Shock Till You Drop: How did Gallows Hill come about?
Richard D’Ovidio: Well, I’d always wanted to do a contained thriller and I love foreign films, foreign horror films from the Japanese horror to a lot of the South American horror and the French. I love High Tension. I just wanted to do something in another country because I’m very unfamiliar with the settings when I’m watching a foreign film and you’re watching actors that are not really recognizable. And I just loved that it keeps you on the edge of your seat. David Higgins, who produced Hard Candy, and I wanted to do something in a foreign country so that the language barrier would play a part in the movie. And it just kind of evolved from there. It was just an interesting way to start out, you know? But, I think the genesis came from wanting to do a contained horror and how do you do that in another country and how do you make it something different other than like, a ghost story?
Shock: In your own words, what’s the story?
D’Ovidio: Okay, it’s about a couple traveling through Bogota trying to pick up their daughter who’s down there researching her late mother’s past. And, her father, [played by] Peter Facinelli comes down with his new fiancé, who’s Sophia Myles. They are picking up Nathalia, bringing her back to the U.S. So, they’re traveling through the country to get back there and they get caught in a storm and they wind up at this inn and it’s all boarded up and they need to get shelter, so they break in and there’s this old innkeeper there. And while they’re inside and they force him to let them in, they hear this little girl crying in the basement. They go down there thinking he’s a psychopath and a pedophile, and they end up letting this little girl out of captivity and they soon realize that she’s not a little girl. It just gets creepier from there. She’s been captive for a reason. It plays on the mythology of the past and it’s just interesting. But, it’s like a 70’s thriller. We tried to keep it very realistic like The Thing or Invasion of the Body Snatchers where you’re kind of always looking at the people around you and paranoid and not knowing who is who and that type of stuff.
Shock: What were your thoughts on the cast when it all came together?
D’Ovidio: Peter Facinelli is fantastic and he was such a trooper. When I found out he was going to be in it, I knew immediately the exposure that we would get. He’s a great actor. I’ve seen him in a lot of stuff and I just thought he was perfect for the role. He’s really been the captain of the ship. He’s been great. And Sophia Myles, she’s been terrific. We needed a really good actress in that role of the new fiancé because it’s such a 180 from the beginning of the movie to the end of the movie, and she’s such a respectable actress that I knew she could pull it off. We had a great Columbian crew and a great cast of Columbian actors too that are really big down there, but I think they’ll get some nice exposure here now.
Shock: There's a push to tell more horror films on a "contained" level. Contained stories but with big scares, would you say this fits in with that?
D’Ovidio: Yes. You know, it doesn’t feel small. The way Victor shot it, it has a bigger scope to it and it doesn’t feel micro. I watch a lot of micro budget horror films, and I love them. But, this kind of feels a little bit bigger than the micro budget, even though it has a small budget. But it’s in one location, so and it’s in a couple locations, but the main location is this house we found, and it’s a beautiful house and it just feels like it fits perfectly with the script.
Shock: I find it interesting because another contained horror film you penned was Thirteen Ghosts, but that was produced at a time when studios were throwing money at the genre. Things have changed and now everything is micro budget.
D’Ovidio: Well, you know, it’s funny because Thirteen Ghosts, you’re right. With the Dark Castle format, they had a lot of money. They built the whole thing on a soundstage and they spared no expense. It was really interesting. And working with Joel Silver was...I loved it. The guy was very, very loyal to me and he was extremely nice to me and we just got along great. I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot on that movie, you know, which I really appreciate learning a lot about the process of filmmaking and how the script changes from writing it to actually shooting it and all the way through post, I think. Joel was very generous in letting me see the whole process. And then, through those 10 years, I worked on a lot of studio films, on a lot of other horror films. I worked with Verhoeven on a couple of horror films, and rewrote a couple of movies that were going into production that just didn’t get a credit on.
Shock: Ah, interesting...
D’Ovidio: But, through the years, I watched how the horror industry became oversaturated again. A lot of horror films were being shot and they were being shot on less money the same way they were in the '80s. But, it was just more than atmosphere now, more haunted house. I guess it went back to the '60s where it was more on jump scares and mood and setting and the way I think that Japanese horror did it with the Ju-on movies and the original Shutter. It played off of a lot of images and the way light bounced and shadows and what was in the shadows. And I think they did a great job at kind of changing the way horror was done now. Now you see Paranormal Activity and it’s shot on a shoestring budget. So, I think you don’t need money with horror. I think it helps you when it’s less money.
Shock: Between the time that you had written “Gallows” to the time that cameras started rolling, had much changed in your vision or your story?
D’Ovidio: No, it’s a pretty tight structure. Some of the themes changed, but the overall nature of the story, I don’t want to give it away, but the way it all comes full circle, it always had the same structure. And because, you know, I always love movies that it’s like a train pulling out of the station. You get on the train and it just keeps going. And I think that’s what I enjoyed kind of in real time. Those are the hardest movies to really write and restructure because it’s kind of a Jenga everything’s...it’s in real time so it’s hard to tell a whole new structure.
Shock: Now is a pretty good time for you because you also had Brad Anderson’s movie The Hive in the works, yeah?
D’Ovidio: Yes. I actually just saw a cut of that and I am really happy. I see a lot of director’s cuts or rough cuts after six weeks and (laughs) it was surprisingly good. I was very happy about that, yeah. It’s going good, and Brad’s such a great visionary. You feel very comfortable when he’s shooting the movie. You know he has a great eye and he’s editing in his head and yeah. It just looks really good.
Shock: Is The Hive like anything we've seen from Anderson before?
D'Ovidio: Well, it’s definitely a...the way he shot it is outside the box. It’s a story that is pretty common in what’s happening nowadays, where young kids, teenagers are getting abducted. And with regarding The Hive, Abigail Breslin is a young girl who’s abducted at the mall. She gets thrown into the abductor’s trunk and she calls 9-1-1. And Halle Berry’s the operator and it becomes this real time cat and mouse chase to locate this girl before he takes her back to his lair and kills her. So, it seems formulaic, but the way Brad shot it and the eye that he has and the stuff that he’s done, it just took it right outside the box.
Shock: Now what’s the timeline on Gallows? Is Victor pushing to have it delivered by a certain time?
D’Ovidio: Well, I think they want to start showing it. I know they want to make some of the festivals, maybe even try for a trailer for Sundance. I’m sure they’re trying. I know the producers have a game plan. I’m not really sure what their game plan is but I just want to make sure that Victor and I are on the same page, which we are, and hopefully I can help him in any way with any suggestions to get the movie shot the right way that he wants it.
Shock: Well, do you have anything else you’re cooking right now that might be genre related for us?
D’Ovidio: Not genre related. I have a TV show I sold to ABC, which is Donnie Brasco in the world of militias. The guy that comes back, the soldier that comes back. He gets to his hometown. It’s kinda rundown and he joins up with this militia and you realize he’s gone undercover to stop this group. It’s kinda like Homeland.