Horror maestro likes to work significant themes into his stories

Jeff Strickler
Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)

Wes Craven

Audiences who think they see parallels between "The Hills Have Eyes 2" and the war in Iraq aren't imagining things. Writer-producer Wes Craven believes that horror movies should reflect the times in which they are made.

"Of course, for starters, you want a story that is succinct and punchy," he said. "You want the kind of story that you can tell in less than a minute to friends and when you're done, they say, `Wow, I'd want to see that movie.'"

But you also want a story viewers can relate to on a different level, he said. In this movie, which opens Friday, it's a squad of National Guard soldiers on a routine training mission who encounter murderous monsters and end up fighting for their lives against an enemy that is nothing like what they expected.

"What is going on right now historically is so important - the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism; you know, clashing cultures," he said. "With all these monumental things happening, I felt it would be interesting to do something involving American kids in uniform who are encountering an enemy that is totally inexplicable. ...

"Sure, we can build a `smart bomb' that goes through a window and wipes out a particular bunker," he said. "But they (terrorists) can build a smart bomb by strapping explosives to their chest and walking down a hallway into a room. I wanted to evoke a sense of people fighting an enemy that is cunning and ruthless in ways that we can't imagine."

Craven, who has a master's degree in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, has found tremendous success weaving deeper messages into what, at least on the surface, appear to be shallow thrill-producers. His filmography includes many of the horror genre's modern-day classics, including "The Last House on the Left," "The Nightmare on Elm Street" series and the "Scream" films.

In 1977, he wrote and directed "The Hills Have Eyes," which French director Alexandre Aja remade last year. Although the original also had a sequel, "The Hills Have Eyes 2" has nothing to do with that film. It sprung entirely from Aja's movie.

"The remake was very tough, very innovative, and audiences responded to it," Craven said. "As soon as we saw that strong response, we started thinking about a sequel."

He invited his son, music video director Jonathan Craven, to collaborate on the project.

"It was sort of unusual in that it wasn't really like a father and son," the elder Craven reported. "He had just become a father, which meant that I had just become a grandfather. We had a new common ground: We were both fathers."

He also assumed the role of a cinematic grandfather on the set, acting interested but not trying to interfere, with director Martin Weisz. That distancing sprung from his decision not to direct last year's remake.

"It didn't make sense for me to redo what I'd already done," he said. "Part of the reason I was interested in the remake was to give the material to another director and have him put it through his mind. So I did the same thing on this movie. I never looked over Martin's shoulder. I sat in my chair and watched the monitor and acted like a granddaddy."





Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.