By Maia Venuti
“Terrifier” (2016) is an independent horror film that was written, produced and directed by Damien Leone. The film features a clown by the name of Art the Clown, brilliantly played by David Howard Thornton. Art the Clown is a demonic entity donning mime-like clothes and face paint, and always smiling to show his filthy teeth. Since the film’s release, Art has carved out a place for himself in the horror world, and with the release of “Terrifier 2” (2022), it is safe to say that Art has earned a place amongst some of the best villains.
Art the Clown was originally introduced in the 2013 film “All Hallows’ Eve,” an anthology horror. This film consists of multiple short stories that are being watched by a babysitter and the kids she is watching, and there are several villains throughout, including Art. This was Art’s debut film, and while he was not the main character, he immediately became the favorite of viewers. People were enthralled by this new evil clown character, and wanted more.
Due to popular demand, Art was given his own feature length film in 2016, that being “Terrifier.” In this film, he is a standalone villain and is the entire focus of the film, rather than just one scene. Art goes around a small town on Halloween night terrorizing everyone he comes across, but leaving one person alive permanently disfigured and traumatized from his actions. “Terrifer 2” (2022) also takes this same approach and features Art as the main antagonist.
There is very little information about Art’s origins other than that he is assumed to be a demon who comes out on Halloween to wreak havoc on anyone he encounters. On its surface, the design of Art the Clown feels really lazy — he seems to have no depth because we do not know his background, his motives or even what his voice sounds like.
The ambiguity around Art’s character is entirely intentional, and director Damien Leone has made this clear. In an interview with Dread Central, Leone said that he designed Art the Clown to be the opposite of Pennywise, from Stephen King’s “It.” Pennywise is colorful and has hair, while Art only wears black and white and is bald. Pennywise can talk, while Art is a mime. Pennywise does not use weapons in killing his victims, while Art exclusively uses weapons. Pennywise has a detailed and complex lore, and there is very little information known about Art’s origins.
Art is both a complicated and simplistic character at the same time for one reason and one reason alone: silence. Matching his evil mime appearance, Art also is silent like a mime and makes over-expressive faces to express his mood. The faces he makes are disgustingly off-putting and immediately give the audience a sense of unease every time his presence graces the screen.
Of all three films Art the Clown stars in, he does not have a single speaking line. Not only does he not have a speaking line, but he also does not make any sound whatsoever, even when he has been hurt himself, you do not hear a sound from him. His mimed responses to everything and the mimicking of his victims’ expressions show that he does this for no reason other than his own amusement. Art has absolutely no motivations in his actions.
Another way Art serves as the opposite to Pennywise is in motivations. Pennywise has motivations behind his actions, and his motives are known by the protagonists as well. But with Art, there is nothing known about why he is doing these indescribably gruesome acts. He does not have the ability to explain his motivations and, personally, I think even if he could talk, he would have no reason behind his actions. Art having no motive means anyone can be his next target, no one is safe from his brutality, and there is little one can do to save themselves.
The character that Damien Leone has concocted is not only the most terrifying clown ever, but Art the Clown has become an icon in the world of horror. As depraved and horrific as “Terrifier” (2016) and “Terrifier 2” (2022) are, it is important to look at the villains that make these movies so horrific and appreciate the genius behind their design.