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(this interview took place in April 2002)

Arrow in the HeadArrow recently had the chance to talk to the very funny, engaging and enthusiastic Craig Perry. He's producing the upcoming Final Destination 2 and he definitely kept me on my toes. Let's kick it!

CRAIG: I'm ready to talk to JoBlo.com!

ARROW: Beautiful!

CRAIG: It's a beautiful day...


ARROW: In your opinion, what are the main ingredients to a successful horror franchise?


ARROW: Honestly…

CRAIG: You need to have, at its core, something that's provocative enough to have the people take the scary elements home with them. For example, we can make death a presence in your own bathroom, in your kitchen, in your car and I think that breeds familiarity in the fear factor. It's not something so otherworldly that it stays on the movie screen and then as soon as you walk out the theatre, you just say: "Now that was entertaining!" It creeps and goes home with you.

That night when you get home from the theatre and you hit the lights and the bulb blows out, you just wonder: that’s weird, is there something there? That’s why I think the Nightmare On Elm Street series worked so well. We’ve all had scary dreams and woken up thinking: "Oh my god, my feet are cold and I was running in cold water in the dream, what does that mean?" I think that’s a very important component to it. The other part, of course, are the kills!

ARROW: You bet!

CRAIG: They have to be imaginative, they have to be terrifying, they have to be gruesome but not necessary gory. The impact, particularly for the horror fans, has to be visceral. Not viscera, you don’t have to have gouging testicles or intestines but VISCERAL, an intense experience. If you can match those two things, the organic reality that people can relate to and the supernatural possibilities that relate to your own experiences, then I think you have fire for a possible franchise. If you think about it, death doesn’t have a character. It has a directive, it has an aesthetic and you can't debate it, you can’t question it…it just is…and that makes it very fearful, how do you avoid the inevitable or prolong, preserve your own status in life while keeping death at bay. I think that’s where this particular franchise has found its success.

ARROW: Hot chicks and hip dudes also helps in terms of marketing, right?

CRAIG: It does, but I gotta be honest with ya...I think we have that with AJ Cook and Ali Larter who are two beautiful and talented young women. We also have Michael Andes who’s also a very good looking guy. One of the interesting things about this movie is that when AJ Cook’s character prevents all these people from going on this highway where this terribly tragic car accident is going to take place, it's not just a bunch of high school kids, it's people from all walks of life, it’s a woman and her 15 year-old son, it's an African American school teacher, it’s a Crystal Meth freak. They're a whole bunch of people who would never find themselves in the same room but now given what the AJ Cook's character has done, they’re forced to conspire and work together despite their differences to overcome this thing that’s coming after them.

I think that’s interesting and keeps the film from being just another "yawn" typical teen horror movie or as Ebert once said, just another dead teenager movie. We don’t just have dead teenagers, we have a few but we also broaden the scope and that will help the audience take the movie as seriously as we do.


ARROW: I got to ask the million-dollar question here.

CRAIG: Yes, my clothing is still on…

ARROW: LOL! That’s not it…Devon Sawa…what happened?

CRAIG: It was really a function of narrative. Think of it this way: if we had both of them come back from the first movie, it actually begs the question: what have they been doing for the last months? Are they sort of running around, hanging out or sitting in their apartment? It really doesn’t allow for the characters to grow that much. Yeah, they’re sort of looking after each other and they’re fighting death…but that’s a very boring back story. So it made more sense for one of them to have died and that the other person would have assumed the guilt of not having watched that person’s back. And then there was the question: do we go for Devon or do we go for Ali (Larter) and I think it was much more interesting taking into account the current trend of chicks kicking ass in movies to bring Ali back because the movie is also about her re-integration into society, she is going from selfishness where she doesn’t want to be responsible for anybody (last time she missed the boat and Devin wound up getting killed), to being selfless, to wanting to help other people and realize that the only way to live a life that has meaning is to actually go out on a limb for others.

In that respect, the relationship between Ali Larter and AJ Cook, who is the other female lead, is a weird sort of Obi Wan / Luke Skywalker thing. Ali knows everything that’s going on, where AJ had that one vision that terrified her and the only person she can go for help, and who has any experience in this whatsoever, is Ali Larter. Initially Ali is like “No, I’m not going to help you...get the fuck outta here” and that’s where the movie starts going into a dramatic triangle because the other point of the triangle is the police officer who’s sympathetic to the cause for no other reason than he’s acquainted with one of the survivors of Flight 80 in the first movie and it got him thinking that something weird is going on.

ARROW: So the rumors that Mr. Sawa wanted mucho green were false?

