First, would you like a hug? Ha-ha!
Yes! I can use as many hugs as I can get at this point.
Terrifier was certainly one of the more shocking horror films we've covered in recent memory, an accomplishment in itself given the competition, and much of that is owed to the incredible practical effects work on display. Tell us a little bit about how you were able to accomplish what you did on such a minuscule budget.
The main advantage of doing my own special effects is I don't have to pay myself! Now all of that money we would've spent on a makeup team can go into other areas of production. Make no mistake though, a majority of the effects came out looking pretty cool because my producer Phil and I busted our asses creating them. It was by far the biggest effects job I ever tackled from building prop weapons to creating head to toe silicone bodies. I think we spent 3 months prepping everything. Another key factor is, I know exactly how I'm going to shoot an effect, so I design it specifically with a shot in mind. For instance, I might need a fake head for a shot but I'll only create the right side because I know that's all I'm going to shoot. Little tricks and shortcuts like that save a ton of time and materials. Ultimately, it still comes down to a lot of hard work and dedication.
What was the reason for going with a grindhouse aesthetic in Terrifier? And for fun, what emotion would best describe the film's visual style?
I think grimy might be the best way to describe the visual style. Clearly this movie is an homage to old school slasher films so we needed to incorporate a bit of that retro look. You'd be surprised how much personality the film loses without that look. There's something about horror movies looking clean and polished that takes away from their effectiveness. If I had the ability, I would've shot the entire film on old 16mm film stock so it looked like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
What is it about clowns that make them such an effective horror icon? Where did the inspiration for Terrifier's own come from?
They're scary looking! It gets more psychological than that but at the end of the day, they're just creepy looking. First of all, whenever you see someone with snow white makeup on their face, your mind subconsciously equates it with death. Clowns are also very unnatural. Their gestures and mannerisms are very outlandish, almost other worldly. Seeing them move is like watching an alien try it's best to impersonate a human being. On top of that, you don't know who's underneath the creepy makeup. Their identity is a mystery.
I guess I always saw this creep factor in clowns but I hadn't seen a cinematic slasher clown done to my satisfaction. Pennywise is a fantastic character but he's not a slasher the likes of Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. I thought if I could take a clown and give him some of my favorite slasher icon traits, the end result would be pretty awesome. That's essentially how Art was born. As far as his look is concerned, I have to thank Pennywise for that as well. He's the killer clown king so I did not want to step on his toes in any way or borrow any of his physical attributes. I made a conscious decision from the get-go to make Art look as dissimilar from the Tim Curry Pennywise as possible. If you put them side by side you'll notice there's virtually no similarities, even personality-wise.
This is the first feature length film staring Art, where as in your previous outing, he played more of a supporting character. Will "Terrifier" continue on as his own starring series of film, or should we expect to see him relegated to cameos in other stories.
Art's a star. I never intended for him to be a supporting character other than when he first appeared in my short film The 9th Circle. Truth be told, I didn't know how effective he was until after I had made that short. He was unanimously everyone's favorite part. People just couldn't stop talking about him. It wasn't long before I knew I had something good going so naturally the next step was to make a short film where he was front and center. That became Terrifier which is the final segment in All Hallow's Eve.
Part of what makes Art so effectively scary, is the mystery of his past. We're left in the dark regarding his backstory, so the only thing we know for certain coming into an encounter with him, is that he's very good at killing people. Will this particular aspect of the character remain in tact moving forward?
Art's mystery is one of the most polarizing aspects of his character. Some people absolutely love not knowing what his motive is while other's are dying to know what he's all about to the point where they feel cheated. I think the people in the latter category have a right to be frustrated but unfortunately this is not a story-driven film, it's more of a visceral experience.
I purposely left Art's character vague in Terrifier because this film is about "the situation". The story pretty much unfolds in real time over the course of one night as our protagonists are suddenly terrorized by a maniac simply because he enjoys it. Aside from the fact that he doesn't speak, Art isn't the type of character to suddenly stop and tell you his motive in the last five minutes of the film. The audience should be in the same situation as the victims whereas no one knows why it's happening. They are just in the wrong place at the wrong time and they have to survive the situation. It would be as if you were watching the original Halloween but there was no Dr. Loomis character to tell the audience who Michael Myers is. The babysitters would just have to deal with the horrifying scenario as it occurred.
Having said that, Art does have a backstory and I will explore it in the sequel...to a degree. I don't believe in spelling out every single detail. Ambiguity is key. You never want to pull the curtain back all the way because once you do that, the magic is gone. I think I will give just enough information so the audience can feel closure while still being able to theorize. A happy medium.
When will Art get his own comic book series? Because, he really needs one.
As soon as someone in the comic book field reaches out! One thing I can't get enough of is Art the Clown artwork. Fans are always drawing or painting him. I love seeing all the different styles. I'm sure it's just a matter of time.
What are your top 5 favorite clown-based horror films?
Hmm. I don't even know if I have five favorites but definitely both It movies, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and I'm a big Rob Zombie fan so since Captain Spaulding is a clown I'd say House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects.
Tell us, if you can, about some of the upcoming projects you'll be involved with.
I think my next film really depends on the success of Terrifier. We've only scratched the surface in regards to Art the Clown's character and origin so a sequel is inevitable. I also think it's been too long since we've had a truly scary and brutal vampire movie so I have an awesome idea for one of those. I also have a Romero-esque zombie script that would be my dream project. It really all depends on money and opportunities.
As a filmmaker with a few films under his belt, what's some wisdom you can impart on other up and coming artists in this industry?
Tale as old as time, but never give up. If you eat, breathe and sleep film you will become a filmmaker. The tools and equipment are more accessible now then ever before so there's nothing stopping you. Tell stories that are going to entertain people first and foremost. You want to get noticed so make something that stands out. Also, you must be willing to accept and embrace failure. Learn from your mistakes and keep honing your skills. Last but not least, learn as many filmmaking trades as possible. Become an editor, a writer, a director, a visual effects artist, etc. You want to rely on as few people as possible, especially when you're first starting out. No one will care more about your project than you will.
Thanks again for your time.