The chilling Terrifier 2 villain Art the Clown has appeared in four horror movies, but not all of them have been as successful as his latest screen outing. Every slasher villain has stronger and weaker outings. Freddy Krueger had a terrifying screen debut but, by 1987, he had released a novelty rap album. Similarly, not all of Art the Clown’s movie appearances have been as reliably terrifying as the aptly-titled Terrifier series.
Art the Clown has appeared in four movies from his screen debut in the 2008 short The 9th Circle to the recent hit sequel Terrifier 2. The unanticipated box-office success of Terrifier 2 brought Art the Clown to the mainstream, but it was 2016’s cult successTerrifier that introduced many horror viewers to the character for the first time. Before that, Art appeared in 2013’s anthology horror movie All Hallow’s Eve, a lower-budget effort from director Damian Leone that paved the way for the Terrifier movies but featured a different actor playing the character. While each Art the Clown appearance has its charms, some are more successful than others.
The 2008 short film The 9th Circle introduced Art the Clown to viewers for the first time. The villain appears near the beginning of the short, meeting The 9th Circle’s heroine Casey in an otherwise empty train carriage. This black-and-white original version of Art the Clown soon drugs Casey, and the character wakes up in an underground facility where she is accosted by members of a demonic cult. This ambiguous story is fleshed out further in All Hallow’s Eve and, as a result, it is hard to shake the feeling that The 9th Circle’s story is incomplete despite the short film featuring a handful of effective scares in its brief runtime.
From 2013, All Hallow’s Eve was the first starring role for Art the Clown, although the villain is notably played by actor Mike Giannelli in this outing rather than Terrifier’s David Howard Thornton. A series of short movies connected by a framing device wherein a babysitter (also named Casey) watches them on Halloween night, All Hallow’s Eve has a classic horror anthology problem. Anything involving Art the Clown is undeniably scary, but the killer cult plot and alien abduction storylines feel like unnecessary filler. Director Damian Leone admitted he opted not to focus on Art in All Hallow’s Eve so that he wouldn’t spoil Terrifier and, unfortunately, this approach hampers the standalone appeal of All Hallow’s Eve.
After the memorably nasty ending of All Hallow’s Eve, 2016’s Terrifier is a full-tilt nosedive into depravity. The bare-bones plot of this ’80s throwback slasher sees a pair of friends attempt to evade Art the Clown throughout one long, bloody Halloween night. This is mostly just an excuse to set up some memorably horrific kills, genuinely tense chase sequences, and a lot of shtick from a new, scarier version of Art the Clown. Fortunately, David Howard Thornton’s mesmerizing turn as the character ensures that Terrifier lives up to its title, remaining consistently tense and disarmingly nasty throughout its tight runtime. The sheer downbeat grimness of Terrifier, however, keeps it from the top spot.
In a rare feat for a horror movie sequel, Terrifier 2 is a wholesale improvement on its predecessor. While gorier than Terrifier and no less intense than the earlier movie, Terrifier 2 is also less relentlessly hopeless than the earlier slasher. The heroine, Lauren LaVera’s Sienna, is tough as nails and worth rooting for, giving Art the Clown his first worthy opponent in four movies. Meanwhile, the inventive kills, dark sense of humor, and sky-high body count make Terrifier 2 a triumph and explain how the independent horror movie made a huge box office impact upon release. Terrifier 2 leans into the splattery ultra-violence of its predecessors but lacks the amateurish visuals of All Hallow’s Eve and the suffocating nihilism of Terrifier.
Where The 9th Circle felt outright unfinished — and, indeed, was expanded on in All Hallow’s Eve — the biggest problem with All Hallow’s Eve was the uneven anthology horror movie’s failure to focus on its breakout star Art the Clown. However, paradoxically, Terrifier’s problems stemmed from the slasher movie giving viewers no one else to root for beyond the unstoppable Art. Watching Art the Clown butcher helpless victims is scary fun for a while, but Terrifier 2 improves on this by giving Art an enemy who can defeat him, even if only temporarily. This increases the stakes of the story, making Terrifier 2 Art the Clown’s best movie so far.
Next: David Howard Thornton Movie & TV Roles: Where You Know The Terrifier Star