You really never know... just ask Jeffrey Reddick!
Hey there, fellow horror geeks and monsterphiles! Prometheus here and recently I had the opportunity to chat with FINAL DESTINATION creator, Jeffrey Reddick, about his upcoming directorial debut DON’T LOOK BACK!
We also got into a bunch of other interesting topics, including an inspiring story about how Jeffrey got started. Spoiler alert, it involves A Nightmare on Elm St and a jaded kid! Check out our conversation, and the trailer for DON’T LOOK BACK below!
JEFFREY REDDICK = JR
JOSHUA SCAFIDI = JS
JR: Hey Josh, it’s Jeffrey Reddick. How are you?
JS: Hey Jeffrey! How are you doing?
JR: I’m good.
JS: So, you have a film coming out that you both wrote and directed, DON’T LOOK BACK!
JR: Yeah, I’m really excited about it! It’s my first one. (Directing.)
JS: It looks awesome.
JR: Thank you! It’s exciting, again, being my first one. It’s more of a mystery/suspense- thriller. It’s not a horror film, but it has horror in it. Like, it’s not a Final Destination type splattery- horror film. I’m very excited to see how people react.
JS: What can you tell us, without spoiling too much, Jeffrey?
JR: Well, the story is about a group of people who see somebody getting fatally assaulted in public, and somebody videotapes it and they all, for various reasons, don’t help and the person ends up dying. The witnesses are outed to the public, and somebody – or something, starts coming after them.
Our lead character, Caitlin, is a woman who is overcoming a tragedy in her past and she starts seeing signs that make her think that they’ve got to solve the victim’s murder to stop whatever is after them. She believes it’s something supernatural and other people think it’s a killer, and that she’s going crazy.
The Kitty Genovese story back in the 60’s about the nurse that was assaulted and killed and nobody helped - it was attributed to the Bystander Effect, that story has always haunted me. Now you just go online, and you see people, the first thing they do when something bad happens is pull out their cellphones and start recording it. We really lack empathy today. So, that really inspired me with the story.
JS: It’s disturbing. I was going to ask where you came up with the idea.
JR: Well, the Kitty Genovese story always stuck with me and I can you a little about the history. After I wrote Final Destination, of course, everybody kept saying write something like Final Destination. When I originally came up with the idea, I was going to have it be very Final Destination like, but with karma getting everybody. Then I thought, that’s too like robbing my own thing, so I thought, what if it’s a mystery? Like it could be a killer, or it could be supernatural. I thought that would be an interesting way to attack the film.
JS: Now, this is your feature-length directorial debut. How’d that go?
JR: It was a great learning experience. It’s funny how, no matter how many times you’ve been on set on films, you realize what you need to learn once you’re on set. We had a great team, great actors and actresses who really just gave it their all.
It was a great learning experience because as a writer when you write a script, you want to make sure you’re getting everything across to the reader. Film making is a very visual medium. So, now when I watch films, I’m like oh, wow. You can get this emotion across with a look, you don’t need to have ten minutes of dialogue. It’s interesting learning the film language compared to the screenwriting language.
JS: It’s the whole other side of the coin.
JR: Yes, it really is. Writing the script, you want the reader to visualize everything, and feel the emotions. You have to make sure they can follow the plot, so you have to have expositions in the script. When you’re watching a film you realize, oh these two scenes earlier set up all this stuff, so I don’t need this other exposition scene in the script. This is all stuff you learn.
JS: Would you do it again?
JR: Yeah. My director friends told me you’re either going to do it and want to do it again, or you’ll be like eh, I’ll just stick with writing. I definitely fall in the “I want to do it again” category.
JS: You mentioned having great actors. It stars Kourtney Bell, Will Stout, and Skyler Hart. What was it like working together with everyone?
JR: It was great, and for me, I got to kind of cast who I wanted to cast within our financing. I’ve always wanted to have an African American lead in one of my films and I kept writing them into my scripts and they kept not casting them. So, when I saw Kourtney on her site, I was like she’s perfect! When I met her, I just knew she was the right person. She has a theatre background, as does Will Stout, so they came very prepared. I studied theatre growing up too, so I’m mindful of that. I had a wonderful time working with everyone.
