Terror Tuesday: Platinum Dunes Is “Not Making Horror Films Anymore”
The other day I saw a YouTube video of a full sized cat “hugging” a baby kitten. It was up for I think two days and had already amassed over 10 million hits. I mean, sure, it’s cute and all, but that’s all there is to it, and it’s not like we’ve never seen a video of a cute kitten on YouTube in the past. Yet, there’s an hour long (broken up into four videos) presentation/Q&A with Platinum Dunes producer Brad Fuller talking to a class of high school kids that’s been up on the site since December and the combined number of views for all four videos is barely over one thousand.
Not that people necessarily scour YouTube for anecdotes about the production of The Unborn, but with the number of rather telling and interesting things that Fuller says in the video(s), I would think more folks would have checked them out by now. I have pulled a few choice highlights to discuss below, but it’s worth watching the entire thing, I think. While some of his memories seem to be a bit skewed, such as his tendency to explain where Michael Bay was at in his career during various points of his own (while talking about a movie that was made in 2001/2002, he explains that Bay was “wrapping Armageddon”, which had been released 3-4 years before), he is also surprisingly candid with these kids. A few personnel from Dunes films are singled out as being problematic, he takes a few shots at his own movies as well as a few others (after talking about how bad Unborn is, he says “We’re not THAT bad” when someone mentions Sorority Row as another girl horror movie), and at the end of the video, not long after revealing his age (45), he goes on and on about how hot Rosie Huntington-Whiteley from Transformers 3 is. In short, it’s pretty delightful.
I have embedded the videos below, commentary in between.
“It’s not the best cast, but we got that movie made,” he says, referring to an early (non Dunes) film he made with Joe Pantaliano and Andre Braugher. Yeah, those guys got nothing on Cam Gigandet and Eric Balfour. This first video isn’t quite as interesting as the others, as he’s mainly just giving his background and talking about how Platinum Dunes was formed. However, his “let me tell you about someone” story is classic. You know the type, someone tells a story about one’s humble beginnings and then the punchline is “That man was John F Kennedy” or whatever. He uses the appropriate tone for such things, but the reveal of who he’s talking about makes it a total joy.
In this one he starts talking more about the films, mainly Texas Chainsaw Masscare and Amityville Horror. Since those were (in my opinion) the best of their remakes, it’s interesting to hear him basically explain how they made Amityville using the exact same criteria as Chainsaw: iconic title, saying it’s based on a true story, reusing the iconic imagery from the original*, etc. As the video goes on, he will explain why their failures were due to a lack of not sticking to a predefined formula. And while I have trouble with this as a movie fan, I love that he’s being honest with a bunch of high school kids. Instead of the usual “if you dream it you can achieve anything!” motivational crap, he’s basically telling them that the best way to get ahead in Hollywood is to stick to what works and not take risks.
There’s also a weird bit where there’s an edit, and when it returns a few minutes later as he is discussing their abandoned plans to remake Paranormal Activity (as you may recall, Paramount bought the film we know and planned to redo it “professionally” before someone decided that the one they had was good enough). I never knew this almost became a Dunes project, so I found it kind of interesting. After this bit he puts on Amityville, so you can skip to the next clip unless you have a real desire to watch an angled/cropped/blurry version of that film’s opening scene.
The third one is possibly the best, because it has the most “headline” worthy stuff, including the surprising (but not really explained) revelation that he considers Nightmare on Elm Street to be their biggest disappointment (even as he points out it was their highest grossing film worldwide). I mean, I know *I* hated that goddamn thing, but I would have liked to have known what HE found disappointing about it. He does mention his embarrassment over that awful CGI version of Freddy coming through the wall, and in the fourth video he alludes to Jackie Earle Haley being a pain in the ass, but otherwise he doesn’t get into it (for the record, he claims Friday the 13th is his favorite of all the movies they have done). It’s also at this point where he drops the bombshell in the title of this article, which is a bit of a surprise considering that on Twitter he keeps saying that they are waiting for the go ahead from the studios (Paramount and Warner/New Line) to do sequels to Friday and Nightmare. He also doesn’t mention Monster Squad at all, is that one dead too? Not losing sleep over it if so. But it’s a shame that they seemingly have no plans to use their brand to develop any more horror films, remake or original. There aren’t many horror outfits anymore, shame to lose another even if their track record was spotty.
