David: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Emily: So, what draw you to Art initially? The audition process must have been amazing!

David: Well, what drew me to the character originally was that I had seen All Hallows Eve before I did the audition, so I was already familiar with the character and I loved him. I have a love and appreciation of silent clowns, not just makeup clowns, but characters like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mr Bean. I am a huge Mr Bean fan. That’s what really got me into doing physical comedy was Mr Bean. When I was a kid, my aunt gave me a box-set of Mr Bean videos for Christmas and I would just watch them over and over, just digesting what Rowan did with it. He’s an extremely mischievous, childlike character who just loved to mess with people. That’s how I looked at Art. He is an evil Mr Bean.

So, when I saw All Hallows Eve, I thought I would love to play a character like that one day. I never thought when I watched All Hallows Eve that I would ever have the chance to play to him. So when I saw the audition notice for Terrifier, I was like oh my goodness, I have to play him. I contacted my agent and I said, “You have to submit me for this. I know I can land this, this is something that I am supposed to do”. So I go in there, and this is my first ever time auditioning for a feature film. So I was like “I’ve just got to go in and give this my all, this could be an amazing thing”. I go in there and I see all these people with scripts in their hands and I’m like ”Uh-oh”. So I go up to the front and I ask for a script, and they’re like “You should have been given one…” They were like “Oh, you don’t need a script. Art doesn’t talk. Just come up with a scene where you decapitate a guy and you’re very happy about doing it”. I was like “OK, cool, can I have a minute to think about it?” but they were like “No, it’s OK, just do it now.”

Emily: So no pressure then!

David: Yeah, noooone! Ha! So, I don’t know where this came from, maybe the deep recesses in my brain, but I came up with this right on the spot where I cartoonishly snuck up on my victim, and did this whole “Shhh, be wery wery quiet” thing, and took out a hammer, smashed him on the head, took out a hacksaw and sawed off his head. I then picked it up, looked at it, tasted the blood to see if it needed seasoning, took out a salt shaker, seasoned it and indicated I approved. Then I just bathed in the blood a little bit and skipped out on my merry way. That’s what got me the role! Damien and the producer were sitting there just laughing their heads off. They asked me on the spot if I could come in and do a makeup test, and I’m like YEAH! Those are the type of auditions every actor dreams of having! Walking in and nailing it is SO rare. I wish all auditions were like that.

Emily: You and Art were obviously meant for each other.

David: Yes, I was happy! It’s been a dream come true to play this type of character.

Emily: There are horror films that come along every so often that really shake up the industry, and for me, Art makes Pennywise look like a primary school teacher. You guys have come along and grabbed everyone by the rib cages, shook them and said this is what we are about.

David: You’ve hit the nail on the head. We did the movie that we wanted to see. That’s the advantage of being an independent film. Yeah, OK, it sucks that we don’t have the budgets that Hollywood studios can put behind you, but we made part one on 50,000 dollars. Most independent horror films are made from 1 million to 5 million dollars. So, that shows you the talent of the crew that made this film. We all took huge sacrifices in pay for this, but we believed in it. We wanted to make a horror film that we feel has not been seen in a long time. Hollywood has stayed away from this type of film, they’ve been playing it way too safe. We wanted to get back to what the fans wanted to see in these films – they want to see the kills, they want to see the over-the-top gore. It’s fun. You know it’s not real, it’s Warner Bros cartoonish in that way. It is a little bit over the top, but it’s fun. We wanted to bring the fun nature back to a slasher. I think horror films lately have gotten way too serious. There always has to be a thought-provoking message, but sometimes you just want to turn off your brain and just watch craziness happen.

Emily: Sometimes you just want to see a hammer to the face.

David: Yeah! You do! I think that’s the beauty of Sam Raimi with the Evil Dead films and series. It’s like, let’s just go crazy, let’s have fun and see what we can get away with.

Emily: With the trailer for Terrifier 2, the cast looked slightly younger, i.e. school age. Did you have to change anything?

David: NOPE. Haha. Well that’s the thing, if you’ve seen All Hallows Eve, you know that nobody is safe, even kids. That’s the beauty of this. We don’t want people to feel comfortable when they’re watching this film, thinking the characters will have plot armour. No one is safe.

Emily: I guess that’s another advantage of not having a Hollywood budget. They have a rule, don’t they – no children, no animals – and so when you guys come along, you’re like “High school kids? PERFECT!”

David: [laughs and hisses evilly] Let them aaaall diiiieee!

We went on to talk about the excitement surrounding the release of Terrifier 2, and David said he would love to catch up with us again when the grisly sequel is out.

Although we can’t give you a release date yet, you can check out the trailer below in anticipation for Art’s return in 2021.


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