Master Of Mayhem

Total Film sits down with Wes Craven to talk Red Eye, 9/11 and, well, scaring the living crap out of you...

Red Eye’s a little different to your usual stalk’n’slash flicks...
Well, it’s a thriller and I’ve been trying to expand outside of horror – I don’t want to just do people chasing people with knives. I know I’m good at it but everyone likes variety. It’s still suspense and still scares, but it has complex characters and an interesting situation. It’s really a director’s movie, in a way. It’s about what went on between these people mentally and emotionally.

Did you have to rethink how you go about scaring people?
Where a horror film builds on very visceral, primal things, this is very sophisticated and civilised. There’s virtually no blood – it’s all about character. A horror doesn’t always make you think of issues but it makes you deal with those primal things that terrify you.

As we’re talking issues, it’s one of the first post-9/11 films to be set on a plane. Were there any concerns?
I didn’t have any concerns about it – what intrigued me was that it was about terrorism. When I pitched it, I said I felt there was an enormous amount of frustration amongst Americans about being attacked by an enemy that you can’t fight back against because you don’t know where they are.

Why cast Cillian Murphy as the baddie?
I’d first seen him in 28 Days Later... We had lunch and he was very charming. He went back across the street, got back on the plane and I said, “That’s the guy”. Obviously he had the enthusiasm – he’d flown over two days before his wedding!

Did something in your background trigger you to make horror movies?
I was kept in a cellar by my parents for five years! I think it’s a universal thing: if you create something scary, people think that, somewhere inside, you’re a monster. But I barely saw movies when I was a kid because my family were part of a church that didn’t think movies were good. I’d never been a big horror fan – I think the only one I’d seen was Night Of The Living Dead. I was scared and laughing, the audience was going nuts... I’d never been near that kind of energy.

And the secret to making a scary film?
Audiences have to be afraid of the director. In Scream, I killed Drew Barrymore in 15 minutes and scared the shit out of everyone, because I had killed the lead actress. The other thing is to explore the vulnerability of the human body. Probably the first thing humans are afraid of when they’re conscious is something opening up, a tiny bit of skin that’s so soft. You have to cross the line of decency, get into those areas we all cover up because they’re so terrifying...

What have you got planned next?
It’s called Vacation – I start in two weeks and it’ll take six weeks to complete. No... I’m just taking some time off.

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