Interview with Damien Leone director of Terrifier
By James Whittington, Saturday 28th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Terrifier at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event today, director Damien Leone talks about the 'Art' of extreme clowning, his debt to Tom Savini and a terrifying Halloween experience...

Art, The Clown initially appeared in your 2008 short The 9th Circle, then the 2011 award-winning short Terrifier and in your first feature All Hallow's Eve. What made you decide to give him a fourth outing?

DL: Up until this point I never felt like I fully showcased Art's potential. I believe between the short films and All Hallows' Eve, there only exists about 20 minutes of Art the Clown screen time. For a character who's done so little, he seems to really resonate with horror fans. After all of the positive feedback, a full length film that focused solely on Art was inevitable.

Art has a very twisted personality - he's both brutal (his silence adding to his deadliness) and comical but not without some subtle pathos. How difficult was it to strike that balance?

DL: In all honesty, I never intended to evoke any sort of pathos from his character. I do find that interesting and maybe there is something to that but the brutality and twisted personality was always intentional from the get-go as was the subtle comedy. Although I'm a huge fan of some horror comedies like Return of The Living Dead or Evil Dead 2, it's not a style I strive for in my own films. I always shoot for a more serious tone but ironically, the comedy in Terrifier was very organic and almost wrote itself. I should be clear and say the intentional comedy in Terrifier only comes from the Art the Clown character himself. He's always had a sick sense of humour from the very beginning but this time I tried to take it a little further whereas after every unspeakable act of violence he commits, he follows it with something comical like a facial expression or a quirky gesture. This does two things, it gives the audience a chance to relieve some tension but it also makes Art more demented when we realize just how much fun he's having at his victim's expense.

You've said that you set out to make Art as violent as possible. Why?

DL: This basically comes from the fact that I'm a special effects artist. I knew the effects would be one of our strong suits going into the film since I can do a lot on a very limited budget. There is so much content out there right now and I believe that if you want to stand out, it doesn't hurt to show things that will really grab the audience's attention and get them talking. It's 2017; there's been thousands of horror movies. I mean how many times can you show a knife cutting through the air followed by a shot of blood hitting the wall? Almost everything has been done to death (pun intended) so I feel I have a duty to the audience to present them with stuff that hasn't quite been seen before or if it has, to do it in a way that feels fresh.

David Howard Thornton is terrific as Art. How did you two meet and bond? And how challenging was it, given Art had previously been played by Mike Giannelli.

DL: Finding a new actor to play Art was by far the most crucial and nerve-wracking aspect of this film. Everything people loved about Art was a testament to how Mike Giannelli portrayed him and now I had to start from scratch. Very frightening indeed. But as luck would have it, David came in for an audition one day and my producer and I immediately knew this was our guy. David pantomimed the act of stabbing someone to death and sawing their head off with great exuberance and glee. He's also extremely animated, tall and thin. I always envisioned Art to be of a more slender build and I was excited to see what little quirks and nuances David could bring to the character. Working with David was a total delight from start to finish. We bonded immediately thanks to the countless hours in the makeup chair. Dave will joke and tell stories as I transform him into Art over the course of approximately three hours. We had to repeat this process well over 20 times during the shoot.

The film has a very dark 70s/80s tone and the narrative is stripped down to the bone. What influences were at play here?

DL: The main objective was to keep it as close to the 20 minute short film as possible. The short film was a no holds barred, relentless, 70s-style grind house flick that was made to feel like an intense rollercoaster ride. That's actually how I came up with the title Terrifier. To me Terrifier was more a reflection of the film as an experience and didn't necessarily have anything specific to do with the characters or story. People responded so positively to the short film that I figured the best plan of attack would be to just make an 80 minute version of the 20 minute short. Essentially this would mean taking the best parts of a slasher film and eliminating as much of the filler as possible.

With all the attention given to IT and Pennywise, does this tempt you even further to establish Art as a franchise and make more Terrifier films?

DL: Absolutely. Although we finally gave Art his own movie, we've only just scratched the surface. Now we have to dig a little deeper into his backstory. He has a ton of potential and I can see needing at least a couple of films to tell his full story. It's too premature to say but numerous people have said he has the making of a horror icon. If this continues to be the case once Terrifier is released, it would be downright disrespectful to the character and to the fans to not produce more; just as long as we maintain some integrity and never jump the shark.

All your films are set on Halloween night. Are you a fan of Halloween? Do you have a favourite Halloween/clown story?

DL: I am a huge fan of Halloween but the main reason I set Art the Clown's films on Halloween is so it's acceptable for a man to be walking the streets while dressed as a clown. This at least enables his victims to lower their guard around him when they first cross his path. If it was a hot August night and a mute clown sat across from you in a pizzeria, I think the cops would be called immediately. I do in fact have a personal Halloween story that stands out and I'll try to make it quick. One night a few friends and I were driving home from a Halloween party and we passed a car on the side of the road that was turned completely on its side against the guard rail. We immediately pulled over and approached the vehicle. Two young women were inside the car. Apparently, the driver was drunk and fell asleep at the wheel. Thankfully, by some miracle, both girls were perfectly fine aside from being dazed and frightened but what makes this story worth telling is seeing my friend who's 6'4 leap on top of the turned over car in full Spider-Man attire and pull the young women to safety. Surreal moment indeed.

