Wes Craven (Director - 'Red Eye')
'Prepare For Some Eye Contact!'
Wes Craven has been making people jump out of their skins for some three decades, with classics such as 'The Hills Have Eyes' and 'A Nightmare on Elm Street,' to the popular 'Scream' franchise. It is a career defined by both resounding success and regrettable disappointment. Now, Craven has returned with the less horrific 'Red Eye,' his foray into the pure suspense thriller genre.
Chatting recently with the great man whilst he was here in Birmingham, MI a week or so ago, we first wondered if he saw 'Red Eye' as a new career move?! "No, there's two or three very important things for me. One is just artistically to just personally be able to take that kind of material that's really quite difficult and make it work - it's great. For a long time I've sort of been chasing with the notion just being a horror director so - to make something that's clearly a thriller and has, all sorts of psychological complexity to it and yet keeps the popular audience on the edge of their seats is - was very, very important."
Do you use existing tricks in your repertoire to create that sense of fear, or do you learn new ones? "I think it's just a general attitude of not - first of all not allowing yourself to do anything that you've seen before, unless you do it so differently that it actually startles the audience, like the head butt. You know everybody is head butting everybody's heads now, but to make it actually hurt and have the guy bleed and almost get caught up because of it, puts it in a whole new kind of category because it shows a lot about the character losing his temper, and endangering his whole scheme by just getting so mad. It's little details like that and it's like, some of it is like you know what parts the audience are expecting from you, so like in the chase upstairs when she locks the door to the other bedroom and, I put the camera inside the top area looking out through the curtain - everybody immediately thinks oh the fellows going to jump out of the shower curtain, which is like, what horror films portray. But she stops and she thinks of that and, pulls back the curtain and there's nothing there, and then the audience, oh I'm not smarter than he is, what the hell's he going to do, I don't know! So it's like that kind of teasing and playing with the audience, in a way that you - I think the audience knows I know who they are and likes them and likes having kind of mental gymnastics with them to see who can figure out who."
You've been scaring audiences for some thirty years now, but is it at all harder to do that after all those years? "I think you just have to put people in new territory, like with this film it's - I can't think of another film quite like it, where you have two people who are just in this locked-in situation and a killer who's, a killer but he also can kind of be very charming and sometimes almost tender, and the next minute be just heinous, and you know ... that kind of - it puts people in a consciousness of I don't know where this thing's going to go, or what this guy's going to do, and, I don't know whether this woman is going to stand up to him at all!"
Can you look back at all to your earlier work and see it objectively at all? "Ah, depending on how much control I had and how much it was kind of out of my own mind - I'm very happy with 'Last House,' 'Nightmare on Elm Street,' 'People Under The Stairs,' 'Shocker,' ... although 'Shocker' is really hurt by bad special effects. I like all those films. I'm very proud of them. There is a couple, 'Deadly Friend' or something like that, that was just like a nightmare from the beginning and there were, I think, eight different producers with eight different ideas about that - that's horrible!"
How did you manger in 'Red Eye' to balance the kind of plot and character in such a tidy manner ... in such a confined space?! "Well they're a pair of great actors, yeah not to be disingenuous, you know but they really, really are good, so as much as I had I never was impeded by what they didn't have - they brought so much to the table, so, it was one of those really happy experiences."
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