To say that Patrick Lussier has grown in leaps and bounds as a director might be one of this month’s great understatements, alongside ‘Barack Obama’s swearing in will be the source of some interest and attention.’ The man who directed the Dracula 2000 trilogy will put the doubters away this Friday when his excellent remake of My Bloody Valentine, the little-known 80s Canadian slasher film, opens. It’s not a movie that will redefine cinema, but it’s a great horror film, a fun 3D movie and a true return to classic slasher form. I’ve seen it twice now and loved it both times.
I got on the phone with Patrick this weekend and found him to be an exceptionally friendly, good-natured guy. He’s just one of my MBV3D interviews – I have video interviews coming up with stars Jensen Ackles, Kerr Smith and Jaime King as well.
You’ve made a straight ahead slasher movie. As the guy who edited the
Scream films it’s kind of ironic that you’ve done what people thought
couldn’t be done post-Scream, which is to make a real slasher movie
that isn’t winking, isn’t self-aware, isn’t meta. Was that something
you did on purpose?
It felt to me certainly like it was long enough after Scream that we
could do it. During the writing phase with Todd [Farmer] and the studio
I talked a lot about making Scream, what the preview process was like,
what we learned from it. The fact that the thing that Kevin
[Williamson] and Wes [Craven] did so skillfully is that even though
there is a lot of self-reference, the film works first and foremost as
a mystery, which is one of those elements of great slasher movies of
the 80s – The Prowler, the original Prom Night, Terror Train, My Bloody
Valentine. We wanted to use that and capitalize on that and play the
element of the love triangle – those kinds of classic story telling
devices which always work. There’s a reason why Agatha Christie sold
so many damn books over the years. Once we grounded ourselves in that,
everything else flowed from it – the nature of the kills, how the
mystery of the killer and all those elements worked. We just didn’t
even think we couldn’t do it. That was how it came to be. But certainly
Scream was something we talked about a lot.
There’s this movie, there’s the new Friday the 13th, there’s Halloween
2 this year – all straight slasher films. Do you something in the
cultural zeitgeist as to why this is coming back again?
I think one of the things we may have missed in horror the last few
years is how much fun those movies are to watch. They’re a good time.
Horror has either been J Horror, moving upside down, girl with long
hair, twisted head kind of thing, towards more let’s torture somebody
and do something horrible over a long period of time and you can watch
the trainwreck in real time. There are places for both kinds of movies,
and there are great examples of both kinds but they’re not necessarily
the most good time you can have at a theater. Our intention here was to
make a movie that was fun. A movie where you could participate, not
just through the 3D, but via the mystery and the characters and have a
good time with it.
One of the things that lets me know that I’m going to have a good time
with your movie before I even walk into the theater is that you have
Tom Atkins in it. How did that happen, and where has Tom been? Did he
retire? How did you get him for the film?
Tom 20 years moved back to Pittsburgh, where he’s originally from and
he loves the city. He would sometimes come out and work and revisit his
character from The Rockford Files when they made those Rockford Files
movies in the 90s. He did a lot of theater [in Pittsburgh], which he
loves and is so good at. When we went to Pittsburgh I didn’t even know
Tom lived there; I had been a huge fan of Tom since Halloween III and
The Fog, which was one of the first R-rated movies I ever saw. And [I
was told] that Tom lived there, and my casting director immediately
contacted him. We took the part of Burke and made more of that
character and sent it to him just hoping that he’d want to do it and he
said, ‘Sure, I’d love to do it.’ We met and sat down for coffee and it
was like we had been best friends for 20 years. I said, ‘I really want
you to do it,’ and he said, ‘I really want to do it too.’
So we went to the studio and they said, ‘Tom Atkins? Okay… if you
want that…’ because they weren’t totally familiar with him, but as
they began to see him and as the internet got hold of the fact that Tom
Atkins was in this movie they realized it was a great choice. I
remember saying ‘You don’t understand – if we put Tom Atkins in this
film, our street cred will go through the roof.’
One of the other things I like about the movie is that this is a movie
about grown ups. Two of your leads have a kid, Tom Atkins and Kevin
Tighe have real characters. Was Lionsgate ever asking you to put these
characters back in high school like they are in the prologue?