Who do you most admire in the horror genre?

DL: This is a very difficult question because I can throw around countless names and ramble on and on for hours but I must say I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for the makeup effects maestro Tom Savini. When I was around 6 or 7 years old I stumbled upon a VHS tape called Scream Greats that changed my life. It was a documentary on Savini and it was the first time I saw how monsters were created. This video and also the making of Michael Jackson's Thriller with Rick Baker really left an impression on me. I was fascinated by seeing people transformed into creatures. For years I would rent these films over and over but when I was around 12 years old, I finally owned a copy of Scream Greats. This time I actually began experimenting. My mother took me to a horror convention where I actually bought my first makeup kit, a 12oz bottle of mint flavoured blood and a real machete (dulled) with a semi-circle cut out of the blade. This is a classic Savini gag that he's used in several movies. It creates the illusion that the machete is actually buried in your flesh when you place it against the skin or on top of your skull. As soon as I got home, I tried out all of my new goodies on my friends and myself. Savini introduced me to blood tubes, mortician's wax, things that were more accessible to someone starting out. Soon I started filming the effects with a camcorder and eventually I began making my own little short films; which is how I became interested in the grander aspect of filmmaking. But even though as a filmmaker I'm influenced by countless artists from all genres, I really have to thank Savini for being the first person to show me the magic of filmmaking.

Zombies or vampires?

DL: Very tough question. Zombies frighten me more than vampires. My favourite horror film of all time is Romero's Dawn of the Dead and my dream project is an epic zombie film but The Lost Boys holds such a special place in my heart. I saw it in the theatres when I was literally 3 years old and it had such a profound effect on me. It's one of my absolute favourites till this day and because of it, I love vampires so much. So to answer your question, I can't choose.

Finally, what's next?

DL: There are a few awesome projects that I'd love to tackle but I think it would be foolish to sleep on the inevitable Terrifier sequel. Clowns are so hot right now because of IT and more and more people are starting to dig Art the Clown on a daily basis so I think we should strike while the iron's hot before the killer clown sub-genre goes into hibernation for another 20 years.

Interview with Richard Elliot, Managing Director of 88 Films
Posted on Saturday 17th March 2018

Recently I've been lucky enough to review some rather tasty Blu-rays from 88 Films. This company has been behind amazing releases of titles such as A Cat in the Brain, Anthropophagous and Don't Go in the Woods...Alone. So I decided to chat to managing director Richard Elliot about 88 Films and how they survive in a cut-throat market.

HC: How did 88 Films start?

RE: 88 Films started after James and I met working for another label and it was the usual "we think we can do it better than the boss" scenario. So we slowly developed an idea of what we wanted to do after work down the pub and after lots of head scratching and pork scratchings and some setbacks BE Movies was born... which quickly became 88 Films...

Interview with Paul Urkijo, director of Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
Posted on Thursday 1st March 2018

One thing that Horror Channel FrightFest prides itself in is by championing new talent. This year's Glasgow event is no different with a whole host of newbies bringing their first features. A real highlight is Paul Urkijo's Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil which is a sumptuous piece that Terry Gilliam would be proud of. Here he chats to us about this stunning movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil come from?

PU: I was inspired by the Basque story "Patxi Errementaria". He was registered by JM Barandiaran, an anthropologist priest who dedicated his life to recording stories and legends of the Basque Country. It is a legend about a blacksmith who was so ev...

Interview with Adam MacDonald, writer and director of Pyewacket.
Posted on Wednesday 28th February 2018

There have been a number of occult and demonic movies over the last few years but none have come close to the tension and terror of Adam MacDonald's Pyewacket. The superb piece of cinema is showing at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this week so I had a quick chat with Adam about this superior shocker.

HC: Have you always been a horror fan?

AM: It really started when I was about 7 years old when my older brother showed me Evil Dead. I couldn't believe what I was watching, it truly rocked me. The card scene in the film did not leave my mind for days. That film is stained on my brain. I was terrified. But then I had a realisation that I loved that feeling. It was primal. Then I watched The Shinin...

Interview with Kelly Greene, writer and director of Attack of the Bat Monsters
Posted on Tuesday 27th February 2018

Making movies can be a tough business but to have to wait almost two decades to release your work takes true dedication. At Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this weekend Kelly Greene's Attack of the Bat Monsters is finally unleashed. Here he tells us the story behind this celebration of 1950s creature features.

HC: You were inspired to write Attack of the Bat Monsters when you were researching 50s movies, did it take long to write?

KG: It took quite a while because I was working 50 to 60 hours a week at a video production facility while raising a 2-year old and 8-year old, along with my wife, who was also working. I would write at night between 9 and 11pm, and maybe a little more ...

