13th Feb2018

‘Death House’ Interview: Bill Oberst Jr.

by Philip Rogers

With the highly-anticipated horror Death House being released in cinemas on February 23rd 2018, I got a chance to speak with actor Bill Oberst Jr. about what we can expect from the film, why he loves playing the villain and what characters he would like to portray again on screen.


How did you first get into acting?

As a desperate ploy to get people to like me. In my experience, entertainers begin entertaining either because they think very highly of themselves, or because they think very lowly of themselves. The latter seem, on the whole, to be more successful than the former.

In your career you have become synonymous with horror having played so many notorious characters. Do you enjoy playing the villain or are these just the roles which you found most interesting?

I do enjoy playing the villain. It is my passionate belief that we are all, as Ray Bradbury said, murderers afraid to murder; in other words, we are all made of the same stuff and have the same potentialities. It’s no good saying “I’m moral and those other people are not.” That’s a lie. If you can say, with a straight face, “I’m moral,” you are most certainly not.

You play Satan Creator in the upcoming horror film Death House. Can you tell us what we can expect from the film?

I think it will be fun. I know it will be entertaining, given the cast, the screenplay by Gunner Hansen and Harrison Smith, and Harrison’s direction. It’s a movie made by and for people who love this genre with all their heart. That kind of passion always covers a multitude of sins, and makes for a fun viewing experience. Horror can be scary, but it’s got to be fun!

How did you become involved in the film?

My L.A. agent, Mike Eisenstadt, was a producer on the picture. I was tickled that he asked me to be a part of the team.

Can you tell me a little bit about your character?

Dee Wallace and Barbara Crampton are depraved doctors doing horrible experiments on the inmates of The Death House – it’s like the Area 51 of evil. Among the inmates are three whose delusions relate to Satan: Sean Whalen thinks he is Satan, Bernard Forcher thinks he is the Son of Satan, and I think I created Satan. Barbara Crampton & Dee Wallace show off their inmates to visiting agents, and all hell breaks loose. Tony Todd, Sid Haig, Kane Hodder, Michael Berryman, Bill Moseley and Debbie Rochon, among other horror luminaries, run amok, Tiffany Shepis and Lloyd Kaufman are on the medical staff. Dee Wallace grins evilly. Barbara Crampton screams mightily. Who could resist? Certainly not me!

What preparation did you do for the role?

Did a little digging into the psychology of delusions, and how people with delusions we might consider extreme present themselves. Usually the more deluded a person is, the more certain they are that they, and only they, are right. The ability to suspect that one might be wrong is a marker of sanity.

Death House has assembled the biggest cast of horror icons in one film. What was it like on set being a part of such a landmark film?

I grew up on Forrey Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, reading about the Universal monster rallies and the Karloff-Lugosi-Lorre-Price collaborations, so being a part of Death House was a delight to the 14-year-old kid who still lives in my soul. Harrison Smith’s love for the genre and his respect for what makes fine horror made this a pure pleasure, despite the fact that I was handcuffed the entire time.

What was your favourite scene to film in the movie?

Sitting next to Sean Whalen in restraints (in what other genre could one say that?) and watching him work the camera. Brilliant. Creepy. Fun.

Having appeared in over 150 films do you have a favourite character which you would like to portray again, either as a continuation in a sequel or perhaps differently?

To portray again: my deformed serial killer character on CBS-TV’s Criminal Minds, because of his beautiful wounded monstrousness. To portray differently: my Sheriff in A Haunting in Salem (2011), because I was more worried about looking young than surrendering to the character. In a sequel: my slave bounty hunter in The Retrieval (2013), because I’m curious to see if what he experienced at the end of that film would change him.

Are there any characters which you would like to portray on screen?

Erik in Phantom of The Opera. When I saw Lon Chaney’s version projected onto a sheet one long-ago Halloween, it moved me, and it made me want to become an actor. Chaney got a crucial point right – Erik’s appearance is not the result of an attack; he was born that way. The people around him made him a monster by their reaction. They made him. I relate to that.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

Always. I like to work. I just wrapped an exorcism picture The Parish. I have an arthouse horror picture DIS at festivals in Europe. I am touring this month in A One-Man Christmas Carol, and am developing a solo stage portrayal of my favourite author, Ray Bradbury, for the approval of his estate. I’ll work until I die (otherwise I would die.)

If someone is looking to get into acting, what advice would you give them?

Don’t. Unless (and this is a big unless) you don’t care about fame or celebrity. If you seek either of those two things, you’ll be miserable. If, on the other hand, you want to explore the human condition and help others experience the inner lives of the people you choose to play, acting can be wonderfully fulfilling. Get the best education you can, be sure that you are prepared for rejection (because it will come more often than acceptance) and start doing it. Doing is being.

Death House is released in cinemas on February 23rd.

You can find out more details about Bill Oberst Jnr and his future projects on his official website: http://www.billoberst.com/ and IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2454994

The below clip from Criminal Minds was supplied by Bill Oberst Jr., which he describes as one of his favorite – says Oberst:

Christopher Allen Nelson, who did the makeup, wanted it to be an homage to Lon Chaney (we are both huge Chaney fans) and Matthew Gray Gubler, the director, always had me speak softly, almost childlike as this poor, rural product of incest. That combination made the character one of my all-time favourites.


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