With Tom Holland’s latest series now available on FEARnet and VOD entitled “Twisted Tales” and his group of short stories exclusively for the Kindle, “Untold Tales”, Holland is entering into a new creative stage in his long and varied career as an actor, writer, director, and producer.
The legendary creator of Fright Night, Child’s Play, Cloak & Dagger, and Psycho II (just to name a few), Holland recently reached out to Dread Central to discuss his thoughts on the new incarnation of Fright Night 2: New Blood (review) from director Eduardo Rodriguez, the new FEARnet series, and his upcoming projects including his desire to remake his 1982 screenplay The Beast Within. There’s also a great update about adapting Stephen King’s “The Ten O’Clock People” showing how both writers are working together to make the story fit more into the modern world.
Dread Central: So, you saw the newest reboot of Fright Night 2 and liked what Eduardo did with the film, correct?
Tom Holland: How do you put it? Surprisingly, I liked it very much. Yes, I did.
DC: When I spoke with [Rodriguez], he said he was limited in what actors were available, but I thought the new Charley – an actor named Will Payne – did a nice job even if there will never be anyone close to Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent.
TH: You know I’m prejudiced; we’re all prejudiced that way. I thought it was very solidly cast. They’re mainly Brit actors doing American accents, right?
DC: There’s only one actor, I believe, that was American; the rest are European.
TH: It’s all terribly competent as far as the acting’s concerned. It was very well-made. This guy [Yaron] Levy did a good job with the cinematography. The shots are pretty much all steadicam but they’re really nice. It’s well cut and, surprisingly, it has good production values. It looked like Romania has a lot of production values in its locations that I hadn’t expected. For a limited budget, they did a terrific job as far as the production design was concerned.
DC: It was nice how, with Gerri Dandridge, there was a tie-in with Countess Bathory which I thought was interesting.
TH: Yes, all that’s good. Girl on girl is very good.
DC: Girl on girl is very good. It’s timeless.
TH: Always good! (laughs) They tried it with the sequel way back when, I guess it was ‘87 or ‘86, Herb Jaffe did a sequel. They did the same thing and made Jerry Dandridge into a girl with that.
DC: I enjoy Jon Gries in that film as well. I liked Fright Night 2 – the original. With the new series “Twisted Tales”, you’ve allowed all nine episodes to be available immediately. It’s the new way everyone’s watching shows by binge-viewing …
TH: Isn’t that interesting? Yes, when I started out, Peter Block wanted to put one out a week but, now, because of Netflix, I guess, binging is the new norm.
DC: Do you think this kind of format is changing the way we remember television? I think that part of the reason why a classic series like “The Twilight Zone” is still relevant is because it was a part of our lives for years. You were even a soap star once and those shows are still popular because people live with those characters for a long period of time. Do you think binge-viewing is too disposable or do you enjoy the freedom of doing the episode run without fear of cancellation?
TH: I think it’s great. To go back to Fright Night 2, it was a nice nod to the original. It was a nice updating, you know? It was made by people who obviously loved the genre; it had a nice spirit to it. Now, moving to “Twisted Tales”, everything you said is true. Yes, television, certainly viewing, is changing. Everybody wants to either binge or watch it when they want to watch it or on what device they want to watch it. I do think that’s terrific for the filmmaker or the content creator, I guess, as they’re calling us now. They do have to order more. They’re more disposed to order an entire season’s worth because that’s the way they get traction. So, yes, that does make the filmmaker slightly more secure. What “Twisted Tales” is, is a sort of mix of “Tales From the Crypt” and “Twilight Zone”. I did three of the “Tales From the Crypt”, so I was intimately involved. I’m also the host of the show so I’m the new Crypt Keeper and hopefully I’m better looking. I may not be as much fun but I’ll look more human, anyway.
DC: I’m glad that you’ll be appearing on screen. Is their any desire to act a bit more after things like Hatchet II? It must have been something to go from acting with Anthony Quinn and Ingrid Bergman to Victor Crowley.
TH: (laughs) Yeah, but it took me thirty years to do it! It’s a lot of fun to act. What’s really nice about it is you can sit and enjoy it; directing, it’s every moment. There’s no chance to relax. If you’re an actor, there’s a chance to hang out with the other actors. There’s a sense of community that happens among a group of players whereas, if you’re a director, all you’re doing is just trying to get through the day and get the work done.
