Interview: Director Cary Hill Talks About His New Horror Film, Scream Park!

Scream Park is a retro style 80s horror film about an amusement park closing for the last time. The owner, played by Doug Bradley (HellraiserHellbound: Hellraiser II), devises a scheme to have a pair of killers commit gruesome murders in the park as a publicity stunt to sell tickets. The victims are a group of employees partying after hours, looking to send off the park in their own way.

I was recently made aware of the film via Twitter.  I had noticed that @screamparkmovie had followed me and I clicked on their profile to learn more about the film.  I visited their official site over at screamparkmovie.com and started reading up on it only to discover that it actually sounded like something I’d be really interested in seeing.  Cary Hill, the writer/producer/director of Scream Park, was setting out to create his first feature film in the vein of 80s style slasher films.  This sparked my interest due to my love of 80s horror and, on top of that, the film’s setting was going to be in an amusement park, a location that I feel is seriously underused in the genre.  It certainly also didn’t hurt to learn that Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley, was to appear in the film as well as Kevin “Ogre” Ogilvie (Repo: The Genetic Opera and the upcoming Devil’s Carnival).

Needless to say, I was intrigued and I contacted Mr. Hill to learn some more info about the film and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, which you can read below.  One thing I’d like to mention as well is that Cary Hill has a Kickstarter drive going to help generate a little extra money for the post-production of the film, so be sure to check it out here and help the movie out (any $5 donation or higher will enter you into a drawing for a chance to win an iPad)!  Be sure to check out their Twitter and Facebook for more updates on the film.  Okay, on with the interview!

Monster Popcorn:  Scream Park is an homage to 80s slasher films, are there any specific movies that you would deem influential to your film?

Cary Hill:  Chopping Mall comes to mind.  No, our film isn’t about robots, but it captures that same sort of cheesy 80s sentiment.  Right about where the whole slasher thing started to go overboard in the late 1980s.  Titles were usually parodies or plays on words.  The situations in which young teens were getting trapped with some unstoppable killer were getting more and more elaborate.   By then, the typical slasher characters were defined: the jock, the slut, the nerd, etc.  All of these things you’ll find in Scream Park.

MP:  With your intention of creating your own 80s-style slasher film, how do you plan on injecting the 80s era into your film?

CH:  It will certainly feel like the 80s.  More importantly, the fans of 80s slashers will certainly pick up on the nuances.  I had considered just setting the film in the 80s, but I really wanted to tackle the whole “cell phone issue” you find in horror films.  It felt like a cop out to just say “oh, well I’ll just set it in the 1980s so there aren’t any.”  So it’s set today — and the cell phone issue is dealt with quickly.  We also use props and a lot of visual cues to give that retro feel.  The biggest part is the park itself.  It’s very old and almost in disrepair — but it has so much nostalgic charm!

MP:  Being a big horror/sci-fi movie buff yourself, what are some of your favorite genre films?  Are there any directors you would view as being influential to you?

CH:  This is a question I get a lot.  I grew up on a steady diet of horror films, classic sci-fi, and The Twilight Zone.  I had recorded Aliens off TV when I was nine and re-watched it until the VCR finally ate the tape.  Thanks to having older brothers, I had a lot of exposure to stuff that a kid normally doesn’t get to see.  John Carpenter was the first director I really latched on to, and I needed to see all of his movies.  I remember seeing They Live on Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision and was just floored.  I couldn’t believe this movie existed.  The Thing was also a game changer for me.

This has become cliche around film circles, but Stanley Kubrick remains the biggest influence on me in terms of filmmaking and film watching.  Even more than just the films he made was how he did it.  He up and left Hollywood, moved overseas out of their oversight, and continued to make his movies his way. The situation is quite enviable.   On top of that, I think his films have influenced entire generations and he remains one of the most copied filmmakers to date.   In mentioning him, of course, brings us around to The Shining…also influential.

MP:  You seem to have found a pretty cool location with Conneaut Lake Park, you don’t see too many slasher films take place in amusement parks, yet it seems like a perfect location for a horror film.  What made you choose that setting?

CH:  This is true.  And I’ve done my homework!  The idea came about at a Great America Amusement Park in Santa Clara, California.  I was there for their Halloween make over with a friend and my fiance.  My friend and I remarked that a park, at night, would make a great setting for a scary movie.  I immediately thought “it’s been done.”  After a thorough search, I couldn’t find a single slasher film that took place in an amusement park.  Then the title came to mind.  It was cheesy but it was a dead ringer for an 80s slasher title.  From there I broke down a storyline and wrote out the script.  I brought the script from California back home to Pennsylvania to make the film; the catch was, I needed an actual park.  In the Pittsburgh area, you basically have two parks: Conneaut Lake and Kennywood.  Kennywood had just come off Adventureland and was game, but had a high cost.  Conneaut had just worked with Hollywood on The Road, but unfortunately had something of a bad taste left in their mouth.  I hounded them, we reached an agreement, and they’ve been wonderful in helping us out.  They keep offering to paint this, repair that, and I keep saying “No! It’s perfect!” They’ve had some bad luck with arsonists and vandalism in the past several years, but it’s given the park the perfect character for a horror film.  It’s also located on a lake shore and is a bit out of the way, so there’s a very isolated feel to it.