We also had some old pros; Jeremy Holm has been in a bunch of films. He came to the set with his character memorized and personified. Bryan Batt, too. So, we had a good mix of fresh, new talent and some really skilled people who have been at it for a while, like Jaqueline Fleming.
JS: If you had to sell me on the film in one sentence – what would it be?
JR: Oooh. Stumped by Aint It Cool News…
JR + JS: (Laughing)
JR: Um… You should help people in need because karma’s a bitch!
JR + JS (laughing)
JS: Perfect, I’ll take it! What was it like on set, behind the scenes?
JR: It was… pretty stressful, I’ll say. You know, when you’re shooting an indie film, you don’t have a lot of the luxuries you have on a fifteen to twenty-million-dollar film. We were all giving 110% every day. It wasn’t tense in terms of fighting with each other, or anything. It was just like everybody was super focused on making sure we got everything done. Very little sleep, lots of Red Bull.
JS: Now, you created Final Destination. That was your thing. I loved that movie when I was younger. It was original, it was fresh, and man, it had some scenes that were painful! For me, it was the plane scene at the beginning of the first one. That scene messed me up!
JR: Yeah, I think I’ve messed a lot of people up over the years.
JR + JS: (Laughing)
JS: Yeah! You’re solely responsible, I’m sure, for a lot of people not flying for a few years!
JR: Yeah, and moving away from log trucks…
JS: That’s my girlfriend. Anytime I’m behind a big truck, to this day.
JR: I look at it like I’m saving people’s lives.
JS: Well, that’s a proactive way to look at it!
JR + JS: (Laughing)
JS: Was there any scene that messed you up, and just stuck with you?
JR: There are two scenes. The bathtub scene in the first movie, just because it was so realistic. I think the one that shocked me the most, and I’m not easily shocked, was the gymnastic scene, oh my God. I think I screamed at the screen, and I never do that!
JS: The fence scene in part two? When it slices and dices the kid… Awesome.
JR: And I do love the freeway pile-up scene. I think David Ellis just directed that scene so well. I think the log truck scene is my favorite. I think the key to movies that are really successful is that you try to tap into stuff that people can really relate to.
JS: Actual fears, exactly.
JR: Yeah, I think those can be more terrifying than something that’s super crazy.
JS: So, I did some digging, Jeffery and I found out that one of your favorite all-time films is one of my favorites! A Nightmare on Elm St.
JS: And at fourteen, you wrote a prequel to it, and mailed it to New Line Cinema. Can you tell a little bit about that story? Because it’s gold.
JR: Of course! I saw that movie when I was fourteen, and it blew me away. Everything about it, from the acting to the special effects to the story. I lived in Kentucky at the time and I didn’t know anything about the movie business, and I went home and banged out a prequel idea on my little typewriter and mailed it to Bob Shaye.
He sent it back and said they don’t take unsolicited material, and I didn’t even know what that meant so I looked it up. I wrote him back and sent it again and was like look, mister, I spent three dollars on your movie, so I think you can take five minutes to read my story.
He actually read it and got back to me. Him and his assistant, Joy Mann, they would send me movie posters and scripts and when I was nineteen, I went to New York to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Bob and Joy asked if I wanted to intern at New Line. Of course, I said yes, and ending up staying – just never left. It was about eight years later that they bought Final Destination and it came out about three years after that. I still stayed there until I sold the story for the second one. Then my boss was finally like Jeffrey, we love you so much, but we think it’s time to cut the cord. You can go out and just be a writer now.
I was just enamored with New Line. They call it The House That Freddy Built, and it really is. That original film was just so brilliant. It has one of the best final girls I’ve seen in film.
JS: I love Nancy!
JR: People bring up other final girls and they run around and scream and then stab the killer a couple of times. Nancy devised a plan. She went after Freddy in the “Dream-World” and boobytrapped the house to beat him. She was such a smart character. I get goosebumps.
