What the genius of horror films feels about someone else doing his classic, and taking his show to Sin City
Wes Craven spells fear; his name is synonymous with horror. The latest film he put his name to is very familiar to him - it's the remake of his own classic film The Hills Have Eyes. This time, Wes found Frech director, Alex Aja, to head up the project; Wes is serving only as executive producer.
And that's how he wanted it; Wes felt he wanted a new and updated take on the 1977 film, and Alex gave it to him.
We sat down with the Master of Horror to talk about this film, but also to talk about his new stage show in Las Vegas. Here's what he had to say:
So how do you think this compares to your film?
Wes Craven: It's a mere shadow. If it's better than mine than that's fabulous. I think they're both really intense films.
How excited are you that a new generation will see this?
Wes Craven: I'm very excited. I think it's a tribute to the original film. Alex literally told his closet friend Gregory who is his co-writer producer when they ran Hills Have Eyes at their house. They barely knew each other but one had heard about the film and one said I have it and that's how they met. It's one of the reasons they got into the film business. I keep hearing that more and more. As I get older my early fans get older so now they're in the studios. The true fans have taken over the asylum and that's nice...It's one of the interesting things to me as a film maker is to see someone take something that I've done and take it in quite a different direction.
Are audiences that undemanding?
Wes Craven: I think part of the audience is frankly. Part of the audience are not rocket scientists. God bless them you know you need the asses in the seats. Then there's a lot of very bright and some ways very demanding people who want to see something original and something that makes sense or has some real intensity to it. I guess like most audiences there are all sorts of levels of different intelligence and wish for complexity or not wish for complexity and someone who wants to see a head cut off and someone who is like ewwww I didn't need that, but there's an interesting relationship here.
What did you do with the film?
Wes Craven: I was very much there for the selection of the director and the original concept. I was very much there for the writing. When they started shooting I was just stopping Red Eye so it would have been impossible for me to go. But you know what it's like I would be the 800 pound gorilla on the set. As a young director imagining myself back then, I wouldn't have wanted the old guy who had done the original around. You want to be doing your own thing.
What's going on with your new show in Vegas, Magic Macabre?
Wes Craven: Wayne Newton came to me. No, I was approached by this guy John McCulgan who is the producer of Riverdance. He heard about a show in Dublin that was a bloody magic show. There was standing room only and it was getting rave reviews. So they went to see it and he bought it. He wanted to take it up to the level that would play in Las Vegas. I mean that's a pretty wild vision. So then he called me and got in contact and says 'I want you to do Wes Craven's Magic Macabre with an 1800 seat theatre in Vegas. When I stopped laughing ok. He gave me complete freedom. I watched the old show. I didn't see any pattern in it but it was an interesting thing. The idea of Macabre going up to a line and over but not so far as people running out and vomiting. I started writing and I think I came up with a terrific idea which is a young magician who is serving as the clown of the world's most famous magician at the time gets kicked around and treated vilely by this guy. He makes the deal with the devil to be the world's most famous magician and the devil says I'm going to make you do some sins maybe seven. No six no seven and they shake. He says the first one he says they're deadly sins did I mention that? The first one is murder and here's the name and it's his boss. The whole opening show once that's established is and this old guy's assistant is the young guy's fiancée. She gets hit on all the time and everybody hates this guy. So in the first show is this old guy doing this elaborate stunt and it's kinda scary and he's almost reckless but he does it and it's amazing. A huge light fixture falls down and just crushes him and the curtain goes down. We do it in a way that it comes over the audiences so you're kind of taken backstage with them. The young guy says to the promoter 'I can I know the whole act. Let's just say he's doing his ultimate act of returning himself to his own youth.' They kind of look alike. So he says you're going to have to turn back the whole gate or I'll try. So he does it and he's brilliant and over night he becomes the world's most famous magician. What he doesn't realize is that each time he does the show, each time he does a series of illusions he goes through one of the deadly sins and each one changes him. It marks him more and more until about five then he realizes he's looking uncomfortably like the guy he murdered. By the very end he is the guy that he murdered. It's like a 60 page script.
Where is it going to be?
Wes Craven: Steve Wynn is actually the one who wants it. Steve wants to see it so we'll see.
What's happening with Feast?
Wes Craven: The basic thing press needs to realize because they keep asking me questions is that most of the time when somebody is involved like myself I don't control it at all. That's controlled by what was Dimension is now the Weinstein Company and they were going to open the same weekend. They were going to open against us and then they got afraid of that and were going to push it back but then I've heard maybe they've pulled it. So the answer would have to come from then; I don't know why. I think it's really good and I think it's funny and just a hoot. Very bloody and greasy and everything else, but just fun, so I don't know. They've done a lot of things that I don't know why they've done.
You went to one of the people from Greenlight who didn't win and wanted their script. What happened with that?
Wes Craven: It was a terrific script. It's just gone through another rewrite. We're tying to get somebody to do it. He's a very talented guy and I thought it was by far the best script. The script for Feast was a train wreck. I thought they would never be able to pull this off with their budget and they didn't. They had to get more money because they had 21 speaking parts plus monsters it like that's so expensive and time consuming. But somehow they pulled off something pretty close to it.
Is there something that you weren't able to do in the original, but they did in the remake?
Wes Craven: The whole town; we never could have afforded that. We socked everything we had into the trailer. That car we used cost about $200 that barely would make it over the hill. You know that was such an extremely low budget we had. We didn't have cranes, we didn't have dollies, we had I think a crew of 11. We were just very limited on resources. I think we got what we needed. It was very much a gorilla operation.
Are there films of yours you don't want remade?
Wes Craven: Deadly Friend; as a matter of fact, I'll probably shock you all but we are quite advanced on talks about doing Last House.
How do you feel about that?
Wes Craven: It doesn't bother me if it can be done well. It needs to be a really quality film. It don't think it should be at the level of an assault the original was because if you did it at that level, you'd literally have to kill people on screen or something which none of us want to do. But, I think it's a really compelling story. It's one of those stories where you know there's that flip where the family suddenly becomes really.
Do you want to be as hands off with that film?
Wes Craven: I think it's the only way to make a film. I mean it just behooves you to choose very carefully. Once that ship sails in short of taking a revolver to set there's nothing you can do. That guy is going to do what he's going to do. You just have to be very sure about the filmmaker.
The Hills Have Eyes opens in theaters March 10th; it's rated R. It stars Aaron Stanford and Emilie de Ravin.