Interview with Patrick Magee, writer and director of Primal Rage
Posted on Monday 26th February 2018

There's been a spate of "bigfoot-style, beast in the woods" types of movies recently but none have come anywhere near Primal Rage. This superior creature feature from Patrick Magee will be having its European Premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this Friday so I decided to have a chat with this very talented and creative person.

HC: Did you know from a young age you wanted to work in the film industry?

PM: Since a very young age I was always into, even obsessed, with movies. Specifically horror movies, monster movies really. As a hobby, I got really into special make-up effects and drawing. It got to the point where I was so obsessed with it, I decided when I was a teen that I ha...

Interview with Gabriela Amaral, writer and director of Friendly Beast
Posted on Sunday 25th February 2018

As we get ready for the trip to Scotland for this year's Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow I've been lucky enough to chat to Gabriela Amaral about her powerful movie Friendly Beast which is getting its UK Premiere at the event.

HC: Was there a certain piece of work or person that inspired you to work in the industry?

GA: Yes, there was. I am a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock and I decided to study cinema because of him. In the beginning, I didn't know what would I do with movies. Would I be an academic? A film critic? A director? I just knew I had to live doing something that had to do with movies. I graduated in Communication Studies in Brazil where I studied horror movies and literature (specific...

Interview with Ruth Platt, director of The Lesson
Posted on Wednesday 6th December 2017

On the eve of Horror Channel's network premiere screening of The Lesson, director Ruth Platt talks about the decision to quit RADA, why her film isn't 'torture porn' and what the future holds.

The Lesson received its World Premiere at FrightFest. How did you react when it was chosen? And what was the experience like?

RP: I was really excited when I found out we'd been picked - we got a call from the team, and they were passionate about the film, and they are such a knowledgable and experienced small team, Greg, Paul, Alan and Ian, and it meant so much. Especially when the making of it had been such an arduous and difficult process! I had no idea how people would react to the film - it was su...

Interview with John Shackleton director of Panic Button
Posted on Wednesday 15th November 2017

As social media horror feature Panic Button gets a remastered DVD and Download release, writer and producer John Shackleton reflects on the film's inspirational journey.

To start at the beginning, what was the genesis or the seed of the idea for Panic Button?

JS: The model of how to make a film actually came before the concept. I'd made a short film with a group of trainees using a bunch of self-imposed restrictions for practicalities sake, to make sure we completed and delivered within the three-week timeframe of the training scheme, who were my employers. The rules were quite simple - no more than five minutes' walk from the office (we couldn't afford a van), no dialogue (we did...

Interview with Mathieu Turi director of Hostile
Posted on Wednesday 25th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his debut feature Hostile at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Mathieu Turi shares his admiration for Tarantino, describes the challenges of filming in three continents and reveals his 'magic hour'.

You were born in Cannes so you grew up with film all around? When did you know for sure you wanted to direct?

MT: I think it's always been there. As a child, I used to steal my dad's VHS camera to make mini-movies. They were basically all about my Jurassic Park toys eating my dog or invading the garden. Later, I did more elaborate short films with friends, instead of studying. Then, I remember watching Braveheart and the making of the ...

Interview with Marko Makilaakso director of It Came From The Desert
Posted on Tuesday 17th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film It Came From The Desert at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Marko Makilaakso shares his admiration for Roger Corman, love of B-Movies, spoofing and overcoming homeland obstacles.

It Came From The Desert is inspired by Cinemaware's cult 1980s video game, which in turn was motivated by the giant creature feature craze infesting 1950s Hollywood. What was the main inspiration for you?

MM: There's so many movies and makers which inspired ICFTD, but the main inspiration was exactly that; creature feature infested 1950s Hollywood films, and the legendary Cinemaware Desert games and creature features and action comedies I grew up with in the 19...

Interview with Can Evrenol director of Housewife
Posted on Thursday 12th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Housewife at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Can Evrenol tells us why film is a 'pervert's art' shares his feelings for Fulci and reveals his contribution to Horror anthology, The Field Guide To Evil.

Was it important to make your follow-up film to Baskin in the English language?

CE: I wanted to make the film available for a wider audience and to test myself with a different language movie. I thought it was a fun thing to do.

How do you describe Housewife? What would be your perfect pitch line?

CE: Man, I had this crazy f****d-up dream last night! Do you want to see it?

Like Baskin, Housewife shares man...

Interview with Dominic Bridges, director of Freehold
Posted on Wednesday 4th October 2017

One of the stand out movies from Horror Channel FrightFest 2017 was the psychological chiller, Freehold. Dark and at times truly unnerving, the film caused quite a stir and will be released onto DVD on October 9th. Here the film's director Dominic Bridges talking about this superb debut.

HC: Where did the idea for Freehold come from?

DB: Based on personal experience my wife and I suffered a miscarriage whilst trying to buy a house in London whilst the Estate Agents had us bidding against ourselves... I reacted badly which was embarrassing to my wife and myself it all felt like too much fighting for a roof over our heads just tainted the whole of London for us and we moved also the realisation...

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