Originally Published on November 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm
Eric Red is reponsible for two of the most iconic horror movies of the ’80s (Near Dark and The Hitcher), a greatly underrated crime thriller (Tate and Cohen), plus a damn good horror flick that flew under the radar (100 feet). For many that might be enough, but Eric Red has more in store. He’s also written for comics, as well as penned short stories, and novels. His newest novel The Gunss of Santa Sangre, is a balls to the wall, western horror piece that should be on everyone’s must read list (As a side note and full disclosure, about four years ago, I had a small publishing commpany and Red’s novel was one of the books we were going to publish. When some health issues on my part, and issues with some business partners arose, the small press went dormant. Eric asked to be released from his contract, which I happily obliged and has now found a new home with Samhain publishing). Red talks about all of that and more in the following interview conducted by email.
Most people know you for writing The Hitch and Near Dark as well as directing movies like Cohen and Tate-yet you also write short stories, novels and comics. Do you have a preference? And do you approach writing a screenplay vs a novel or short story differently?
ER: When I get a story idea, I figure out the best delivery system for that particular story–if it’s best told as a movie, novel short story or comic. For instance, DON’T STAND SO CLOSE, my first novel, dealt with the inner life of teenagers, so was best written as a novel. THE HITCHER, with its horror action highway car chase elements, was better as a screenplay. Some ideas involve simple hooks and twists, and those are perfect short stories.
From the writer’s perspective, how does it feel to have one of your scripts remade like The Hitcher? Are you flattered or upset when Hollywood wants to remake a film you wrote?
ER: I do original work and put a premium on original work, so am not a fan of remakes in general—of my own films or anyone else’s.
Were you happy with the final version of Cohen and Tate, and how was it working with Roy Scheider?
ER: Extremely. I prefer the bloodier versions of two shoot-outs in my cut that were trimmed for ratings reasons, but those small cuts don’t affect the film in any significant way. Roy and I both felt he gave one of his best performances in COHEN AND TATE, and most people agree Scheider created a classic, iconic hit man character. He was never edgier or more rugged in his career than he was playing that contract killer bad guy. It was a huge thrill as a director and writer working with Scheider in such an against-type role and watching that character come to life–although Roy was a great star and I only needed to give him a few key directions. Scheider was a down-to-earth professional to work with, totally committed to the job with no star bullshit–my best experience with a star of that level to date. And because I grew up on seeing him in my favorite films, it was an indescribable thrill getting him to play a character I wrote in my first feature as director. But he always treated me with total respect, which meant a lot.
While getting ready for the interview I watched Body Parts again, and not only does it hold up very well, it’s still scary as hell. That car wreck scene gets me every time. plans on a director’s cut somewhere down the line?
ER: Thanks. That freeway wreck sequence is a perfect example of the superior realism and verisimilitude of actual mechanical effects and stuntwork over CGI and digital effects. Unfortunately, there won’t be a director’s cut of BODY PARTS because we never cut the negative on the deleted scenes and there was never a final 35mm print including them. However, the bloody unrated scenes from BODY PARTS 35MM workprint can be viewed online at my YouTube page. I’m happy with the release cut of the film, BTW. Like with COHEN AND TATE, the trimming of a little gore doesn’t impact the overall experience of the film.
Your new novel The Guns of Santa Sangre is set in the Old West, and though Near Dark was set in present day, it has a very western feel to it. How much of an influence was John Ford and the John Wayne westerns was there?
ER: None at all, because Ford and Wayne made sentimental westerns, and GUNS is an unsentimental, hard-nosed contemporary book. Moviewise. Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH was my main influence with its harsh, bloody, unromantic vision of the old west. I admire how that movie is unsentimental yet deeply emotional in its portrayal of hard gunfighters of the era, and I approached my gunslinger characters that way. I felt the story of outlaws who regain their honor is a timeless theme that universally resonates with people, but to make it relevant for today’s readers, the characters needed to be tough, cynical and flawed. But the classic heroic arc’s the same, and hopefully readers are moved at the end.
Speaking of Near Dark, is the remake officially dead? To me, it’s pretty much timeless and one film that least needs to be remade.
ER: Hopefully. And I agree.
Where did the inspiration for Guns come from? Like your first novel, Don’t Stand So Close, it’s extremely cinematic, any talk about it being turned into a movie?
ER: The title THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE came to me one day, and for a long time, it was a title looking for a story. I knew it was a western and that it revolved around a church or mission. Then one day I got the idea of gunmen being offered all the silver in the church they had left after killing the werewolves that captured it, and the story fell together. It began as a 10,000 word short story, then ideas kept coming and I developed it into a full-length novel. We’re working on getting the film made now and have interest from several major action stars. As a book, I put in everything I ever wanted to see in a western movie into it. You can’t write a western novel without referencing western movies, because the cinematic and literary influences cross over so much. Westerns are the grand heroic mythology that informs every action genre.
Where do you see the horror genre right now? It seems if a horror movie isn’t found footage or shaky cam it doesn’t seem to get made.
ER: The conventional wisdom now is to make horror movies cheap–low risk high reward. So what else is new?
Your last movie 100 Feet is a great example of exactly what the genre needs. I thought it was a great little movie, and Michael Pare gave a great performance without saying a word. How come it didn’t get a release, I think it would have done very well.
ER: Thank you, again. I’m very proud of the film. Is was a conscious throwback to the great classy ‘70’s New York horror and thriller films like ROSEMARY’S BABY and WAIT UNTIL DARK. The thing I’m proudest of about 100 FEET is it keeps audiences on the edge of their seat without blood and kills, almost completely by using suspense and suggestion and playing with their expectations. It’s a Hitchockian film in that regard, and I used everything I know about suspense in it. Yes, I agree about Pare–it’s precisely his ability to communicate what his character is thinking and feeling physically with just expression that I wrote the role of the ghost with him in mind. 100 FEET came out right at the beginning of the economic collapse a few years ago, and was just one of many quality films that didn’t get the distribution they should have at the time. One day it will be discovered like COHEN AND TATE recently was.
What projects are you currently working on?
ER: I’m writing and directing the film version of New York Times Bestselling Author Jonathan Maberry’s terrifying zombie novel DEAD OF NIGHT. The script is finished and hopefully we’ll be filming sometime next year. It’s an intense character driven horror action flick that is big, aggressive and dynamic. Think THE WALKING DEAD on steroids. And I’ve finished my fourth novel, WHITE KNUCKLE, a thriller about a female FBI Special Agent on the cross-country trail of an interstate trucker serial killer with a horrific and unique modus operandi. It involved lots of research with the Bureau and the US long hauling industry. It’s my best book so far, and a return to THE HITCHER territory. My book agent Richard Curtis is out to the major publishers with it. The Guns of Santa Sangre is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Guns-Santa-Sangre-Eric/dp/1619215691