Ron Oliver [Interview]

 

Welcome to Day 17 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

 

Hello Folks! We are keeping things rolling with another amazing interview for our Month of Horror. We are beginning to break out the big guns for dear readers! Not that we haven’t had some heavy hitters in the previous 16 days, but I am simply promising that it is going to get even wilder from here on out! Today we have a guest who not only has the perfect first name, but is a damn fine filmmaker and writer not only in the world of horror film and television, but just an overall wonderful talent in the art of filmmaking and writing. It’s Ron Oliver, Everyone!

In the world of horror, Ron has worked within the tremendously popular, for good reason, Prom Night franchise, which we will discuss below. Oliver has also managed to be a man who has been involved with projects that have affected me personally throughout my entire life, strangely enough. He worked on a series we have brought up on here before entitled Are You Afraid of the Dark? (see last year’s Month of Horror with Gerald Wexler!) as well as the television adaptation of the Goosebumps series. But, behind the world of horror, he has also done some of the best Christmas themed TV movies you can find (which has a weird connection I’ve noticed to ALOT of folks from the horror world. I might have to look into that one day), as well as directing episodes of classic shows like The Secret World of Alex Mack, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and more recently the absolutely hilarious Grand-Daddy Day Care starring Danny Trejo and the legendary Garrett Morris. He’s an insanely talented workhorse of a man who has put out so many amazing works of art that should all be appreciated individually. I’d implore you all to check them out, but the odds are that you already have.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the absolutely brilliant filmmaker, Ron Oliver!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of filmmaking? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day? 

When I was a kid, my parents gave me a Christmas gift of a flip card projector, this sort of movie viewer which was designed for I guess 5 year olds to watch the original Frankenstein and Dracula – back then, horror was for kids. The images were single stills but when you turned the handle they would animate much in the way of a motion picture film, frame by frame. I was obsessed with it, and the idea of making moving pictures, especially monster movies because i loved horror so much as a child. I decided then and there that one day I would make movies. 

What was your first paid gig in the world of filmmaking? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today? 

I wrote a spec screenplay called Camp Out, basically an anthology horror film with a wrap around story about some college aged kids who go on a road trip and encounter a creepy guy whom, they think, is a threat. There’s a significant twist ending which attracted the attention of some producers in Toronto, Canada, where I lived – one of them liked it enough to hire me as a full time writer, developing genre projects to produce. We never made Camp Out but i used the techniques of that script when i wrote The Haunting of Hamilton High, my first produced screenplay, which eventually was retitled as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2. If i learned anything from either of those projects it was this – be true to your original idea and follow it through. There are plenty of roadblocks on the way to the fulfillment of any creative notion, and you have to stick to your guns and believe in the idea, or … why bother doing it at all? 

You began early in your career penning the second and third, directing the latter, installments of the Prom Night franchise, which were incredible by the way. So what was it like to jump into the world of Prom Night that early in your career? 

Prom Night was an interesting phenomenon – it’s not a particularly original film, and there are a lot of reshoots that went on (I found out later) to cash in on Jamie Lee Curtis’s fame at the time, so I think it was really not much more than a solid concept – slasher at the prom – which enjoyed the benefit of a terrific star, great promotion and excellent timing. 

When I wrote The Haunting of Hamilton High, we weren’t thinking of Prom Night at all, other than having a Prom as the final denouement in the script. Ultimately, the Samuel Goldywn Company, who bought the movie, decided to cash in on the box office of the original Prom Night – which was a very smart decision obviously – and call it PN2. 

Look, I loved horror movies, and to be able to become part of an established company – with a movie produced by Ray (The Wizard of Gore) Sager for heaven’s sake! – was a dream come true for a kid from rural Ontario, Canada with absolutely no connections to the film industry at all. And then to have my first movie be released theatrically internationally and to become, after all these years, an actual cult film is still a bit mindblowing, frankly. 

My entire life changed because Peter Simpson – the executive producer of the film – decided to take a chance on me, solely because he liked my writing. If he hadn’t given me that break, I don’t know what I’d be doing now. 

So I’m indebted to a lot of people who believed in me over the years, and I try to pay that back by encouraging and mentoring younger filmmakers. 

 

 

Throughout the 90’s you worked on a series that I absolutely adored as I was the target audience at the time. And that series was the wonderful Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark? Our friend and past guest Gerald Wexler also worked the show. So, I am curious to know how you enjoyed working on a horror series meant for younger kids. Where there any similarities to your previous work in adult-oriented horror? 

I loved every second of making that series. DJ McHale, the creator/producer of the show, saw my Prom Night 3: The Last Kiss on video and thought I had the right sensibility for what he had in mind. 

As a kid, I loved The Avengers (the English TV series, starring Patrick McNee – who coincidentally used to own the house my in-laws live in) and Robert Fuest’s Dr. Phibes movies and of course John Waters. To be able to meld all of those styles with my own, and then to have the kind of creative freedom to write and direct 2 episodes like “The Tale of the Full Moon” or “The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner”, both of which are stories that – on the surface – seem like simple kid monster shows but are, I believe, actually about much deeper issues, was yet another dream come true. 

Horror is always at its best when it is an allegory, and when I was a kid I remember the deeper themes at work in the monster movies I loved – so I tried to bring those things to the work, and tell stories which had a little something to say, as well as hopefully scare the pants off the audience. 

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in? 

As I said above, horror works best as allegory. A movie like Train to Busan, which is in my humble opinion one of the best and most important genre films of the past decade, or Attack the Block, as significant a piece of socio-racial commentary as we’ve seen since the 60’s, can deliver their messages subtextually in a way that mere polemics rarely do. I’m proud to be a genre filmmaker, and would make more genre films if the industry would allow! 

What is your favorite scary movie? 

Evil Dead II. No question. 

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year? 

I’ll be working, as usual, making a mystery movie set in an alternate reality of 1960’s bossa nova and romance. I used to dress up as “Morty The Clown Of Death” at my sister’s house in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles and scare the crap out of kids by giving them candy and telling them “You’re going to see me twice in your life. Once tonight…and once at the end….” We used to get huge 3 lines down the block, with parents bringing their kids to be terrorized into good behavior…. Sadly, she sold the house and I’ve been making movies pretty much nonstop for the past five years so….Morty Is on hiatus. For now….. 

 

 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers? 

Right now I’m directing a movie I wrote for The Hallmark Channel (the anti-thesis of your audience I suspect) called Christmas At The Plaza which I developed because I love The Plaza hotel in New York – it’s where my husband and I fell in love – and I wanted to honor it with a holiday film. It’ll be broadcast on Thanksgiving weekend. After that, I’m doing two mystery movies back to back – the Picture Perfect Mystery franchise – and then we jump into Big Fat Liar 3. 

Genre wise – we have been talking at my studio, Universal, about a reimagining of Ghost Story….we have a treatment and we’ll see what the next step brings us…. 

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you? 

The election of Donald Trump. I met the man years ago and was astounded by his ignorance. I am not delighted to see he has lived down to my expectations. 

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

My husband found a praying mantis floating on top of the pool; he rescued the insect, and now Mr Mantis lives on a bamboo tree in our living room, happily ever after. I haven’t stopped smiling about this. 

 

 

 

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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