By Ryan McPherson
Oliver Park contacted us a little while back about reviewing a film he had starred in entitled, Watch Over Me. I remember being blown away by Park’s intensity. It was an intensity your rarely see from an indie action film. I’m not just saying he was a good actor, there are plenty of good actors working in indie film; it was just the way he carried himself, the way he put the film on his back and carried it when it stumbled, and the fight scenes were simply outstanding. Everything about him screamed: “guy you don’t want to mess with!”
After chatting with Park for the better part of the last couple months, you start to realize he is actually quite a sweet guy (sorry if I’m ruining the persona Oliver).
Well, that is until he sent me his short film, Vicious. A directorial effort, Park seemed extremely excited for me to view. He said something along the lines of: “Can’t wait to hear what you think. If you’re watching on a computer use headphones.” I’m paraphrasing and assuredly not getting the quote exactly right but that was the gist of it. In his defense, the headphones were a great idea – if you like being terrified.
Vicious is probably the perfect title for the film. It’s unrelenting in its terror to the level of being cruel. It’s truly a tremendous effort in both building suspense and earning its scares. It’s a credit to Park and his years of studying the works of horrors finest. He is a student of the genre and it shines through in this one. I couldn’t wait to chat about the film and his feelings on all things horror.
You are known mostly for your work in front of the camera, but behind the camera you prove to be just as intense. Where does your heart lie in terms of the future of your career?
Acting remains my true passion and something I hope to continue to develop for many years to come. Although I started acting in theatre and musicals, I was addicted to film from a young age so my fondness for writing reflected film rather than theatre. From a very young age I adored horror and to this day it plays a huge part in my inspirations.
I have a strong vision for my ideas so although directing was complex and incredibly difficult I found it exhilarating and would love to do more. Vicious is just the beginning.
With Vicious you’ve created a terrifying short film, mixing both the home invasion and haunted house genres. What can you tell us about the idea behind this story?
Thank you! It amazes me that each person sees something different in Vicious. When writing it I wanted to target the fears of as many people as possible, so I knew I had to leave it slightly ambiguous and walk the line between real and supernatural for as long as I could. I never thought it would cover such a huge spectrum! Some of the audience have said it’s a pure ghost story, some have said psychological and some home-invasion – only the feature film (script currently in development) explains what it really is and it is so much more terrifying than one might think.
Vicious was born from wanting to tell a story that is both horribly tense yet looks beautiful – something that could happen to any of us and that the audience could take home with them afterwards. I wanted to make a short film that was in the league of all these incredible three-minute scare-shorts, but one with a meaningful story behind the tension.
We all have moments when we’re alone in the house. We all have moments when we get up in the night, so it was easy to fill 12 minutes with a story like ‘a woman comes home one night to find her front door unlocked’. In fact, I had to cut most of the ‘scare moments’ from the original drafts as there were too many.
I have some great friends who helped me along the way – too many to mention but I would just like to say thank you in particular to Tommy Draper and Simon Pearce.
Where did your horror interest begin and what scares you today?
I am lucky in that I have very vivid dreams almost every night. Many of my ideas are lifted almost beat for beat from my nightmares – instead of turning over and trying to forget them, I’ll sit up and try to remember every detail – then write them down. So the things that scare me most today are my nightmares.
I was born in the 80’s, so I grew up with stories by M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King. Then, when I discovered horror films I quickly fell in love with films by Carpenter, Craven, Kubrick, Romero, Cronenberg, Russell, Barker and of course – Hitchcock (to name but a few). I remember being terrified by those stories and I would regret them every night as I was lying in bed unable to sleep!
My father is also a huge film fan so he introduced me to the horrors from the 50’s and 60’s, the Hammer Horror collection – and two of my all-time favourites: Night of the Demon by Jacques Tourneur and Nosferatu by F. W. Murnau.
Modern day horrors are a new breed and cannot be compared to the older ones. I love the work of Leigh Whannell and James Wan, David Robert Mitchell, Tomas Alfredson, Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza and of course Hideo Nakata and Takashi Shimizu (among many, many others).
I used to collect films on VHS (my parents had to buy them for me of course as I was too young at the time). I remember having a binder full of horror films that I wanted to buy – I had hundreds before the big VHS/DVD crossover. From a young age I wrote what scared me most – although, reading back over those today, I am glad they never got made!