There’s also brief talk of The Hitcher, where amongst other slams he says that the ending was lame. Fuck you it was, Fuller! The ending was AMAZING! After Sean Bean blows Neal McDonough away (McDonough using a steely “go fuck yourself” as his last words), Sophia Bush jumps out of a truck that has just exploded, baring no injuries of any sort (and looking hotter than ever, I might add) and shotguns Bean a few times, including one round to the face. That’s an amazing ending! Lot better than Jared Padalecki inexplicably dragging Jason’s body into the lake and thus sinking the only evidence of who really just murdered a dozen people.
I also liked when one kid asked if Rob Zombie was the one who directed Friday the 13th, and another funny bit where one student spoils Inception for one of the others. I assume these kids are high school seniors (since they are getting a presentation from a guy who only makes R rated movies), AND they are in a film class of some sort, so their lack of knowledge surprised me at times. When I was a senior in high school I kept up with this sort of stuff and that was before we had Twitter and eight million movie sites (basically AICN and DarkHorizons, if my admittedly hazy memory serves). One of them is even heartbroken to learn that Megan Fox is no longer in the Transformers movies.
The fourth is mostly Q&A with the students, and again I was surprised by his honesty and decidedly non-motivational responses. I mean, and this is not a paraphrase, he says “Doing a remake gets you to the next step without much effort” (I would have killed for a reaction shot of the teacher right there). But he does offer good advice, including a lengthy and terrific response to a student asking what makes a good director. His answer is that you need to have the entire movie in your head, and uses an example from the new Transformers that Rosie and Shia have a fight in one scene and she’s still upset about it eight scenes later (spoiler!), because Michael Bay is a great director (save your jokes) and can remember what’s going on from scene to scene. Without using any specific examples, he then says that he’s “never” worked with a director that has the ability to see the whole movie in their head, and only thinks in terms of individual scenes without looking at their place in the whole. So I guess Marcus Nispel, Andrew Douglas, Jonathan Liebesman, Dave Meyers, David Goyer, Jonas Akerlund, and Sam Bayer don’t have that ability (possibly why they never reuse directors, with the exception of Nispel who Fuller alludes to not having a good experience working with on Friday). Not to mention whoever directed Virtual Girl (his first movie, which he refused to mention by name).
Overall I found it a terrific use of 60 minutes and some bandwidth. The candid nature and lack of promotional necessities (with all of the movies long done with/successful) makes it a hell of a lot more interesting to me than any audio commentary or DVD interview, and with the exception of Horsemen he talks about each film equally, rather than focus on the ones that were the biggest hits. I don’t necessarily like all of Platinum Dunes’ movies (they more or less got worse as they went along; while I have a soft spot for Hitcher I would never claim it’s a legitimately good movie; however it’s still a hell of a lot better than Horsemen, Unborn, or Nightmare), and I don’t share some of Fuller’s philosophies on how to do a remake, but I can’t see JS Cardone sitting down with a bunch of high school kids and telling them how much Stepfather sucked or trying to convince them to never seek out a copy of The Forsaken. And itís a hell of a lot more exciting than any guest speaker I ever got at my high school, that’s for sure. We got like, an environmentalist. That dude probably didn’t even know who Jessica Biel was, let alone how much of a trouper she was despite only getting 40k to be in the movie.
*I found these videos on the IMDB message board for the NOES remake while researching the article I planned to write this week, concerning the misuse of elements from the original movie when doing a remake. But when I saw the shocking low hits on these videos I figured this was something I should do, and do it sooner rather than later. So look for that other one soon, and thanks to IMDb user “privateturgidson” for inadvertently providing this week’s column fodder!