The great thing about directors is that they inspire the next generation to create their own films. Horror writer/director Oliver Park is one such example, part of the “new breed” of filmmakers with a passion and talent for horror. Hailing from Bath, England, and now living in London, Oliver Park has had a passion for horror from a young age. His first horror short, Vicious, is now available to view on YouTube. Vicious has won eight awards internationally, including Gold Award for Best International Film at Toronto After Dark and Platinum Award at the LA Horror Competition. It was nominated for a further seven awards, including Melis d’Argent at Molins in Spain. His second short film, Still, will be released later this year. I had a chat with Oliver about all things horror.
In your opinion, what are the essential elements of a great horror film?
That depends on what type of horror you’re trying to make. The great thing about horror is that there are so many variations: gore, suspense, scary, jumpy, creepy, horrifying and many more. For me, I like things genuinely scary; something one can take home with them afterwards! A feeling that you can’t shake when you’re lying in bed at night… Those films need many things but the key is to keep the audience in the dark. Suggest it, don’t show it. I can’t scare you more than your mind already does, so my job in writing/directing something genuinely scary is to simply remind you of what already scares you… I think horror, no matter what the type, is about making the audience uncomfortable in some way so that’s probably a good starting point.
What lessons from making Vicious did you bring with you when making Still?
I learned many things, but the main one was preparation. Still was storyboarded and we had lots of time to work on the locations, kit and spend lots of time casting. These films are all also teasers for their feature versions so there are lots of things I would do differently and hopefully I’ll get the chance soon!
Still not only features a female lead (Lindsay Bennett), you also have a female DoP (Sarah Edwards), and a female co-producer (Henriette-Mercedes Spiering). Can you talk a bit about how you came to assemble this fantastic team?
Sarah is someone I had wanted to work with for some time – she is amazing and I look forward to working with her again. Henriette was so driven and although her background wasn’t horror, I knew she’d do a great job on Still so I was very excited to work with her. I just want to work with great passionate people!
Both Vicious and Still are terrifying without being gory. What do you think of the current trend in horror filmmaking towards frights without overt gore?
Gore isn’t scary for me. It can be ‘horrifying’, and if that’s what you’re shooting for, that’s great. But I like to creep and scare and you don’t need gore for that.
What’s the best horror film you’ve seen recently?
Perry Blackshear’s They Look Like People. There are many great horror films but that one is totally underrated and Blackshear needs to be given the chance to do something on a bigger budget very soon! There are some great horror films around at the moment but anything directed by James Wan is a good bet. Also, people tend to forget or ignore older horror films – some of which are still just as frightening today – Ringu, The Omen, The Amityville Horror and The Entity are some that spring to mind.
What drives you as a filmmaker?
My passion drives me – I feel that I have little control over the passion I have for horror so I just let it take over! I am a horror fan and want to see more scary films with strong, character driven stories. I love film and have so much respect for horror so want to help make the best projects possible.
What’s next for Oliver Park?
I am hoping to continue in developing my feature-length ideas with some great writers. I am in talks with several production companies about the feature-length script for Vicious as well as various other scripts I have and that I am working on. I would love to continue making short films but I might dip off the radar for a little while in order to focus on the feature-length films but fear not, I am working on some terrifying ideas and won’t stop until they’re made right… Perhaps ‘fear not’ was not the right phrase to use after all!