Tim O'Leary (Creator, Demonhuntr)
The Horror Revolution: First of all, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Tim O'Leary: So, my favorite horror movie of all time is the original Scream. I wasn’t a horror fan until I saw that movie, which I only did because in high school my friend Gwen said she thought I’d enjoy it. And she was right! I became a lifelong fan of not only that movie but horror in general, particularly horror-comedy.
The movie that scared me the most was probably The Devil’s Rejects. That was a turning point for me when I realized while I love horror, I don’t love all horror, and that particular brand of brutal, nihilistic storytelling just isn’t for me. No shade to Rob Zombie fans (I know there are a lot.) I just like a little fun and lightheartedness paired with my eviscerations.
THR: What inspires you as a writer and a director?
TO: I think what inspires me the most is just whenever I witness a film or show that’s particularly well-done. It makes me want to join in this creative art-making collective. I remember walking out of the theater after seeing Ready or Not, and I was on such a high from the thrill ride that movie took me on. I kept thinking I just want to be able to do that for other people.
THR: What inspired you to make Demonhuntr? I am picking up a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed vibes, I’m assuming they had something to do with it?
TO: Oh, yes. Big time. I’m a child of the turn of the millennium. That’s my era, and I wanted to create something that had a bit of that nostalgia factor while also feeling very contemporary. I describe Demonhuntr as a show I wish could have been on the WB (that’s the CW’s predecessor for all you Gen Z-ers) when I was a kid – something with the mythos and action and steaminess of Buffy, but cast with people that actually look like my friend group.
THR: With the recent release of Scream, Queen!, the documentary about the making of Nightmare on Elm Street 2, there has been a huge focus this year on queer horror. What do you think is the gayest horror movie ever made?
TO: Oof, this is a tough one. There have been a number of entries into this category recently, but since I’m always going to love slashers, I’m gonna throw this one to 2004’s Hellbent. It was the first gay slasher I ever saw, and is just dripping with early 2000s cheese. I love it. I watch it every Halloween.
THR: Do you feel that queer representation in horror is greater than in other genres? Why or why not?
TO: Right now, I actually think the genre with the biggest queer representation is YA-skewing dramas. How many streaming shows about gay high schoolers are there now? I’ve lost count. Which, by the way, is AWESOME. I’m so glad kids today get to see themselves represented like this. All I had was the angst-ridden Jack from Dawson’s Creek.
While it may seem like there’s a decent amount of queer horror, there’s still a long way to go. When you think of the number of gay men who’ve brought us horror classics – Kevin Williamson, Clive Barker, Don Mancini – it’s only recently we’ve even begun to see the tiniest bit of actual onscreen representation. But I’m excited to see where it goes, because it feels like horror keeps getting more inclusive each year.
THR: I really enjoyed the first season of Demonhuntr, and I’m dying to know if there’s going to be a second season! Are you looking at production options?
TO: ’m so glad you liked it! We would love to do a second season. I have tons of storylines plotted out, and even a few episodes that we wrote for the first season but had to cut for budgetary reasons. We’re definitely exploring possibilities, but no news to report as of right now.
I really hope we can do something. We planted so many seeds in the first season that I would love to pay off, and there are so many characters I want to bring back. Darryl Stephens, Jason Caceres, Bob Pranga, Nicholas Alexander, Kevin Dary, Gavyn Michaels, and Ryan Leslie Fisher… and those are just off the top of my head. And we barely even began getting to know Cara Mitsuko’s Quinn and LaTanza Britt’s Yara. So fingers crossed we get to make more.
THR: What’s next after Demonhuntr? Are there other shows or movies that you want to work on?
I’m constantly writing and shopping new projects. I’m in post on a pilot for a queer horror anthology show where each episode is inspired by a different holiday. Is that a blatant rip-off of the concept behind Blumhouse’s Into the Dark show on Hulu? Yes. Yes, it is. That’s what writers do. We steal.
I definitely enjoy staying in the horror space, because I like the excitement and the challenge. There are a number of irons I have in the fire right now. Got to stay busy, right?
THR: If there was one piece of trivia about you that you would want anyone watching your show to know, what would it be?
TO: This isn’t so much about me as it is about the show, but it’s an interesting factoid: there was a sixth episode that was partially shot. We were supposed to have a finale with massive eight-person fight scene, and that was all choreographed. All three of the main women got to fight together for the first time against a villain, which was super fun. And it would have really furthered the Nat-Quinn-Yara love triangle storyline.