Most of the best horror films in recent memory (The Babadook, It Follows, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, etc.) have been low(er) budget foreign or indie films. Why do you think the major studio system has difficulty getting horror right?
Films seem to be getting harsher reviews by the day but I don’t think it’s a case of the major studios getting things wrong – there are some great horrors out there by both sides.
There is a lot of personal taste that goes into horror. Other genres seem to be broader. For example, if I were to make a terrifying film about clowns and show it to someone who isn’t afraid of clowns, it wouldn’t work. If a film doesn’t scare you or leave a scar, then it doesn’t work for that person.
Looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, studios seem more inclined to give the audiences what they seem to want – namely – ‘scares’ – but indie films don’t pander to those wishes. They’re not afraid to take chances and be totally unique, which means that the audience has no idea where the film is going and are therefore more likely to be uncomfortable (Hitchcock – “make the audience as uncomfortable as possible”).
For an indie filmmaker to make a huge splash right from the start, even gain theatrical release for their film, the best shot is usually with a horror film (i.e. The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity). Why do you think this is the case?
I would hope that if you’ve made a great film, it will rise to the surface in whatever genre it is. I know that some genres are harder to sell than others. Horror has a hardcore fan base, but even for those who aren’t hardcore fans – if you see something scary on a front cover you cannot help but look – it’s like driving by a car accident. Before you know it, you’re hitting play and not sleeping for a week!
Horror is the most lucrative film genre and I think that it offers a rush that you just don’t get with other films. And I for one love it! Some of the best things I’ve seen have been shot on phones or still cameras with next-to no budget and thrown online! I adore those little ‘real ghosts caught on camera’ style videos you find everywhere.
If that really is the case then let’s do it. Calling all producers who love horror – interested in making a huge splash? I’ve got the ideas ready to go!
You said you’re working on a feature version of Vicious. Are you hoping to drum up interest with the short to get a studio backing, or are you planning to make it on your own?
I would love the chance to do either – whichever will give the film its best chance of succeeding.
It’s a story that I feel hasn’t been told in this way before and I have a lot of faith in it. After seeing this one you won’t be sleeping for a while!
I am keen to discuss the development of the film with anyone who is interested.
Right now the film is making the rounds of the film festival circuit. Where should we be looking to find it in the near future and when should we expect it to be available for wider audiences online?
I am so proud of how well it’s doing – I am eager to release it publicly as soon as I can. However, as it is still being accepted to festivals I will wait until 2016.
The festival line up is being updated on Twitter and will also be added to the website, so if you follow @viciousfilm or check out www.viciousmovie.com you’ll be able to see where and when it’s playing. We will then hopefully do a big campaign for its public release next year.
It’s clear you have a deep love and admiration for horror, would you like to become someone known exclusively for being a star of the genre?
I am only just starting out as a director, but my mind has been overflowing with ideas for many years, so scripts are pouring out of me very quickly. I would love to get the ball rolling and do more.
I already have various other scripts finalized. It may be that I work on another short, or push for a feature. The next step will be to get a great producing team on board.
When I started with Vicious I told people that “unless it was going to be great, I didn’t want to do it” – I feel the same about my other ideas. I won’t settle for anything less – if it’s not something that I would enjoy watching then I’m not interested in doing it.
Acting is still my first priority and with that I’ve worked in many different genres, but the ideas and inspirations I get for writing are all horror.
You said your nightmares are what scare you today, but we’re not letting you get away that easy. What are your particular fears and phobias?
Haha – I thought I’d got away with that for a second.
Ok – truth – I jump really easily! I love to go to horror mazes – one of my favourites has to be the one in San Antonio, Texas – and the London Dungeon in the UK is great too.
Although I am jumpy, other creepy things don’t scare me. I am not afraid of much and luckily I have no phobias. With writing, I try to write things that would scare me. Some of my close friends are scaredy cats, so I have a lot of fun talking about the ideas with them – if they don’t find the idea scary, it goes in the bin. If they tell me to stop talking or say “can you tell me the rest in the morning when it’s daylight” then I know I’m onto something good. I currently have two very short ideas that people have had to stop reading halfway through because they were “too scary”. Hopefully I’ll get to make those films next.
We’d like to than Oliver Park for his time and the great photos. We can assure you this is not the last you’ll be hearing of him. Please follow him on Twitter and check back for updates!