CRAIG: Let's remember that we had an option on him so the mucho green wasn’t really more or less the problem. On a narrative standpoint, it just didn’t make any sense to bring him back. It was a conflict of many reasons: was it money? Sure, that was a consideration, but ultimately I just feel it was much more interesting to have Ali come back. That way we sort of get our Sigourney Weaver-type character in the film.


ARROW: How important do you think Internet marketing is going to be for the second film?

CRAIG: One of the things that I’m very grateful for is that we managed to get the interest of Internet sites such as yours and I think that’s a testimony to the quality of the first movie, but I also think we have a job to do. I mean, most horror sequels suck I mean they really do. I’m a fan...I was weaned from '79 to '85 when every second weekend The Prowler would come out or The Burning.

ARROW: Great movies!

CRAIG: I even saw the Spanish film Pieces! I am well versed and I know how bad these movies can be and we’re really working hard to up the quality of "Final Destination 2". Like you have films out there like "Urban Legends" that didn’t worry about the audience expectations or the actual core fans. We don’t want to shit all over the people that are there for us. I believe if you really service their intelligence and their expectations, all will go well. We were very conscious of that as we moved forward.


ARROW: How does NEW LINE feel about the franchise? Are they 100% percent behind it?

CRAIG: Absolutely. This has been Bob Shaye’s pet project from the get-go. In the first movie, Bob was actively involved in the process of development, through execution through marketing, he was really, really in there. And he’s been likewise as supportive of the second movie, if not more so because of the success of the first one.

ARROW: When are we going to get to see a teaser trailer or a teaser poster?

CRAIG: I know that they’re working on concepts right now and my hope as a producer is that we can get a teaser trailer in theatres probably in July-August 2002 to take advantage of that last gasp of  summer movie madness. I’d like to get the full trailer in by Christmas to take advantage of that season as well.

Now you tell me, not to turn the tables here, but I’m sure you went: "Fuck, what a waste of time!", when you first heard about "Final Destination 2"…am I wrong?

ARROW: Uuuh…I was a little afraid…I really loved the first one so I was like...do we really need this?

CRAIG: That’s exactly what we’re up against at every turn, I think one of the reasons why we reached out to sites like yours is that we want the community out there to know that we have the same trepidations that you guys have going into it from your end. We’re doing everything we can to not shoot ourselves, you know?


ARROW: What were you looking for specifically when you commissioned the script for the sequel?

CRAIG: It took about a year of listening to pitches from a bunch of different writers. Some of them went way out there like “Devon Sawa’s character is now into extreme sports”…I just wanted to puke down my front!


CRAIG: What we wound up doing is that Jeffrey Reddick, who wrote the treatment for the original film, had one idea that was really interesting. He wrote a treatment for the sequel and then these other writers (Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber) also came up with their own takes on it. We then realized that the best way to service the movie was to combine both takes together and we did. They cleaved together very nicely. Jeffrey was working on another project at the time so Gruber and  Bress wrote the actual draft for the movie. What we were looking for was somebody who took the mythology of the first film and expanded on it in an intelligent way.

We wanted to find one really cool, connective tissue between the first and the second movie. One thing I really liked about what they did, is that they tried to make it like a stand-alone movie. Flight 180 is mentioned once in the first 30 minutes of the movie. It’s verbally mentioned and that’s it. It doesn’t have anything to do with the first movie until page 32 where we encounter Ali Larter who’s incarcerated herself in a mental institution for her own protection. So it's at that point that Final Destination 2 intersects with the original and the mystery of how the two movies intertwined is what propels the second act. You try to figure out how these two separate events are connected to one another and that ultimately leads us to the beginning of act 2, connection/twist/ reversal that sends us hurdling towards our thrilling conclusion.

ARROW: It sounds ambitious for a sequel...

CRAIG: We tried. I think it’s going to work; there are some really cool moments. What we wanted to do was to take everything people liked from the first film and use them in Part 2. Like the creative kills plus the sort of tongue in cheek humor. I don’t think the humor was bad in "Final Destination". You know how SCREAM was very self-referential and in consequence, self-congratulatory? Well, we don’t have that, we have black humor that comes about from the situation. People got into it via the first one and I think it’s a normal tension reliever. Anybody that’s in a stressful or tense situation tends to crack a joke. We tried to preserve a sense of humor as much as possible without undermining it to the point of making it campy cause lord knows once you stumble into campiness, the movie is almost over.

ARROW: True that.


ARROW: What was it about David R. Ellis that made him the right person for the job? (read my interview with David R. Ellis here)

CRAIG: He got me so drunk…just kidding…David Ellis, his resume speaks for itself in terms of pedigree for creating, generating, shooting and executing some of the most intense, unique actions sequences of the last 10 years. It certainly justified us having a meeting with him. When he came in, he had a much better handle of what the tone and the perspective of the movie needed to be even more than we did. He was very, very, very aware of the first movie and had very strong point of views about the things he wanted to preserve from it. So it really became very apparent that he was “the guy”.

