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Who is Art the Clown and why does he kill? The ‘Terrifier’ villain’s history, explained

He's not someone you want to encounter in a dark alley.

Art the Clown in Terrifier 2
Image via Dark Age Cinema

Terrifier‘s Art the Clown has now joined the ranks among cinema’s most terrifying clowns — right alongside Pennywise from It, Jojo the Klown from Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and Joker from The Dark Knight— but just who is this villainous character wearing facepaint and why does he kill in the first place?

Now that Terrifier 2 made history by becoming an unexpected smash hit in theaters last year and continuing to gain a following on digital platforms — all of which has inspired a forthcoming 2023 theatrical re-release — let’s take a look at the character’s origin.

Art the Clown first appeared as a character in Leone’s horror short film The 9th Circle and later in his 2013 anthology film All Hallow’s Eve – the latter of which centers around a babysitter who finds a VHS tape that contains footage of various murders carried out by the evil circus performer. In those early entries to the franchise, Art was portrayed by Mike Giannelli. However, in Terrifier and its sequel, Art has been portrayed by David Howard Thornton.

Up until the very end of the first Terrifier film, audiences may have believed Art the Clown was simply a human who was a sadistic serial killer. Despite his deformed head shape, gaunt cheeks, disintegrating teeth, and abnormally crooked and sharp-tipped nose, most or all of those aspects of his appearance could be explained away by either makeup or simply being an odd-looking human. However, by the end of the film, it is clear Art has a more supernatural background.

Who is Art the Clown?

At the end of Terrifier, Art the Clown shoots himself in the head while on the verge of getting caught by the police after murdering several people throughout the course of the film. However, Art later reanimates from inside his body bag and continues his killing spree. In Terrifier 2, Art similarly inexplicably becomes resurrected after he is killed on multiple occasions. What’s more, Art only seems to appear on Halloween each year. Although the nature of Art’s supernatural characteristics is not divulged in-depth in the films, his penchant for coming back to life and only appearing during the spooky season has led me to believe he transforms into a demonic figure through the course of the franchise (more on that later). That seems like a fairly accurate moniker, considering Art pals around with a ghost-like little girl in the sequel and can also apparently possess and impregnate a woman from beyond the grave after he was decapitated, as that is exactly what happens at the end of Terrifier 2.

In addition, Lauren LaVera’s Sienna Shaw — the protagonist in Terrifier 2 — battles the evil clown while wearing an angel costume. At one point, when Sienna has a dream about Art early on in the movie, she awakens to find the wings of her costume have caught on fire. At the end of the movie, Sienna also gets resurrected by her father’s sword after previously being killed by Art with that same weapon. This would seem to point to Sienna being an angelic entity, with her arch-nemesis Art being demonic in nature, by contrast.

Why does Art the Clown kill?

In terms of why Art the Clown kills, we can only speculate since it’s not like we’re treated to flashbacks to his childhood that we can psychoanalyze or anything. However, it’s clear from the cruel nature of the killings he carries out that the murder sprees he engages in are likely done for the sheer pleasure he derives from them. For instance, owing to his mime-like dedication to not uttering a single sound (or perhaps he simply cannot speak), Art often silently laughs whenever his chosen targets are fearful of the danger they’re in.

While it is a safe bet Art the Clown is your typical sociopathic killer who is a mere mortal in the first Terrifier film, I believe his motivation becomes more supernaturally influenced once we enter Terrifier 2. In the beginning of the sequel, Art sees a little girl in clown makeup that only he and a select few others can see. Since Art apparently becomes immortal from that point on, having been resurrected from the dead, I believe the little girl in clown makeup is actually a demon.

My theory is that, within the world of the film, people who commit especially heinous violent crimes when they are alive attract demonic spirits who have the power to resurrect the evil killers after they’ve bit the dust. In this way, the evil can continue even after a murderer has drawn his last breath. As such, the little girl in clown makeup actually makes Art into a demon, as well, with a newfound motivation for simply perpetuating evil to feed the underworld. This is also why the dream-like Clown Cafe we see near the end of the sequel resembles hell — because it probably is. The idea that becoming evil or demonic is a kind of contagion also serves as an explanation for why Samantha Scaffidi’s Victoria Heyes, the final girl from the first film who was disfigured by Art, becomes a killer herself in the sequel.

Where can you watch all of the Art the Clown movies? All Hallows Eve is available on Tubi for free as is the first Terrifier film. You can also stream Terrifier on Peacock. However, when it comes to Terrifier 2, you can currently only stream it on Screambox or you will have to contend with renting or buying it through the digital platform of your choice, such as Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, or Apple TV. However, Terrifier 2 will also be returning to theaters on Nov. 1, 2023.

Danny Peterson
About the author

Danny Peterson

Danny Peterson covers entertainment news for WGTC and has previously enjoyed writing about housing, homelessness, the coronavirus pandemic, historic 2020 Oregon wildfires, and racial justice protests. Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Danny received his Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Alaska Southeast and a Master's in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Oregon. He has written for The Portland Observer, worked as a digital enterprise reporter at KOIN 6 News, and is the co-producer of the award-winning documentary 'Escape from Eagle Creek.'