DC: And is that where you got connected with Danielle Harris? She’s appearing in “Twisted Tales”, correct?
TH: Yes, Danielle Harris and William Forsythe. Danielle and I met doing Hatchet II but William Forsythe starred for me in the “Masters of Horror” that I did.
DC: Of course, “We All Scream For Ice Cream”, sure.
TH: Right. And the two of them turned out to be friends and had always wanted to work together. They had met each other at various conventions. It was a perfect situation because I was able to get two players of that caliber in a very bare-bones production situation. Danielle also came in and helped me produce one of the “Twisted Tales”. It’s called “The Vampire’s Dance”. We started that as a music video. I wanted to do a dance club that was really a lair of vampires because I thought it was hysterically funny – the concept of dancing vampires. The value of “Twisted Tales” is that I have so many terrific actors and a lot of them are genre favorites. I can’t name all of them because I forget: I’ve got Noah Hathaway, A.J. Bowen, Sarah Butler, Ray Wise, Angela Bettis. It goes on and on and on. It’s worth looking at for the acting. They represent a cross-section of the horror genre today.
DC: The community really sticks together and it’s great when they can all appear in something, so I’m glad you’ve provided that outlet.
TH: That’s right, and that made it a lot of fun. It was like a party every time.
DC: I was hoping to talk about you career for a second. It seems like there’s a very clear through-line from one film into the next with your writing. The Beast Within had some common themes with Psycho II – the character, Michael, is kind of sympathetic like Norman – Cloak & Dagger and Fright Night both have kids that no one believes …
TH: Yes, that’s one of my favorite situations. They used it again, of course, in Fright Night 2. I love that situation.
DC: Did you feel like one script led into the next during that time? And, I guess, Child’s Play evolved from those films. Did the scripts for “Twisted Tales” evolve in a similar way?
TH: You’re right about the continuum of the movies and that period. It started with “The Initiation of Sarah”, which I think is, like, ‘78, all the way through Child’s Play. That was like a ten-year period where I was very productive, well, ten to twelve years. Then I went and did the Stephen King pieces. I think that “Twisted Tales” took me off in a new direction. It’s very difficult to get an anthology series done in Hollywood and the reason for that is that you don’t have any continuing characters that the audience can identify with. I was very lucky with Peter Block and FEARnet who gave me the go ahead to do an anthology because I really wanted to do something like “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Twilight Zone”, which of course, I saw when I was a kid and were tremendously influential on me. Every story is different. It’s a wide selection that will appeal to the kid in you to those that really have something on their mind. I think that it gives a chance for so many of the actors in the horror community to really stretch. I’m thrilled with the level of work that you’ll see in “Twisted Tales”. Does that answer your question?
DC: Absolutely, absolutely.
TH: I did three of the “Tales From the Crypt”. I did the third one ever done with Amanda Plummer. I did one that I thought was excellent, too, with Patricia Arquette, the one with the scarecrow [“Four-Sided Triangle”] that I thought was just terrific. The “Tales From the Crypt” shows, quite often, gave a chance to see some really good performances from the actors. That’s what I’d like to think that I carved at from the writing in “Twisted Tales”, the same kind of opportunity for the players to really show off and sparkle. I’m loathe to name one for fear of leaving everybody out, but A.J. Bowen’s terrific and William Forsythe is fucking great, man! He is terrific. I’ve got Mark Scenter playing a pizza delivery guy who claims that he’s really the devil and he wants a bigger tip. (laughs)
DC: I’m glad to see that you’re so excited about it. And you even did an “Amazing Stories” episode I remember. I loved that series.
TH: I did the one with [Jon] Cryer! Yeah, so did I. That’s where I met Richard Matheson and I was like a star-struck fan. Richard Matheson, Sr. was one of the story editors and he was like a giant to me. I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way and I’ve really been lucky to work with really terrific actors.
DC: Do you approach writing and directing any differently than you did earlier in your career with Child’s Play and Fright Night? We don’t have enough elder statesman like you in the genre and your voice is an important one and I’m so glad that you’re as busy as you are.