Also, you want somebody with that kind of experience on board, it’s a very technically complicated movie. We had a lot of younger guys coming in who were interested, people who’d made one movie but the wealth of experience David brought with him was too good to pass on. This movie is built on some of its more intricate parts. If you remember the first one, some of the death sequences were very complex. There’s a lot of different elements that come into play during those scenes and a guy that’s very well-versed in shooting second unit, that knows the value of shooting material and applying it to a sequence, is the perfect guy to do a movie like this. The bonus is that he keeps the whole set running smoothly. He makes it fun! Everybody is having a great time!


ARROW: Why Canada? The first film was shot in British Columbia, and this second one as well. What is it about Canada that makes it Final Destination-worthy?

CRAIG: What makes it our Final Destination [laughs]? We know the arena, we know the people up there and let's be honest, there’s an enormous economic incentive to shoot there. We we’re very fortunate to get Justis Greene, who’s been working as a line producer up there for 30 years and who was able to get us the best crew working in town right now. It was advantageous to us on so many levels, that it was just the right place to go for this movie.

ARROW: Is the budget higher for the sequel than the first one?

CRAIG: Slightly, we were very fortunate, obviously on some sequels the budget goes up 40 or 50 percent higher than the original, but I think that we only went up 8 percent higher.


ARROW: This is a long-term question; if Part 2 makes the moolah…can we expect a Part 3?

CRAIG: We would love to have the opportunity to work with this notion again. I think one of the things people find fascinating about FD as a series is that we’re proposing a world where death is a reality, it's all around, it’s almost like "the Force" but really malevolent. I think one of the reasons that the first movie did as well as it did, is that it required the audience to enter this imaginary place. Movies like IKWYDLS or Urban Legends are really, in my opinion, NOT horror movies. They’re thrillers because you have a guy in a slicker cutting people up, there’s nothing supernatural about that.

But this series requires that you believe in something that’s fantastical and once you do, you can go to great places. I think the fact that death can’t be killed but can be thwarted or stalled allows the storyline to go anywhere. I mean, we can go to Bangladesh where somebody has an experience and through research they find out that other people had the same experience. Who knows what the third one will be? I’m just spit-balling here: let's say one girl has a premonition, she tells the press or something and 6 people show up at this person's door and say: "We can help you". There’s a thousand different things you can do with it, that’s why the Nightmare On Elm Street series worked, it deals with dreams and the otherworldly world of that. We also have a lot of fodder so we can fully take advantage of the possibilities of the FD story line.


ARROW: So what’s next on your plate, American Pie 3, Final Destination 3...wassup?

CRAIG: I have a bunch of things brewing. We have Cats and Dogs 2 that we’re trying to get off the ground. As for American Pie 3, we will only do it if we can do justice to the first. We’re working on finding the right storyline to execute in the right manner and if it works...we’ll go for it. We’re going to give it our best effort to live up to the first two. We’re also trying to get  “BOUNTY” flying, which is a supernatural Western.

ARROW: That sounds kool…

CRAIG: Think UNFORGIVEN with a supernatural edge to it. We’re aiming to enter development August/September hopefully at MGM.

ARROW: Any directors attached?

CRAIG: No, not yet but we’ll hopefully get the script in soon. What’s fun about it is that it takes all the strokes of the Western genre but gives them a supernatural undercurrent. I know it’s a somewhat tired genre but by giving it a little something else, it will bring it back to life (no pun intended). You know, I’ve never made a Western; I think it will be cool to deal with horses and all that kind of stuff. We also have another MGM project, it's an urban comedy called, Get It On, the casting process is going on right now. Bruce Leddy is attached, he’s a veteran of Mad TV and there's a wonderful energy about him. It's a lower budget thing but it's actually quite funny. Other than that, I’m just trying to stop myself from getting older, it's really hard, that old fart type thing.

ARROW: Old fart, give me a break, you sound like a hipster!

CRAIG: I’m trying, I’m trying. I actually had my birthday last week, and I am now at the ripe age of 34.

ARROW: Thirty-four?! You’re a young guy...what are you talking about? I guess in L.A. it works differently…


The conversation went on but it didn’t pertain to Final Destination 2 anymore, so I’m ending the transcript here. I'd like to thank Craig for his time and for the very insightful tidbits that he slapped my way. Check out Craig's screenwriting related site, it's a kool place for any budding screenwriter that wants to play with the Big Boys. You can also check out the Official Final Destination website. I can't wait for this sequel to land, the people behind it seem to have the right attitude. I expect a gnarly ride!

More Interviews with the Arrow...

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