Never. It was never once discussed. I’m so thankful for that because I
never wanted to make a high school movie. What the prologue was
supposed to do was take all those 80s slasher movies, and even the
original film to some degree, encapsulated in thirteen minutes. We
could make that so much fun and chaotic that it would give us the right
to make the rest of the movie with them grown up as adults in a mature
environment. Lionsgate completely embraced that.
I saw this at Butt-Numb-A-Thon originally, and Mr. Beaks from Ain’t It
Cool asked you at the time a question that was on my mind too – how the
hell did you get an R rating on this movie?
I’ve had some experience with the MPAA. Scream went back nine times in
order to get an R rated. Scream 2 we did a trick where we submitted and
made it bloodier and gorier than anything you could imagine or even
want in a film. And the first time they saw it they gave it an R. We
were like, ‘OK this makes no sense.’ We were flummoxed by it. The thing
is that the message of Scream 2 was very different from the message of
Scream; the opening in particular. The thing they didn’t like in Scream
1 more than anything was the line ‘Movies don’t make psychos, movies
make psychos more creative.’ They wanted us to cut it out and Wes
refused, saying that was censorship. That stayed in there, but it’s
funny that the sequel’s opening sequence set them up so well.
I think one of the things that helped us so much with this movie is
that the MPAA saw it in 3D and they had as much of a good time with it
as audiences do. We kind of seduced them to that way of thinking. The
first version we showed them was more extreme in effort to get them to
bring us back to the version we actually wanted, and ultimately we did
make one small sacrifice in the final version which was nine frames
that nobody will know is gone.
One of things that jumped out at me wasn’t even the violence, it was
that you have this character played by Betsy Rue who is naked for
almost all of her scenes. And not just naked but explicitly full
We shot the sex scene deliberately long, and once we cut that out they
let us get away with everything else. One of the things about Betsy in
that sequence is that you start out very cognizant that she’s naked,
but by the end but because you’re so keyed into her terror you’ve
forgotten that she’s naked. It speaks to the power of her performance.
This is not just a regular movie. You shot it in 3D. I know that in the
old days doing a movie in 3D was an arduous process, and the cameras in
particular were a pain to use. Have things changed?
Things have changed. It’s technically much easier – it’s still not
easy, mostly because of the size of the gear. You’re not shooting with
one camera, you’re shooting with two that are slaved together in
perfect synchronization and one is shooting into a mirror and one is
shooting through a mirror and you’re adjusting the depth as you’re
getting the shot. It’s complicated, but it’s so much better than it
used to be, which is why the viewing experience is better than going
back to things like Jaws 3D, because that technology was a much more
painful process. This, we had two main characters, an A and B camera;
the B camera was an older version that was used to film the T2 3D ride,
and the A rig was much smaller and leaner and was finished the day
before we started production. Basically we tested it on day one. And it
You have this amazing 3D movie, but the theatrical exhibition world isn’t set up to show it in 3D everywhere yet.
Yeah, that’s a little disappointing.
Do you think the film works as well in 2D?
I’ve seen it in 2D- I cut it in 2D, I showed it to people on the Avid
in 2D and they were on the edge of their seats watching it, captivated
by the story. I’ve seen it even in 2D on a big screen as well. The
newspaper prologue in the beginning is such a three dimensional thing
that even in 2D people think they’re immersed in a 3D environment
regardless. At the same time the story and the fun of the old school
slasher movies carries people.
One of the other things I like about this film is that – without
spoiling it – you leave a legitimate sequel opening at the end. You
don’t end it in a way that you’ll have to figure out a trick or a cheat
to have a Part 2. Are you going to be coming back for the sequel?
If the movie takes off, Todd and I have mapped out a whole continuing adventures.
One of the things you mentioned about the film is the mystery, and by the end of the movie the mystery is solved, so –
Oh no, we have figured out a way of injecting several twists and turns
in the continuing adventure. Even though the mystery is solved there
are still things to learn and things to know and things that are
unexpected and reversals of fortune that happens to those who survive.
We had great fun doing it because if you’re going to do it, you don’t
want to retread what you’ve just done – you want to take it in a new
direction. But at the same time, you want to do all those things people
have fun with. And the mystery is one of those things and, you’re right
– how do you have a mystery when you already know the answer? Well,
we’ve figured out a way.