The most talked about horror film in the last three years has got to Terrifier 2. It is a film that has popped up almost daily in my social media news feeds since it was first announced. That’s largely due to my friend Kerry McGuire (she also helps run the Facebook group The Art the Clown Appreciation Society) snagging one of the highly coveted Indiegogo perks to be killed onscreen by Art the Clown, but also because people are genuinely excited for the highly anticipated sequel to the 2016 film, Terrifier. How excited are they? Terrifier 2 has one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns I have ever seen, raising over $215,000 (430% of their original $50,000 goal) from 1,230 backers. It’s so popular that admins of the above-mentioned group had to ban the almost daily question, “When is Terrifier 2 coming out?” Well, that day is here. Releasing in theaters across the country on October 6, Damien and crew promise an insane amount of bloodshed, more Art the Clown, and plenty of violence and gore.
I’ve seen the film and I can tell you; they have kept every promise. I cannot wait for everyone to see these incredible practical effects, inventive kill scenes, and enough Art the Clown to maybe, just maybe, sate our appetites until the next sequel (I have no idea if there will be one but we’re all crossing our fingers).
To celebrate the release of the film, I chatted with Damien via Zoom, and we talked about the anticipation for Terrifier 2, the casting process, his favorite scary movie, and more!
PopHorror: I watched Terrifier 2; I think immediately on the day they sent the link so about a month ago. Blew my mind. It’s completely batshit crazy. I cannot wait for everyone to see it.
Damien Leone: Thank you so much!
PopHorror: This is probably the most anticipated horror film of the year. How does that feel, to be the one that made the film that everyone is non-stop talking about?
Damien Leone: Oh wow! No pressure, huh? It’s surreal. None of that stuff really sinks in. I’m very anxious to see it for the first time with an audience. Sweaty palms now just thinking about it. Just so vulnerable. I really hope they like it because the people – the fans of Terrifier 1 – have just been so amazing through this entire process, and I say in the most loving way that the fans are the ones who sort of bullied this movie into… They’re the ones who made it popular because there was really nothing behind it. There was really no marketing, no push, publicity. It was really just word of mouth and fans keeping it going. “Have you seen Terrifier? Do you like Art the Clown?” Memes and cosplays and all kinds of wonderful artwork. My goal now, especially with Terrifier 2, is not to let them down because their expectations are growing and growing, and I want to deliver something wonderful for them because it’s giving back to them. Giving them more of something wonderful that they can continue to enjoy with this character. That’s what I’m most nervous about, letting them down. I really hope that I don’t.
PopHorror: I don’t think you’re going to. Did you put a significant amount of pressure on yourself to deliver?
Damien Leone: Oh, big time. Big time. This was the hardest thing I ever had to create in my entire life, and it all started with the script because I’m someone who I will read every single possible criticism I can find. I will read every YouTube video, every comment, everything. When I see negative criticisms, it doesn’t bother me because it’s either a genuine negative criticism, or someone trolling. Someone who just wants to hate to hate. A lot of times it’s constructive criticism and if you get a 1000 people saying you need to work on this, you have to take that to heart. You have to say, “Okay, I could work on that. I could be a better screenwriter. I can make better characters, a better narrative.” But creating a better protagonist now, more fleshed out, more dynamic characters in this one was crucial and that was my main objective. And what I’m most excited for is Lauren Lavera’s character Sienna. I’ve had that character in my head for over 10 years so finally getting her on screen has been a dream. She’s my favorite character that I ever wrote so I’m excited to see what people think of her.
PopHorror: I thought she was great. What was the casting process like? How did you choose your two leads because they had a very real sibling dynamic.
Damien Leone: Oh yeah.
PopHorror: They worked very well together.
