Terrifier: Is the 2016 Movie Inspired by True Killings?

Directed by Damien Leone, ‘Terrifier’ is a 2016 slasher horror movie. The story begins with a talk show host interviewing a gravely scarred woman who is the only victim to survive the murderous rampage of Art the Clown on the previous Halloween. It is later revealed that one of the viewers watching the interview at their home is Art himself — he is alive despite the survivor’s insistence that she saw him die.

The narrative then shifts to Halloween, as Art begins stalking two young women. Made on only a $35,000 budget, ‘Terrifier’ received mixed reviews from critics and had a limited theatrical release, but since has achieved cult status. If the narrative and the setting of ‘Terrifier’ have made you wonder whether it is inspired by actual events, we got you covered.

Terrifier is an Original Screenplay

‘Terrifier’ is not based on a true story. Director Damien Leone developed the film from a script he wrote. He first introduced Art as a character in the 2008 short film ‘The 9th Circle’ and also serves as the principal antagonist in the 2011 short film ‘Terrifier.’ Both shorts were released as part of the 2013 anthology film ‘All Hallows’ Eve.’ As it was Leone’s first feature film, he and the character he created made their feature debut simultaneously.

In an interview with Fangoria, the filmmaker admitted that he didn’t exactly know where the idea of Art the Clown came from, adding, “I can’t recall if there was a moment when the character hit me like a bolt of lightning. I always felt clowns had the potential to be very scary. I believe the first idea I was toying with was this scene of a woman coming home on Halloween on a city bus in the middle of the night in a bad neighborhood. She’s the only passenger and a clown gets on at the second-to-last stop and starts harassing her. I felt that would be really creepy.”

Leone continued, “We tried getting our hands on a bus to film in, but it wasn’t happening. So we changed it to a waiting room, and that’s now the opening of ‘The 9th Circle.’ He was never really intended to be a lead villain; he’s just this character who moves her from A to B. He’s obviously the best part of the short; everybody kept talking about him. That’s why we went and made ‘Terrifier’ a couple of years later.”

‘All Hallows’ Eve’ went on to have a stand-alone anthology sequel, 2015’s ‘All Hallows’ Eve 2,’ comprising shorts made by different filmmakers and Leone serving as producer along with Jesse Baget. That year, the former initiated a campaign on Indiegogo to crowdfund a spin-off of ‘All Hallows’ Eve,’ a feature-length version of ‘Terrifier.’ The campaign was launched with a goal of $15,000 but failed to reach it. Fortunately, filmmaker Phil Falcone had heard about the campaign and stepped in to finance the project. He subsequently received credits as a producer along with Leone and George Steuber, the film’s cinematographer.

In previous iterations, Mike Giannelli has portrayed Art. However, as he had quit acting by then, he didn’t reprise the role. Instead, David Howard Thornton, already familiar with ‘All Hallows’ Eve,’ has portrayed the character in ‘Terrifier’ and subsequent projects. Speaking to Dread Central, the actor revealed that he enacted an improvised kill scene during the audition. Arguably, the most disturbing and talked-about scene in ‘Terrifier’ is the hacksaw death scene. In his interview with Dread Central, Leone cited the ending of ‘Day of the Dead’ and the classic slashers like the ‘Friday the 13th’ films as some of the sources of inspiration.

The filmmaker added, “I wanted to try and approach Terrifier with the Italian giallo style of ‘Suspiria’ … So I would say the first kill in ‘Suspiria’ with the heart was the inspiration for the kills in ‘Terrifier.’ The scene is just relentless, it never ends … when the person should be dead, they’re still alive … That’s the good stuff! Especially with a slasher movie, that’s the stuff we all want to see, and it’s almost insane when you go to see a slasher movie, and you’re cheated out of the most important part of the kill. So that’s really what we did.” Considering all this, we can safely conclude that ‘Terrifier’ is not based on a true story but a product of the vibrant imagination of its writer-director-producer.

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