Earlier this week, we took part in a press junket for legendary horror director Wes Craven’s latest slasher-thriller, My Soul to Take, a coming of age tale featuring a new iconic killer - and a lot of blood.
In attendance were writer/director/producer/cameo actor Wes Craven, as well at the film’s stars, Max Thieriot and Emily Meade, who offered their insights on a number of topics including 3D filmmaking, the slasher-horror genre, and reincarnation.
While Craven was mostly tight-lipped regarding Scream 4 (as well as 5 and 6), he spoke candidly about the future of 3D films as well as his excitement at getting “back to his basics,” by writing and directing My Soul to Take.
It goes without saying that the conversation is full of plot details – and even some major spoilers - for anyone who has yet to see the film. So, if you’ve been avoiding spoilers, read our My Soul to Take review – and decide whether or not to proceed.
After 15 years directing and producing other people’s films, Craven and the film’s stars, describe “going back to basics” in My Soul to Take:
Wes Craven: “I think this one was important in that, for a long time, I had been developing projects.
The most successful were remakes of my first two films… It was a way to artistically explore things, new directors, see what somebody else would do with the same story. It was a way of recovering some of the loss from the financial crash. It was interesting, but, at the same time, it took much more time than I thought. It took almost as much time as if you were directing it yourself.
There was a point, about where I got the idea for this film, where I was feeling like, you’re not supposed to be running a small company developing things, you should be writing and directing films.
It was kind of like, get back to your basics, without having to push other people to be creative in a way that you’ll like when it’s easier to do it yourself – and better. I just sat back and said, 'What are the films you’re famous for?' Certainly the Scream franchise and Red Eye, Kevin Williamson is great, but a lot my films, my most important films, I wrote myself and you have so much more control. If something needs to be fixed or if you have an idea, you can just write it out and you don’t have to ask for permission – and it makes a huge difference.”
Max Thieriot: “Wes Craven is such an icon in the genre and he’s created so many legendary horror icons, like Freddy Krueger. I mean he made Ghostface who he is – and so many people still wear these costumes. And [My Soul to Take] was an original Wes Craven film written, directed, and produced by him.”
Emily Meade: “It all comes together because of Wes’ script and directing - he wrote these real characters that kind of have the archetypes of horror movie characters but also have layers to them, and reasons to them, and I think that every character gets to go through an arc. His writing, mixed with the people doing an accurate and honest performance of it, really created an actual story and people you actually care about - whether they live or die.”
Craven was surprisingly forthcoming about My Soul to Take’s post-conversion jump to 3D:
WC: “It was done totally as a 2D film, we never thought of 3D. They approached me [following the sale of Rogue Pictures to Relativity Media], and said ‘How about 3D? We would love to do it in 3D.’ Yes there was a lot of pressure, [but] there was never, ‘We’re not going to release the film if you don’t.’ But it was like, ‘Would you give it an honest look?’ That was back around the time when Clash of the Titans had just come out and Roger Ebert was saying it was the worst thing that had ever happened to cinema – and my first impulse was, 'I’m never going to say yes.'
I started to be shown things you could do with images in 3D, that were really dramatic tools. For instance, when Bug sees a vision in the mirror or when Able is talking to all of his personalities in the bathroom scene, [when he looks in the mirror] we just subtly took the back walls, in each of the iterations of the bathroom in the mirror, back slightly in the shot - so that you get this feeling of being sucked in by what you see in the mirror without knowing why. It’s something you can do with 3D.
We literally had to sit in a room with people and say, that wall was 15 feet back, when Bug is talking to his mother over the birthday cake. It all has to be restipulated to the computers that are controlling these things within 3D. It’s pretty amazing but it also means you have to remake the film spatially - it also means that you can fiddle with the spatial reality, within any given scene, in a way that’s interesting.
My feeling was, they’re willing to put it out in 2D, 3D looked really interesting. Everything I’m reading about it, and talking to people about, is that this is not something from the '50s they’re just trying to get for the hell of it, but that it is something they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on – there’s something like eight thousand theaters that they are projecting, by the end of next year, that will have 3D. There are already 3D television sets, and I think we’re into a world where 3D is emerging and it’s going to be here.
If you are a master of making silent films, and talkies start, are you going to be the man who says, ‘No I won’t do that. It’s a gimmick,’ or are you going to be the man that is able to bridge those two eras? I want to be the man on the boat, not the man on the dock as the boat sails away. My sense is, we’ll see how it does. I think it looks quite great - I think it will depend on theater owners projecting it right. They never said to me, 'We want to have that knife fly at people,' or anything like that. It was a chance to try this new technology and see how it works.”