Two fantastic actors, Ephraim Lopez and Jonathan Karp, were cast as the villains of the episode, and they were kicking ass with both their character work and the fight choreo. The night before we were set to film, we lost the location. We had to wrap for the year – this was the end of 2019 – and planned to start back up in March of 2020. However, the world had other plans, as you might remember.
Another fun piece of trivia is that Harold’s séance room, the go-go boys’ backstage area, Daniel’s Anansi-fueled nightmare, and the Instagram ad in Episode 1 were all filmed in the same spot. Hey, when you’re working on a shoestring…
THR: Horror movies are renowned for being chock-full of nudity, but very little of that is male nudity. First, do you think that should change, and second, did you include so much male nudity in Demonhuntr to be subversive or just to appeal to the intended audience?
TO: The goal was definitely to subvert the horror trope of female nudity, which I think we managed to pull off. If this were a horror project aimed at straight men and had as many nude women in it as there are nude men in Demonhuntr, I don’t think people would really acknowledge it as much. But as it is, I haven’t had a single interview where I’m not asked about it, which says something.
I think nudity, particularly male nudity, is a powerful tool in storytelling because it still has the power to shock people. But when making Demonhuntr, we always tried to be judicious with how we incorporate naked bodies into the story. Nudity is like a song break in a musical—it should always be driving the story forward. When the male siren pushes the shower curtain open in the first episode, we see his nudity is intended to dominate and seduce Daniel. His nudity gives him the power in that scene. I think probably the most effective nude moment is in episode 5, when Daniel is trapped in Anansi’s illusion and sees Ryan Fisher’s character as well as four other naked men, none of whose heads we see, and it’s this beat where what could be a seductive moment is suddenly jarring and scary. You realize how aggressive a naked male body can look.
THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
TO: That’s a no brainer. Wes Craven, hands down. He was the undisputed master of modern horror, and he was so charming and funny and personable, and above all knew how to tell an amazing story. Our community is lessened without him.
THR: If you had an unlimited budget and access to any celebrities working in Hollywood, what would you make?
TO: I think every writer has that one dream project that will most likely never get made. Mine is a college-set fantasy adventure series about a group of undergrads who slowly become superheroes. I say it would most likely not get made because it spans time going from the present all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia and has action taking place on every continent of the planet. “Cast of thousand” type stuff, with a badass gay male lead. And there’s a part for Cristin Milioti because she is hands down one of my favorite actors working today. Her skill is incredible.
THR: What movie desperately needs a remake, and do you think you would be the right person for the job?
TO: Oh, this is so easy. 2004’s Catwoman. Catwoman is one of my favorite comic book characters of all time. I know a ton about her lore. I first fell in love with the character watching reruns of the Batman ’66 show when I was in my single digits, and it was a lifelong affair.
I was broken-hearted by how they bungled her film. Mostly because I remember leaving the theater and thinking, “That was it. That was their one shot to make a Catwoman movie, and they blew it. I’ll never get to see her in a solo film again.”
Now, with eighteen thousand new superhero movies coming out every year, I’m not so sure. (Although it does suspiciously seem like the films starring women are still the ones always going into limbo.) I would kill to make a new Catwoman movie, but do it right, starting by making it comics accurate and actually having it feature Selina Kyle.
My dream is a Catwoman/Batgirl teamup movie. We already have fantastic actors in Zoe Kravitz and Leslie Grace. Have them square off against Harley and Ivy. Make Renee Montoya a supporting character, bring in Jurnee Smollet’s Black Canary, and give Batwoman a cameo. Fuck it, throw Talia al Ghul in there. Time-jump Kristin Wiig’s Cheetah into the mix. Have a Lady Shiva training sequence. Come on, let’s do this!
THR: Finally, if you were to be a new Batman villain, who would you be and what would your powers be?
TO: Well, how’s that for a segue!
Big flashy powers are fun but there’s nothing more awesome than a down and dirty fistfight, so I’d want to be a character who throws down. Ooh! Maybe someone trained by the League of Shadows but who was kicked out after he was discovered having an affair with a man he was supposed to assassinate. Pathos! And my weapon of choice is a bo staff that can split into escrima sticks, and spikes spring out of both ends when it’s time to get deadly.
I’ll want a little extra oomph besides just the martial arts training, so let’s say I can blast out a few fireballs. Nothing crazy, just brief bursts, Liu Kang-style.
Hey, let’s have him premiere as the only male speaking character in my Catwoman remake!