Exclusive: Scott Derrickson on 'Sinister' and the 'Poltergeist' and 'The Birds' Remakes



sinisterThe biggest horror hit of last year was Sinister, starring Ethan Hawke as a true crime writer who gets embroiled in the supernatural hauntings that killed the family in his most recent work. On the eve of Sinister’s release on blu-ray, we chatted with writer C. Robert Cargill and director/co-writer Scott Derrickson about what we can look forward to on the blu-ray. We also got Scott to open up about the Postergeist and The Birds remakes he has been tangentially involved in.

Sinister was one of the most well-received horror films of the last few years. Were you expecting the response you got?

Cargill: I don’t know what we were expecting. We never put much thought into how people would react to it, we just focused on how proud we were of it. We knew the people who dug the same kind of movies we dug would dig the hell out of it, and we figured it would really connect with audiences.

Derrickson: Our priority was making a good film. We wanted to make the kind of horror film we wanted to see.

Cargill: My goal was to make a micro budget movie that didn’t feel like one .... When we finished the script, a lot of the big studios didn’t want the movie because they didn’t think audiences would like it because it is so dark. Summit picked it up but it had to cross a certain threshold on the test score to get a wide release - which we went way past. Once that happened, Summit saw what it was and what they had, and they were completely behind the movie - and marketed it very well.

What kind of goodies can we expect on the blu-ray?

Cargill: There was a character I had written, the next door neighbor, who got excised from the film. She was played by a very good friend of mine, Angela Bettis. I had lobbied very early on to get her in the film. She is fantastic and it gives a lot of good backstory, but the scenes she is in are bright daylight scenes, and it broke up the momentum of the film and pulled away from the claustrophobic feeling. When we cut those scenes, we ultimately forgot where they were - they really were scenes that could be pulled out. But they were so good. That is what I am most excited about on the blu-ray: putting those scenes back in. Her work in it is just fantastic.

Derrickson: We essentially wrote the part for her, and they are just scenes between her and Ethan. But even when you see them as deleted scenes, you can see they just don’t belong in the movie.

Then Cargill and I did a commentary track, and I did just a director’s track. We are both cinephiles and have watched dozens and dozens of commentary tracks, so we took it very seriously and put forth the kind of commentary tracks we wanted to hear: informative, energetic, and actually tell the view things they want to hear.

Scott, you have been linked to two very high-profile remakes, The Birds and Poltergeist. What can you tell us about where they are, or your involvement in them?

Derrickson: This comes up all the time. I have nothing to do with either of those. I did a rewrite on The Birds what feels like 10 years ago, but it was probably four or five years ago - it was before I met Cargill - I did a rewrite on a draft of that movie. I don’t even think that movie is going forward. They’ve brought on other writers and other directors since then, so I have nothing to do with that.

Poltergeist, I believe, does still have a remake in the works, but not with the draft I worked on. I worked under Mary Parent at MGM and did a rewrite on the script for another director. Then when MGM went under and were bought out, all of that material - I think - went out the window and they started over. So I have nothing to do with either of those at this point.

Is it overwhelming to do rewrites on films that are so beloved and classic?

Derrickson: Yeah. I think both of those had worthy ideas, and I know there is always a backlash to that. In the case of Poltergeist, it is challenging because I do think that movie is perfect. The visual effects don’t hold up that well, but the movie itself.... The more I studied that movie while working on the rewrite, the more amazed I was at how economical every scene was, and how there was a perfect early Spielbergian quality to that movie.

My opinion, personally, is that all the remake hatred is a little silly. People always say, “You’re going to ruin Poltergeist! Why would you ruin The Birds?” Or, in my case, “Why would you ruin The Day the Earth Stood Still?” The remake gets made, and whether it is good, bad, or somewhere in between, the original film remains unchanged. It is what it is. No remake has actually ever ruined an original film.

Cargill - No Orwellian force comes  into your home and takes your copy of Carpenter’s Halloween and replaces it with Rob Zombie’s Halloween. The big thing with those is that if people would stop watching them, Hollywood would stop making them. But there is a certain merit to these films existing because people are still asking about it, and curious if they are going to happen.

Sinister is now available on blu-ray, DVD, and digital download. Check out this exclusive clip exploring the real-life inspiration for the house from Sinister.