EM: “I get a little nauseous and disoriented watching 3D but I remember as a kid I loved it, and was really into it, so if a movie can be in 3D, why not? You get to see it in 3D. But, I think the technology lends itself to be able to do that – and I think they’re getting better and better with it – so hopefully I’ll get less and less nauseous. It’s crazy what they can do now, why not do it if you can?”
MT: “The nice thing is the people who don’t want to see it in 3D can see still see it in 2D. It has that new aspect for people who want to see the 3D stuff. I liked it in 3D, I mean this is the only time I’d seen a 3D movie since Up. It was interesting.”
EM: “There’s something cool that it’s not an animated thing, you really get to be in the world. It kind of reminds me of my dreams, like you’re watching something happening and you can feel some depth.”
While Craven seems less interested in shooting Scream 5 or other projects in 3D, he’s still passionate about the possibilities post-conversion allows filmmakers:
WC: “It’s really apples and oranges. When you shoot in 3D the eye is tricked in a totally different way than when it’s converted in post. The advantage of post is, if you have the time and the budget to do it, and we did ours in about four months (and I think we did a great job,) you have a lot more control over what you get. You’re not reliant on parallelisms and all that stuff [as you are] shooting with two cameras for 3D.
[With post-conversion] you have a lot more control over the look of it - and what you can do to manipulate it. It’s something that’s going to be here and it’s something we’re going to have to accommodate ourselves to at least trying to work with, and find the best parts of it – and use those parts. If it all goes away again, then I’ll be back to doing 2D perfectly happy, but if it continues to get better and better (I’m always like, ‘If I didn’t have to wear these glasses’), you are able to look at your film in three dimensions - and that’s pretty cool.
There’s no doubt the studios love it because they can charge twice as much for the ticket. Though they are investing a lot in the infrastructure.”
Craven, and the film's stars, also spoke about the possibility of future My Soul to Take installments as well as their take on the film’s ideas about the human soul:
WC: “Honestly, I never thought of it as something that would have sequels. In fact, I killed off most of the characters. It’s kind of keeping that thought out of your mind, and trying not to design things around that idea – because I think that can really kill something. It was more about getting the story right - and it was hard enough thinking about stories that juggled seven characters and two time-spans. That’s mostly what I thought about, how do you play out this drama – and how do you resolve it?
I think it’s when I hit on the idea of Max (Bug) taking on the smarts and the wisdom of the characters as they die, but not revealing that to the audience until way towards the end, that it started to feel like I kind of understood where it’s going. But even Able is a complex character - because maybe he’s alive, maybe he’s not, maybe he’s in one of the kids, and getting that complexity to not be totally confusing, especially in the resolution, was very difficult. It was a tough script and we did our share of reshoots to get it right.
MT: “For Fang, and for Bug, they’ve gone through these big transformations and there’s really a lot of ways they can go at this point.”
EM: “They’ve both overcome their first huge hurdles.”
MT: “Obviously for Bug it would be just as crazy – if not more.”
Screen Rant: “With all these voices in his head?”
WC: “I think a lot of things in this area - souls, heaven, hell, God - are attempts by human beings to attach words to things that we sense are there – in some way, shape, or form. To me, a soul could be DNA, or the memories within a family, for instance. But we all sense that when somebody dies, the body is suddenly not them. So, whatever the hell that is and wherever it goes – if it goes someplace, it’s to me an interesting concept to serve the story of a character whose father is affecting that character because of who that father was.
That sort of ‘soulness,’ I think we all just have an instinctive feeling that there’s something like that – that happens with human beings. It has to do with self-awareness and all those mysterious things that we have that no other animal has.”
While Craven was very much focused on his current release, he very briefly touched on his highly-anticipated upcoming film, Scream 4:
WC: “Quite a bit [will be original about Scream 4]. It is following the core characters and it is introducing some fascinating new characters - and I think the central concept was very original.”
It’s great to see that, after years of developing other people’s films, one of the greatest horror film writer/directors of all time is still passionate about filmmaking - stepping up to the plate and wrestling with the question of "To 3D or not to 3D," in this new Hollywood landscape.
While some audiences may not find My Soul to Take to be the dramatic character piece that Craven was hoping for, his comments (as well as those of stars Max Thieriot and Emily Meade) reveal a filmmaker willing to grapple with his comfort zone, utilizing new tactics to bring filmgoers into his movies (and scare them).
My Soul to Take opens today in 2D and 3D in theaters everywhere.