TH: Thank you. I don’t want to sound like I’m getting pretentious or pontificating but I think I’m beginning to suspect that what’s happened is the years or the age has given me a perspective where I really have more to say. I feel more interested or engaged now than I have for years. Hollywood treats horror like the ugly stepchild but what makes it so mythic is that it’s a metaphor for whatever you want. You can use it subtly, I hope, to comment on what’s going on around you and the popular culture and the gestalt that’s in society at that moment in time, as long as you’re not too heavy-handed. I think that horror is the most vital of all the Hollywood genres because it’s low budget so there’s more creative freedom because there’s less at risk. It can change with whatever’s going on in the popular culture – and the popular culture probably cycles in and out every two to three years. I think the horror genre is the most creative genre that’s possible in film right now and I think has been for a long time.
DC: You can get your message across without being pretentious.
TH: Horror reflects whatever the turmoil or whatever the concerns are of popular culture at that moment better than any other genre, I think. I think it’s a very creative time in horror.
DC: Did you ever think that there would be a Tom Holland Day? You were touching on that you felt like you were in a new productive period in your career and it’s great that they’re celebrating you.
TH: I’m thrilled. At first, I was sort of horrified. This started happening maybe six, seven years ago … all of a sudden they started calling me ‘iconic’ and it scared the living hell out of me. I thought, ‘My god, well, bronze me or put me up on the mantle.’ It’s not what someone wants to hear.
DC: People start asking you about your legacy.
TH: (laughs) You feel like you’re shoveling dirt into your grave. I don’t know quite how it happened but I got emotionally engaged again and I think it’s because I got to know so many of the younger people. I got back in with the whole crowd of younger horror filmmakers and I think that I started to feed off of their vitality. Somehow, it’s mixed up with the transition to digital because it crushed the cost of production so it allowed you to be more daring without having the same financial risk. It got to be easier to do interesting work.
DC: These smaller films have to make a bigger splash so they have to me more extreme, more outlandish, and more creative in order to get out of that white noise and get some attention.
TH: Well, I like more creative; I don’t particularly like more extreme. You’ve got to do more than gross out people. You have to make the audience care about the characters involved. So, Drew, this is what makes Fright Night live – the original. There’s heart to it, there’s heart and there’s charm and it’s funny. But you really like the people. You like Charley, you really like Evil Ed, you worry about Amy – and that’s heart. I’m writing about myself as a fan when I was a kid and everyone of us has been a fan. We’re all fans at heart or where at some point in our lives and that makes that film keep on and keep speaking to every generation.
DC: They have to be characters, not just victims. I was hoping with all your upcoming projects, if we could just go down the line. I’m just curious to know what your schedule’s going to look like coming up.
TH: I’ve been writing short stories for the Kindle – they’re called Kindle singles – and you can find them under “Tom Holland’s Untold Tales”. They’re the episodes I wrote that I didn’t have a chance to shoot. I hope at some point, I’ll be able to make those, too. So, that’s one. Two … I guess I can’t announce anything … I guess I can say I’m working on things, can’t I?
DC: Yes, you can say you’re working on things, of course. You can say whatever you want, you’re Tom Holland.
TH: I’m trying very hard to mount a remake of The Beast Within. And that’s not an announcement that I’m doing it, I’m just trying. I’ve re-written the script. Two, I’m involved in a Stephen King piece which is a short story of his called “Ten O’Clock People”.
TH: And I’m very excited about that and I’ve been working with Stephen on that, actually. But that doesn’t say they get done; that’s the caveat on it.
DC: Can I ask one thing about “The Ten O’Clock People”? Can you say if you guys are connecting it to the larger King universe?
TH: I think that you might have a good chance. I also think that it might also be a comment on the growing surveillance state. I don’t belong to any political party; I belong to the paranoid party.
DC: Well, you’ve got another member in that party too, now.
Tom Holland’s “Twisted Tales,” is exclusively available on FEARnet.com and VOD right now. The new series is available for “binge viewing” and boasts guest appearances from genre favorites such as William Forsythe, Danielle Harris, Angela Bettis, and many, many more. Holland writes and directs the series – a variety of stories that take viewers into the dark world of vampires, witchcraft, demon possession and scorned lovers, to name a few.
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