See Horror goes Behind The Lens with screenwriter, former New Line Cinema employee and creator of The Final Destination series Jeffrey Reddick.
When was the first time you watched a horror film, and how did it affect you?
The first horror film I remember watching was Salem’s Lot. I snuck out of my room, while my mom was watching it in the living room. I hid in the hallway and watched it. The scene where Danny Glick taps on Mark Petrie’s window scared the hell out of me. That scene is still burned into my memory. How it affected me is simple…I crept into my mom’s room and slept on her bed for three nights, because I was scared to sleep in my room.
What was it that first attracted you to horror?
Honestly, when I first started watching horror films, it was all about the gore and blood. I had a group of friends who would get together and watch horror films…the gorier the better. We just thought it was cool.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Surprisingly, it’s not a film I’ve done. The movie industry is tough and I’ve seen a lot of people quit, or get bitter…even if they’ve had success. There are also a lot of people who will do anything to get ahead or feed their ego. So, I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve been able to navigate the industry and act with integrity, while still maintaining my optimism and love of movies.
What are you working on now?
I have a few supernatural horror films that I’m trying to find a home for. I’m also trying to get financing to direct my first film. Other than that, I’m working on a TV series with producer Gale Ann Hurd, developing a comic book and working on a book adaptation. You’ve got to keep a lot of irons in the fire, because you never know when, or if, one will go.
I’ve been blessed to get to know a lot of amazing genre folks. Whether they’re actors, writers, directors or crew, I admire anyone who’s passionate, creative and kind.
Specifically, I adore Wes Craven. He created my favourite horror movie of all time, A Nightmare On Elm Street. But from The Serpent and The Rainbow, The Hills Have Eyes and most recently Scream he’s done wonderful genre work. But he’s also a smart, gracious and nice guy.
Do you prefer gore or psychological horror?
As I kid I loved the gore, but as I matured, I came to appreciate the psychological aspect of horror. I believe the movies that stand the test of time and have a deep impact on viewers are the ones that deal with deeper themes. As humans, we all have basic hopes and fears. So, I try to find a way to tap in to that in my work.
How important is it to unsettle a viewer?
Any good horror film is unsettling in some way. But I think if a film relies solely on gratuitous violence to unsettle, it’s not as effective. Unsettling doesn’t equal grossing out.
How do you evoke fear?
I think the best way to evoke fear is to tap into things that most people can relate to. Universal fears of being alone, being helpless, being trapped, or fear of the unknown are touchstones of most horror films. I believe relatable characters, suspense and dread are the key components of evoking fear.
What scares you?
I’m not afraid of a tonne of things, but I hate roller-coasters and I’ll never skydive. My biggest fear isn’t dying, I just don’t want to die slowly, or painfully.
Why should people watch your films?
Some of my films have turned out better than others, that’s why I’m moving into directing. I want to make sure that what I put on the page ends up on the screen. But even the ones that aren’t great have grown on me over time. When I write horror, I try to create unique stories and strong characters. And even though some of my stories are really dark, I try to write horror films that are fun. By that, I mean I try to take the audience on a ride that is both terrifying and enjoyable. Also, I’m a lifelong fan. When I write, it’s with a respect for the genre. A lot of people crank out horror films, because it’s cheap and profitable. These writers often write what they think horror fans want – a lot of films pander to the horror audience.
How far is too far when it comes to horror cinema?
Since art is subjective, I can’t say what’s too far. But for me, sitting around for ninety minutes watching a woman being tortured isn’t my cup of tea.
How do you think horror cinema will evolve in the next ten years?
I’m not sure. I think, with the new digital age, we’ll see a lot more films coming out that are unique and exciting. The tough thing with the movie business is that people are always trying to create, or catch, the next trend. That leads to a lot of bland films. Then a film comes out that doesn’t fit into any box, and does well at the box office, it starts the new trend.
I’m gonna go with A Nightmare on Elm Street. I know most of your readers have seen it, but it’s such a gem. Even though some of the effects, and clothes, are dated – it’s a shining example of a great horror film. There’s a clever story, a brilliant villain, a proactive heroine and some of the most imaginative set pieces ever put on film. And when you realise that Wes Craven did it on a miniscule budget, it’s even more impressive.