Shortly before the release of “The Hills Have Eyes 2,” Artsweek, along with several other publications, was invited to participate in a press conference call with the film’s writers, Wes Craven and his son, Jonathan. The following questions, compiled from the phone conference, provide insight to the Cravens’ approach to horror and why Wes Craven and his son have been a mainstay in the genre for over thirty years.
What was it like collaborating on a project?
Jonathan Craven: It was great. We didn’t have a lot of time so we just sat in a room for a month with the walls covered in blood.
Wes Craven: Mostly his blood.
Jonathan: We got along great. If we laughed, we knew it was good. That’s gallows humor.
Wes: Jonathan became a father about two years ago. So you had two writers and two fathers and we were able to connect on that level as well.
Since the film’s characters are soldiers, do you see “The Hills Have Eyes 2” as a metaphor for today’s situation in the Middle East?
Wes: There is a parallel we found intriguing. None of us wanted to make a political film but seeing American kids in a situation where they’re in danger certainly resonates.
Jonathan: We didn’t set out to make it about politics but you can’t avoid the parallels of horror movies with the horrors found in the newspaper.
Is the film a sequel to the original or the remake?
Wes: It’s a sequel to the 2006 film. Alex Aja set the precedent for the back story and we just built off it.
With this film, are you shooting for the same type of audience that went to see your other recent films like “Scream” and “Feast?” Is this movie different?
Wes: I assume anyone that likes horror will like these films. “Hills 2” is different because it’s not about home life. It’s about squad life in the military. We’re still going for the same type of horror and terror.
Jonathan: It’s brutal and direct. People that like straight up horror will like “Hills.”
As writers on this film, how involved were you in picking the director?
Wes: We were involved, but it was mostly the choice of the producer.
How do you feel about the film’s release under Fox Atomic?
Jonathan: Great. They’re a genre division. My experience has been amazing.
Wes: They’ve got a talent for promotion. The trailer they came up with was great. As opposed to a studio that doesn’t know what it’s doing, I feel these guys are fans of the genre.
What’s your favorite horror film?
Wes: I like films like “The Exorcist,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Hostel.” What I like is something I’ve never seen before and the feeling that the director is a dangerous person.
What’s your opinion on modern horror films made after 2000?
Wes: I think we’ve gotten past the PG-13 Japanese remakes when the studios were playing it safe. The right wing had just come into government. Now we’re back to hard hitting, bare knuckled films. It’s a result of the situation in society, the adventure of the U.S. getting into trouble. The situation right now is chaotic, out of control, and painful. It’s like back in the sixties and seventies. Those times inspired films like “Night of the Living Dead.” Now the horror is in your face. You can go onto the Internet and watch a video of a guy getting his head sawed off for real.
What was your experience like shooting in Morocco?
Jonathan: We had a seven-week shooting schedule. Half was on location in the Moroccan hills. They were jaggy and full of cobras and scorpions. We actually had a guy who would go out an hour early and pluck all the snakes and scorpions and put them in a cardboard box 50 feet away from the set. It was a tough shoot and not a lot of time. We had people from 23 different countries helping out. It was fun because it felt like an adventure.
What made you come back for the sequel?
Wes: Great audience reception from the first film. From there I got to thinking about what would happen afterwards? How would the government get involved? How could things go from there?
Is evil hereditary?
Wes: This goes back a long line in our family. There was Jack the Ripper, Johan the Slasher, and Gerald the Gutter.
When is the new “Nightmare on Elm Street” film coming out?
Wes: I know nothing about it. The property is owned by New Line.
What was it like revisiting your concepts?
Wes: Alex came up with the idea for the remake. It was interesting seeing what someone else would do and how that person put their own spin on it.
Do you have any golden rules for filming horror?
Wes: Don’t kill the cameraman. Seriously though, I only follow two basic rules: Would I like watching it? And have I seen anything like it before?
What is the difference between the first remake and its sequel?
Jonathan: Last year was about a family out of their element. The baby was taken, family members were kidnapped and killed. This year the family is a military unit. Horror comes from the danger to that familial unit.
What’s the one dream project you’d like to work on?
Wes: The Donald Trump story. It’ll just be about giving him a weapon and having him kill people.