MP:  You have Doug Bradley and Ogre in your cast.  How did their involvement come about?  How does it feel to have the actor who iconically played Pinhead be a part of your (first) feature film?

CH:  Doug was easy.  I solved the box and he came.  Actually, Doug and I met last year at Texas Frightmare Convention in Dallas, Texas.  He was interested and later came on board a few months later.  The owner of the park was written specifically to fill with an iconic actor.  I felt if we could get a name, people would pay attention to us.  Doug Bradley was the first choice going into it, and luckily was willing to take a chance on us.  He was a blast on set, while remaining professional, and he nailed the role.  I hope I get to work with him again.

Ogre came on board in an even less-glorious way.  It was literally the power of social media.  Our makeup F/X artist Arvin Clay is friends with him on Facebook.  After a brief chat he offered to read the script.  Five days later I got an email from his agent.  He liked the idea.  He loves the genre — particularly 80s slasher — and really wants to get into the role.

MP:  Being an independent production, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced so far in getting the film greenlit?

CH:  I pretty much quit everything I was doing at the time to make this.  It’s been a full time job for a year and full of hurdles, but never once did I consider quitting.  The hardest thing is the uncertainty.  For awhile we had no park to shoot in.  Without that, there’s no movie.  Money is always the other big hurdle.  I knew I could make this in Pennsylvania because it’s film friendly and low cost of living.  Whatever we couldn’t pay for, we negotiated, begged, and basically did whatever it took.  As each piece falls into place, it just moves me forward to the next one.

MP:  What equipment will you be using to shoot the film?  I’m assuming you are shooting digitally, correct?

CH:  Correct.  We felt DSLRs give us the best bang for our buck.  We can shoot 1080p HD footage that’s projectable on the big screen and use various lenses to get the best look.  The technology has come so far we can use these little cameras to basically go anywhere (and we do).  The camera in particular we’re going to use several of is the Panasonic GH2.

MP:  You have a kickstarter going to help you with some of the post-production costs.  You state that some of that money will go towards making the film sound as good as possible which includes a composer, with a full orchestra, working on the score for the movie.  How important to you was it to have a fully orchestrated score for the film?

CH:  I think it’s a huge bonus, particularly on a low budget film.  I was very fortunate to meet Christian Kriegskotte, who had worked as an understudy for Hans Zimmer’s group in LA.  He writes music and operas, and will be composing our soundtrack.  Music plays such a critical role in horror films, whether to scare you or just set the tone.  He and I have had long discussions just about the opening score ofReturn of the Living Dead and how it just nails the tone of the film.  I think the score could have been ultimately synthesized as it works for films, but having a full orchestrated sound really adds to our credibility and quality.  Both of these are important when you’re making a low budget film.

MP:  Once you have the film in the can, do you have any plans/goals yet for release/distribution of the film?

CH:  I’ve talked briefly with two potential distributors for DVD and home video.  The premiere of the film will be held at Conneaut Lake Park during their “Ghost Lake” promotion in the fall.  Afterwards, we’ll bring the film home to Pittsburgh for it’s city premiere.  I’d like to make the film as widely available as possible, taking it to DVD, iTunes, and On Demand markets.  It will also likely be submitted to various horror film festivals in 2013.

MP:  Production is scheduled to start on Friday, April 13th.  Friday the 13th has long been part of some source of superstition, any worries about starting then or are you proud of the fact you get to start production of a horror film on such a day?

CH:  Definitely proud.  It’s serendipitous.  I was working with my Director of Photography Nathan Fullerton on pre-production scheduling and we needed to decide on a start date for shooting.  I picked the 13th of April, which bought us enough time to complete preproduction.  He looked at the calendar and said “Uh, that’s Friday the thirteenth.”  I immediately said “Done.  We’re using it!” It’s become a great promotional bit.

I’d like to thank Cary Hill for taking the time to answer my questions.  He certainly had some good answers and I love finding out that Chopping Mall is an influence on Scream Park, minus the killer robots of course.  I’ll be sure to try and keep an eye out for progress on the production and hopefully have some more stuff to share with everyone as the filming of the movie completes.  Until then, here’s the conceptual trailer they put together.

by Ben McBride

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5 Comments on “Interview: Director Cary Hill Talks About His New Horror Film, Scream Park!”

  1. NICK April 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    It’s just OK. Don’t make it too huge a priority! lol

  2. Ben McBride April 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Yea im looking forward to seeing Scream Park as well. I’ve actually never seen The Funhouse. I’m going to have to correct that.

  3. NICK April 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    This sounds really cool, and I look forward to seeing it! The only thing that slightly reminds me of it is The Funhouse by Tobe Hooper – http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Funhouse/529456?trkid=2361637.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. New Scream Park Trailer! | Monster Popcorn - June 13, 2012

    […] with the director, Cary Hill, before they began production on the film, which you can read here.  They’ve now finished principle photography, have a completed score/title theme and are now […]

  2. Director Cary Hill Talks About Scream Park at Monster Popcorn | Indie Horror Movie - April 11, 2012

    […] by Scream Park in Interviews, NewsDirector Cary Hill Talks About Scream Park at Monster PopcornRead the latest Scream Park interview, featuring Monster Popcorn and Director Cary Hill at Monster […]

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