Q&A: Tom Holland talks “TWISTED TALES”
From TALES FROM THE CRYPT to MASTERS OF HORROR, there are few filmmakers who can deliver an anthology story as effectively as writer/director Tom Holland. From FRIGHT NIGHT to CHILD’S PLAY, Holland is a versatile voice within the horror genre, bringing his trademark dark sense of humor and his penchant for practical effects to his many directorial efforts. And with his latest project, FEARNET anthology web series TWISTED TALES (on DVD now from Image Entertainment) Holland works outside of the constraints of time limits and content restriction to bring his clever and chilling work to a new generation of horror fans. Holland spoke to FANGORIA about his latest TWISTED TALES and updates on his long-brooding adaptation of Stephen King’s THE TEN O’CLOCK PEOPLE…
FANGORIA: To this writer, one TWISTED TALES that stood out was PIZZA GUY, which is also the longest story of them all. Was there more consideration applied to that particular segment as opposed to the rest of the series?
TOM HOLLAND: Well, I had a question in my own mind with the paintings from John Blake in [PIZZA GUY], which divided the tale into chapters, and I’ve wondered since if I should have done that or if I should have let it play straight through. It played like dynamite just as an entire piece without any interruptions because it started to feel as if I was doing a one act play. It was all in the same location, that one apartment, and then I became concerned that it had little production value, so I thought it would look richer to put in the John Blake paintings.
I’ve always thought PIZZA GUY was the funniest of the stories because they don’t believe the Pizza Guy for the longest time, and when the audience watches it, they don’t even know if the Pizza Guy is the devil or not! I thought it was hysterically funny and I thought that by breaking it up, I may have muted that intention. I keep going back and forth in my head on it, even now, as if I had done the right thing, but anyways, I think PIZZA GUY is just great.
The other thing I went back and forth about on that project was the ending. When I originally wrote it, I never told the audience whether or not he was the devil, and that just drove people crazy not knowing one way or the other. So I decided it was better that I told them. I also thought Marc Senter was just terrific as the Pizza Guy, and he’s worked before with Darren Bousman, too. I love that segment, and I loved the actors; those kids were great. I’m glad you liked it, and it’s funny! I thought it was hysterically funny.
FANG: PIZZA GUY plays with elements of predictability very well and I thought with the Pizza Guy never denying that he was the devil and always sidestepping the answers was comedic genius. That story felt true to your aesthetics, which was refreshing.
HOLLAND: Thank you. You know, my one creative hesitation was that I could have let that play, added sixty minutes to it and had a movie, but if I had made it a 90 minute low budget movie, I would have had to figure out how to add production value to it, since it’s all within one location.
FANG: In TWISTED TALES’ case, I appreciated was how diverse the content was, and how rarely segments felt repetitive in terms of story or style. Was there any segment that you stylistically looked forward to experimenting with the most?
HOLLAND: What drew me to TWISTED TALES as a project was the chance to do exactly what you’re talking about. I was able to experiment by doing a lot of different kinds of horror shows, because it goes from psychological suspense, like BOOM with Noah Hathaway where there’s nothing supernatural at all, to magical realism, like MONGO’S MAGIC MIRROR with Ray Wise. It was fun to have the opportunity to do different kinds of horror and suspense, so I just did everything. I have to thank Peter Block from FEARNET who let me do that on TWISTED TALES.
FANG: TWISTED TALES seems to be influenced in a big way by THE TWILIGHT ZONE with its recurring message of ‘be careful what you wish for’ and its bait-and-switch narrative structure. What specifically influenced the stories in TWISTED TALES?
HOLLAND: I was trying to do a mix between THE TWILIGHT ZONE and TALES FROM THE CRYPT. I’ve done three TALES FROM THE CRYPT, including the third one ever made. So I knew how to do that storytelling, since I had been there at the creation of the series. I wanted to do something that mixed that aesthetic with something that echoed back to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which influenced the hell out of me. But I also wanted to bring both of those influences into the modern era, and because of whatever it is that’s inside of me, I found those stories rather humorous.
FANG: You worked with a lot of your previous collaborators on TWISTED TALES, like AJ Bowen, Danielle Harris and William Forsythe. Was there anyone that you wanted for the series that you were unfortunately unable to cast?
HOLLAND: Oh boy, yeah. Chris Sarandon! He wasn’t in town and I couldn’t afford to fly him out to the set. But on the other hand, I got to work with some new people who were absolutely brilliant, like Angela Bettis, James Duval and Amber Benson in SHOCKWAVE. So I had the chance to work with people I really, really admired but had never worked with before. But as you said, I also got to work with Bill Forsythe, who is a dear friend of mine. The same thing goes with Danielle Harris. People don’t realize how good Danielle is because she does so much genre work; she’s a terrific actress.
FANG: With the unique structure of these shorts, TWISTED TALES allows genre-friendly actors to work outside of their comfort zone and do genre work that isn’t necessarily bound to conventional expectations. When developing the series, were you more focused on conveying the horror elements or the humor elements of each story?
HOLLAND: The stories were actually acting-oriented because we didn’t have the money for big production value and big sci-fi effects. Therefore, we had to focus the stories on the people in front of the camera, and I was able to get terrific actors because the parts were so good. That makes sense, right?
All of the sudden, actors had the chance to stretch their wings within the horror genre because the parts were demanding. I was very, very lucky. You’re going to like some stories better than others and there’s always going to be a difference of opinion on some of them because some appeal to certain people, but if you look at the nine segments altogether, what comes across is the high level of all of the acting. That’s a testament to how the talent field is and how deep the talent is among the actors.
FANG: I know your next production will be an adaptation of Stephen King’s THE TEN O’CLOCK PEOPLE and that will, in fact, reunite you with Chris Sarandon. Where is that project in its stages currently?
HOLLAND: We’re going into pre-production and so far, we’ve booked Jay Baruchel for the lead in the film, and we start production on June 15th in Montreal. I’m really excited about that.