JS: My favorite final girl, for sure, and I loved that film as well, so I get it! It’s crazy how you’re love for A Nightmare on Elm St, and writing a prequel for it as a kid, lead you to New Line and eventually making Final Destination.
JR: I tell people, keep doing stuff because you never know where it’s going to lead. At fourteen I didn’t have a master plan to work at New Line. I never thought that would happen. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be the first biracial centerfold at fourteen. If I hadn’t written that letter, then written back after he rejected it, I don’t know where I’d be. It was instrumental in getting me my career.
JS: That’s an awesome story. Seriously. You mentioned wanting to be an actor. I read that back in the 90’s you were told that you were an ethnic Michael J. Fox type and that you should play ball or start rapping? Is that true?
JR: Yeah, that’s what my agent told me. She was like, I don’t know what do with you. You’re like an ethnic Michael J. Fox type and if you don’t sing, rap, or play basketball, I don’t know what to send you in for. She said she could try to get me a guest spot on the Cosby show maybe.
This was in the early ’90s, it wasn’t really that long ago. It’s interesting when we talk about diversity in films and people get in an uproar – they just don’t realize how short a time ago it was that if you were brown or black, the only roles you were getting were gangsters, pimps, or prostitutes and rappers. That’s been changing recently.
JS: I grew up in the ’90s, so I remember. It’s crazy because it wasn’t all that long ago.
JR: Even in Final Destination, I kept telling them that New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world, you have to have some people of color. I love the cast, but all the high schoolers were white and I’m like, guys, we talked about this for a YEAR! So, they offered to put Tony Todd in it. I love Tony Todd, so yes, please, but still…
JS: In New York, too… Come on. So, what do have going on after DON’T LOOK BACK?
JR: Right now I’m working on two animated cartoons for Netflix.
JS: You’re leaving horror?!
JR: No, I’ll never leave horror.
JR + JS: (Laughing)
JR: As a writer, I like stretching my muscles a bit. One is a fairy-tale type of thing but it has some darkness, and the other is a Usagi Yojimbo spin-off. It’s been really fun getting to focus on humor and action. They should be coming out in 2022. I produced a film named The Call, with Lin Shaye and Tobin Bell, directed by Timothy Woodward Jr. That’s coming out in October, as well.
I’m also working on a couple of horror things. I’m working on a Swiss Frankenstein series. I just finished the pilot for that. You know the business. Until someone actually writes a check… it’s not happening. I do want to get behind the camera again, for sure. Who knows, there might be a DON’T LOOK BACK 2, and then it’ll end up being KEEP NOT LOOKING BACK, and I TOLD YOU NOT TO LOOK BACK…
JS: WHY DO YOU KEEP LOOKING BACK?
JR: HOW MANY TIMES ARE YOU GOING TO LOOK BACK?
JS: STOP LOOKING BACK!
JR + JS: (Laughing)
JS: I’ll keep an eye out for all those… and for the Netflix cartoons! I don’t want to take up too much of your time, Jeffrey, but I do have one final question for you.
JS: Would you ever consider going back to Final Destination?
JR: I would definitely love to. I’ve had ideas for re-launching the film, in a way. They still do well, and the studio is very much “if the formula ain't broke, don’t fix it.” The thing I still love is that we talk about Death's design in the films and Death can have many designs on how it gets people. It doesn’t have to be the Rube Goldberg design. So, I’d love to come back and do something fresh with it.
JS: That’d be cool. I definitely appreciate your time, Jeffrey! I’ll keep an eye out for your future endeavors!
JR: Awesome! Thanks for setting up the interview.
JS: My pleasure. Thanks again Jeffrey!
Jeffrey was really cool, and I had a blast talking horror with him! Be sure to check out his new film, DON’T LOOK BACK and keep an eye out for The Call, as well! Comment below with your thoughts!
Until next time, keep on geekin’ on, my friends!
Joshua “Prometheus” Scafidi