Decades before Bella and Edward went all gooey-eyed for each other Eric Red crafted an extraordinary tale of two young bloodthirsty lovers (and their ragtag, nomadic ‘family’) who make Stephenie Meyer’s teenage duo look positively anaemic by comparison, in the form of the genre-defying 80’s horror classic Near Dark.
Red was also the scriptwriter behind the equally admired serial killer yarn, The Hitcher, as well as directing a number of cult favourites from that era, including Cohen and Tate and Body Parts. He has now added novelist to his already impressive resume with the dark coming-of-age thriller Don’t Stand So Close.
HeyUGuys recently had the opportunity to chat to him about his debut novel, some of his past features and the current state of vampires in pop culture.
HeyUGuys: What initially drew you into the profession and how did you get your start?
Eric Red: I grew up loving movies and always wanted to make them. When I was 19, I got serious and wrote and directed a 16mm short film to break into the business. It was a modern western set in a New Jersey bar about a confrontation between an old hit man and young street punk called Gunman’s Blues. It got national television distribution but didn’t get me a feature, so I went to Texas and wrote The Hitcher, which I sold from Austin before I came to Hollywood. That got me in the door.
Your directing debut came with 1988’s Cohen and Tate. Was there ever an opportunity for you to direct your scripts for both The Hitcher and Near Dark previous to that?
Having two scripts produced gave me the necessary clout in Hollywood to insist I direct my third script. At the time, that was the way you did it.
Near Dark presented a unique fusion of genres which hadn’t really been seen before at that time. What are your thoughts on the current representation of the vampire myth in popular culture, and do you think there’s still an opportunity to tell new stories within that world?
The whole approach with Near Dark was to imagine what vampires would be like if they really existed, and that sense of reality and verisimilitude is missing from current vampire films, so there’s no suspension of disbelief. The western elements of that film organically evolved from the approach, but now the cross genre vampire stuff seems generic. For me, the vampire genre is oversaturated, but then the other day I read this terrific historical vampire novel by Jasper Kent called Twelve and couldn’t put it down, so what can I tell you.
Is there one of your films which you’d love to see given the specialist treatment on Blu-ray?
Body Parts. I’d love to see a beautiful high def transfer of that one. It was shot in anamorphic widescreen and has epic, vibrant visuals as well as a big dynamic sound dub and score that Blu=ray would truly do justice to. There’s a lot of interesting stuff for the special features, including the grisly deleted scenes for the supplemental materials on the disk. I think that Body Parts is a fun, scary flick that really holds up. We screened a new 35mm print in a local LA theatre the other day and the sell-out crowd who hadn’t seen it before was screaming and applauding, so it’s stood the test of time as a real audience film.
You’ve dipped your toe in the world of graphic novels (sci-fi horror, Containment) before but what lead you to write your first novel, Don’t Stand So Close?
It was a story that leant itself to a novel because it deals with the emotional lives and point of views of several teenagers. It’s very internal—which books are better at–because it deals with their feelings about one another and about sex, mostly as it relates to a seductive and manipulative female teacher who impacts their lives with grave results. I was motivated to write the book because when I was going to high school, and also today, I knew of a number of teachers who slept with their students. Certainly there were a number of beautiful teachers who my male friends and myself fantasized about, so I thought the subject matter was universal. The Police wrote a song about it.
The catch is, it’s a Watch Out What You Wish for situation, because any adult teacher who has sex with a student commits a breach of trust and has serious personal problems – it would mess up the kid who had the affair. This always struck me a strong premise for a psychological thriller, a kind of teen Fatal Attraction. The book begins as a romantic and erotic Summer of ’42 style love story about a younger man infatuated with a beautiful and mature older woman, and then turns very dark and takes unexpected and terrifying twists. All of this was the perfect fodder for a novel.
The book’s story sounds quite cinematic. Are there any plans to turn it into a live-action adaptation?
I wrote it as a book without regard to filming it, but it certainly could be a movie. The subject matter is tricky because it deals with teens and involves erotic subject matter. The book is an R but the film would have to be PG-13 because the audience for movies of this genre are young people. It’s a moral book and I don’t think that the film would be inappropriate for kids because it warns against having sex with the wrong people. I’d love to see Jennifer Anniston cast as the teacher, Linda Hayden – she would be unexpected against type casting in the role. Now that’s a movie people would see!
Which do you find the most satisfying, writing prose or crafting a script?
They’re different. I just finished my second novel, a period horror western called The Guns of Santa Sangre and am working on a third, which is a serial killer book that marks a return to Hitcher territory. So I guess that speaks for itself. Once I caught the book-writing bug with Don’t Stand So Close, I haven’t put much thought into screenwriting lately because novels are too much fun. But you never know what I’m going to come out with next.
Don’t Stand So Close is out on the 1st July.