An Interview with Wes Craven and Jonathan Craven, writers and producers of “The Hills Have Eyes 2″
BY KEVIN CARR
Horror maven Wes Craven has joined with his son Jonathan Craven to write the sequel to the 2005 horror remake “The Hills Have Eyes.” This new film follows a group of partially-trained soldiers who stumble across a band of terrifying mutants in the hills of the American desert southwest. Wes Craven made the original “The Hills Have Eyes” and a sequel to it in the mid-1970s.
Excepts from the interview follow. Hear the entire interview here…
KC: HOW MANY EYES DO THESE HILLS HAVE?
WC: Thousands. As one character says in the film when another character says how many do you think there are, too many. I don’t know… too many.
KC: JONATHON, WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH DAD, AND WERE HORROR MOVIES MUNDANE BECAUSE YOU GREW UP WITH THEM?
JC: Well, horror is never mundane, or it’s not horror. For me, it was a great experience working with dad. Who better to work on a horror movie with than Wes Craven? We had an idea that we were both very excited about, and we sat in a room and just went to town on it. He was great with me and very respectful, heard out all my ideas. We both wrote at the same time different scenes and traded files back and forth and brush up the other person’s scenes. It just went incredibly well, better than I ever could have imagined. We came up with a really compelling and harsh horror movie with ne’er a dull moment.
KC: WES, WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH YOUR SON?
WC: It was just a lot of fun. Jonathon had been writing for a long time in many different venues. He’s written screenplays and he’s been a journalist. So I knew I’d be going into the room with a professional and somebody who understands deadlines. And there was no way in hell I could have done this myself. And he’s my son, so it was a guaranteed time to be with him under a very interesting situation. We’d never written anything together. I think it was the longest Jonathon and I have ever been around each other in decades. It was just a pleasure.
KC: HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT APPROACHING THIS FILM TO TOP THE FIRST ONE?
JC: I don’t think we felt intimidated by the first one. The first one is a great story. Obviously it’s got a lot of legs. It’s something he created in 1976 or before then and has been powerful. The original still stands up. It’s still a great horror movie. Alex Aja tweaked it and made it a little more contemporary. My feeling was that two of us in a room will come up with something really, really strong and come up with something really effective. The main challenge was the amount of time we had. The other challenge was that the original story was an innocent family, and there’s something so compelling and primal about that. If anything, the challenge was without having an innocent family wander back into the hills, how to make it compelling and scary on that level. I think we created our own family with these trainees, these young soldiers who are not ready for battle yet, they became their own family.
KC: HOW DO YOU RETAIN THE DANGER ZONE?
WC: We wanted the feeling that they were kind of a quibbling family, or at least a bunch of siblings. And the second thing was that we very specifically made them only half-way through their training. Off they go with basically one clip of ammunition and basically the rifles on their backs. We made it so they weren’t armed to the teeth and not incredibly trained and they were not in any way expected to be in the situation they get into.
KC: IS THERE ANY POINT WERE PEOPLE WILL WALK OUT?
WC: The opening title sequence.
JC: There’s a couple.
WC: We want to get the weaklings out of the theater pretty quickly.
KC: WILL THIS PLEASE THE GOREHOUND AUDIENCE?
WC: I suppose. It certainly doesn’t pull any punches in that area. It’s not what we set out for, “How gory can we make this?” It’s always much more about how shocking it is and how it gets you personally is how it makes something memorable. So we try to go for those moments that stick in your mind for that, as much as something that’s very gory or very bloody. It’s always about something that gets under your skin and that’s usually not tons of blood.
KC: IS IT DISTURBING TO WRITE THESE SORT OF SCENES AND INSTANCES?
JC: To me, the world is a disturbing place. And when you’re working on this type of stuff, you’re conjuring up fears and the reflections of what’s going on in the world. So sometimes that is very disturbing. You’re facing your own fears when you’re working on this stuff to a certain extent. So yeah, I think it is disturbing. I think that’s what you’re trying to get at.
WC: It’s also strangely levitating. It’s similar to standing in the back of the theater, when people who have just seen a horror films are coming out. And people are kinda laughing, and their cheeks are flushed, and they’ve been scared to death. You’re dealing with something that in reality is horrible, but within the realm of theater, there’s a lightening of that terrible perception of how dark life can be by seeing something in the story form where at least there’s the coherence of hero or heroine that goes through it and survives. That’s what really these films are about, the survival of the psyche, survival on the most primal level of whether I could get through that situation or not.