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Arrow in the HeadI'm looking forward to "Wrong Turn" (hitting the screens on May 30th, 2003) and was very happy when director Rob Schmidt agreed to do this interview for the site. As you might already know, the film has a bad rep already with Fox not doing much to push it in the marketing department and the MPAA refusing to approve the trailer for theatrical play. Is the movie that disturbing or is it just that bad? Director Rob Schmidt leaned me closer to the former via this little blah-blah session. Read on Campers!

ARROW: Are you a horror fan by nature? If so, which films have influenced you as a director?

ROB: I’ve had a real love/hate relationship with horror films since I was a kid. The thing I love about them is the power the good ones have to freak me out. I love the tension and the explosions of terror I feel. The times I hate them it’s because of that same power to make me live in fear. It’s really strange, this thing that you pay 8 dollars and go see and if it works it damages me emotionally.

When I was a kid I used to go jogging at night and the thing that kept me running was the vision of Linda Blair possessed by the devil in “The Exorcist”. On “Wrong Turn” I put the posters for “Jaws” and “Alien” up on the wall in my office. Those two movies are pretty much perfect for me. I was thinking a lot about seventies horror and the thrills it gave me while we were making “Wrong Turn.”

ARROW: What was it about Alan B. McElroy’s script that made you want to tackle it?

ROB: The script was really simple and direct. You meet some people, something appalling and horrific occurs, and then they have to run for their lives through an alien environment while they watch their friends hunted down and slaughtered. I wanted to make a movie where I could build a few characters to take the audience on a ride full of horror, stunts, effects and gore. “Wrong Turn” does that really directly.

ARROW: Did you do any re-writes of your own on the screenplay? If so, in what respects?

ROB: I worked with Larry O’Neil (Breast Men) on a lot of clean up. Alan’s script was pretty much there when I got it.

ARROW: "Wrong Turn" was your first full-out horror film. As a director, how different was it helming a genre film as opposed to your previous works?

ROB: It was a lot different. Fire, flames on people, explosions, moments of graphic horror, actors that required 5 hours of makeup to start shooting. There was a day, when we drove a truck through a flaming cabin and a guy fought another guy (who was on fire) with an ax and a tire iron.

At one point I called, “Cut”, the A.D. shouted, “OK, put him out” referring to the guy who was on fire, fire men went in with extinguishers to put out the flames and then, all in exactly the same costume with the same amount of fire damage, my leading man stepped out, his stunt double stepped out, and his stand in stepped out of a cloud of smoke. That was one of the happiest moments I’ve had on a set. Horror films are fun because I get to do the sort of things I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid.

ARROW: From a visual standpoint, what did you go for with "Wrong Turn"? Stylized, raw…a bit of both?

ROB: The movie has a seventies look a lot like “The French Connection” or “Jaws” A lot of natural light, some slow, lyric zooms, that sort of thing. 

ARROW: When casting, was Eliza Dushku your first choice for the lead? What was it about her that made her the “it girl” for this movie?

ROB: Eliza is the only star that could have played Jesse. She’s really sexy, smart and tough. Jesse needed to have a really tough exterior that is almost impermeable (so it’s fun to watch her break down) and Eliza did that in a great way.

ARROW: This might be a tad delicate, but do you have any idea as to why Fox is holding back in terms of the film's promotion?

ROB: They will get attacked by politicians and media folks for promoting violence. I heard they might be taking their logo off of the prints because they don’t want a backlash. Our theatrical trailer got kicked back something like 21 times by the MPAA. The only note I ever heard was “overall intensity.” They wanted the trailer to be, not less gory, not less violent, but “less intense.” It will be an easy shot for the anti-violence in media lobby to go after the film and Fox has a whole slate of movies they’re trying to get ratings on. They can’t be regarded as gore merchants or the MPAA will give them a hard time on all their other product.

ARROW: I’ve heard that the Stan Winston creatures in the film are quite a sight to behold. At the same time, I've heard that they’re sometimes communicated via shoddy CGI. Care to comment on that and the beasties within your film?

ROB: The mountain men are awesome. They’re played by really talented, interesting actors. Julian Richings (Cube) is one of them. We based them on physical deformities we found in medical journals and the sort of French/Scottish bone structure you see in photographs of Appalachian people (normal people) the idea is to create real men with deformities rather than creatures. There is no CGI used for the mountain men. That said, the CGI work in the film (for stunts and gore) is really good. It was finished about a week ago (May 15th) so I suspect whoever you talked to was looking at an unfinished cut. When we previewed, they made an announcement that the sound and digital effects were not done yet, but it’s hard for some people to understand that, even some professionals can’t imagine what a finished version will look like so I can understand that fella’s confusion.

ARROW: Would you say that the film is gory or that it suggests its violence more?

ROB: “Wrong Turn”  is a graphic horror film. The MPAA warning lists, “strong violence and gore.”

ARROW: How was your trek through MPAA land to get that coveted R-rating? Smooth or brutal?

ROB: The projects biggest ratings issue was whether to portray necrophilia graphically and that was decided (against) before the MPAA got to us.

ARROW: What’s next on your plate in terms of directing gigs?

ROB: I don’t want to say until there’s film running through the camera. I’m a bit superstitious.

ARROW: In one word, how would you describe "Wrong Turn"?

ROB: INTENSE!

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I'd like to thank Rob for dropping by and I wish him the best with this film's release and his future endeavors. I, for one, am pumped for "Wrong Turn" and hope that it will uppercut me to horror heaven. Let's find out on Friday.

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