Damien Leone: Just traditional casting methods. I think we held some in-person auditions in the city but there was a lot of online casting for actors to access and things like that. They submitted their reels and headshots and resumes. When I saw Lauren immediately, and watched her reel, it was a no brainer. There was never a second choice for Sienna, as far as she goes. She’s a great actress. She looked great. She was a martial artist so I knew this role was going to be so demanding physically, so I knew she would be able to handle the climax of the movie in particular. Same with Elliott Fullam playing her brother. I thought they looked a little bit alike at first, which is great. But he had so much energy and charisma right off the bat, I said, “This kid is great! I love his energy.” And I had them both come in and read together and it was magic. I still have those auditions. I’d love to put them on the bluray or something. But they were just wonderful. I knew that they were going to be no problem working together and they were going to bring something special to the movie.
PopHorror: With the film, it has about a two and half hour run time so I’m sure there were a lot of things that you had to cut out to even whittle it down to what it is. Was there anything that you wanted to include but couldn’t? Or anything that you were adamant about keeping in the film?
Damien Leone: When I wrote the script, I never wrote the script with a run time in mind. I was just writing the genuine organic story that I wanted to tell. But originally there was – I’m glad that I did not put it in the movie – but there was going to be a prologue, almost like a flashback scene. That would have added an additional 10 minutes to the movie so that would have been absolutely absurd. So I’m glad we never shot that. I didn’t realize how long the movie was until I got in the editing room and then I said this was unprecedented and we needed to start chipping away at this as much as possible. There were scenes that we shot that I didn’t even bother editing because I knew they weren’t pushing the narrative in any way. I just tried to keep things that were either building the character, upping the stakes, something like that. And of course there are scenes that are just long, but they are the horror set key scenes that you really don’t want to lose those. Two hours and 18 minutes, it’s definitely long for a slasher. It’s pretty unprecedented but I think we’ve all set through way longer films than that, and we live in a time where we binge 13 episodes of Stranger Things in one sitting. I think we can sit through two hours and 18 minutes, especially if it takes me three years to make one of these things. I mean, you’re going to have to wait God knows how long for the next one, if there is one. Take as much as you can get at this point, I’d say.
PopHorror: It starts with a bang. You don’t have to wait for the goodness to start, so the runtime just flies by. You don’t feel like you’re sitting there for over two hours because it’s just nonstop, balls to the wall the entire time.
Damien Leone: Thank you. I wanted to make sure that it doesn’t go more than five minutes, six minutes without seeing Art the Clown, or having something really crazy happen. It’s that way through the entire film, so just when you think you might be going into a lull, something just pops you right back into the movie so that was the way I tried to structure it.
PopHorror: My favorite scene was in the laundromat.
Damien Leone: Oh, okay!
PopHorror: I felt like it humanized Art a little bit, and gave you a vulnerable look at him, sitting there – and I don’t want to give spoilers – but you know what I mean But like, doing his laundry, and in a position that you normally don’t see him. I really appreciate that because it gave it more… Because to me he was always kind of supernatural and this really let you in on the human side of him.
Damien Leone: Right. That’s one of my favorite things to do with that character, because I think that, especially things like that, separate him from the other slashers, and make him do ordinary human mundane things that we just take for granted and don’t even think about, but when you see him doing them? It’s like woah, like you said him doing laundry? And just getting naked? That was a big risk I took on part one – making him get naked when he skins the woman and wears her, because you never take your… Unless you’re Freddy and Freddy could transform into a million different things, but typically your chiller never strips down or gets into a different costume or something like that so I said, “Let’s just try and do different human things with this character and I think that will make him so much more interesting, and relatable.” And more enigmatic because you don’t know how human he is or how demonic he is, or where did he come from, or who is he, or what’s going on? But you could relate to him with things like going to the bathroom, just being so obvious that he goes to the bathroom and he’ll smear his feces all over the wall. But again, you don’t see characters like that going to the bathroom.
PopHorror: No, you don’t, and I appreciate you leaving that in. I have just one last question for you today. What is your favorite scary movie?
Damien Leone: Oh that’s a tough one. I have a bunch, but there’s three. I would say Jaws is my favorite movie of all time. The Lost Boys has a very special place in my heart, and probably Dawn of the Dead. The original Dawn of the Dead. I would say those are my three top favorites.
Thank you so much to Damien for taking the time to speak with us. Terrifier 2 will be in theaters on October 6, 2022 from Cinedigm in partnership with Iconic Events.