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

Terrifier 2 Art
Image via Dark Age Cinema

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Terrifier 2.

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 is currently in theaters and frightening movie-goers everywhere — following the original low-budget 2016 film from writer-director Damien Leone — 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 to the character being described as “a demonic killer clown,” according to the Villains Wiki. 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.

Terrifier 2 is currently enjoying a limited theatrical run and has garnered more critical acclaim than its predecessor.