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Exclusive! We Talk 'My Bloody Valentine 3D' with Director Patrick Lussier!

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Patrick Lussier could well be the next horror great.  After all, he's got the pedigree -- having started his career editing under the supervision of Wes Craven, and racking up over a dozen genre credits, including Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Halloween: H20, and the Scream movies.  But his directorial resume was filled with so-so horror features -- most direct to video -- until this month, which sees the release of My Bloody Valentine 3D.  A remake of the 1981 slasher "pick" about a coal miner terrorizing a small town, 3D maintains all of the energy and triviality of the original, but with a body count that would put Freddy to shame.  Here, Lussier sits down with FEARnet in an exclusive interview, and divulges all the gory secrets behind that third dimension.

This is one of the goriest films I have seen in a long time.  Did you have to make a lot of cuts to appease the MPAA?

No.  This was the version we wanted.  We had shot a lot more extreme material.  We cut a version that was much more extreme.  We showed that to the MPAA, and, rightfully so, they said, "This is too extreme in these places."  We went back and showed them the version we wanted, and they said, "Yeah, this is more like it.  We totally get what you are trying to do.  The movie is a lot of fun."  Apparently  they really enjoyed it, and got what it was.  We were lucky in that regard.

How did the decision come about to shoot this in 3D?

The studio approached me in summer of 2007 – I was just finishing up The Eye – about making the film.  He said they might want to make it in 3D but weren't sure.  In the fall of 2007 we started doing a little bit of research into 3D.  In January 2008, we started doing tons of research and realized that this is the way to go.  In February, we shot a 3D test, and that sealed the deal.  It was very clear that this was the perfect movie to do in 3D, because of the claustrophobic depth of the mine, the grocery store, all the sets really lent themselves to 3D.  It wasn't from the get-go, "we are making a 3D movie" but we naturally slipped into it and when we started we realized it was absolutely the right choice.

How does working in 3D differ from working in standard 2D?

You have to be more careful of your framing – where they are in the frame, not getting too close to the edge of the frame.  You have to design things more specifically to enhance the depth and things that can come out at you.  You have to be very cognizant of things like stunts and fight scenes.  In the past, you could have people miss by a mile [in fight scenes] but you could use a long lens and hide that.  In 3D, it's all about depth, so you can't hide that.  You have to really be careful with how that works.  There is a fight in the middle, and one near the end, which, ultimately, we didn't use any stunt performers in.  The actors did it because you couldn't hide the stunt doubles.  So the actors did it, and they did an amazing job.  We are so lucky to have actors who are so physically capable.

When 3D first came out, a lot of movies would have stuff flying out at the audience just because it could.  You don't have any of that in this film.

Yeah, that was one of our first conversations at the studio.  We didn't want, every few minutes, for someone to hold out their hand and say, "Here, have a cupcake!"  It would cease to mean anything – the audience would get bored.  It took a lot of discipline on everyone's part not to lean on that.  We had a great stereographer, Max Penner, who was in charge of the 3D.  He really made sure that we seized the opportunities to bring things out to the audience when the opportunities were there, in a tasteful, smart way, as opposed to a gratuitous, "in-your-face-for-no-particular-reason" way.  It always severed the story, and the action.

Do you see 3D as becoming a more prevalent technology, whether it be in horror or in movies as a whole?

I definitely see 3D as working in any genre.  From a talking-head drama to a comedy, anything.  It is so world-immersive.  You are putting the audience into the world of the movie.  It is such an escalation of the cinematic viewing experience.  I can't imagine not continuing with 3D, especially as the technology continues to evolve, and more 3D venues become available.  Right now, the world can really only handle one 3D release at a time.  The second it can handle two or three at a time, then you will see that it has arrived, and it is going to stay.  It is so captivating for the audience.  They literally become part of the experience, part of the story.  It's such a powerful tool for storytelling.

You started editing film.  Was your ultimate goal always to move into directing, or was it just a natural progression?

From a young age, seeing Star Wars made me realize that you could actually do this for a living.  I wanted to do that.  That became my passion, my driving force in life.  I was about 12 years old.  I wanted to direct, but coming from Canada, it didn't really look like an opportunity that was going to be immediately available to me.  I managed to get into editing, and loved doing that.  I had a great deal of success which I am very grateful for.  As an extension of that, Andrew Rona, who was at Dimension Pictures at the time, gave me the chance to direct and I seized it.  I was thrilled to be able to do that.

Do you have a preference?

Oh yeah.  Directing.  No hesitation.

I know editors who want to direct because by the time a project gets to post, they complain that directors never get the shots they need.

That changes the moment you get on to set.  You get there and realize, "Holy shit, this is hard!"  The first time I directed, at the end of the first day, I had never been so tired in my life.  I remember thinking, "Okay, I'm done now.  I don't need to ever do this again.  This is so hard."  As an editor, sometimes you don't realize everything that goes in to making a film, all the compromises people have to make, the flurry and chaos, the speed at which everything has to happen. You are racing against the clock every day.  As an editor, it is an easy thing to say: "Why didn't you get this shot?" 

You cut My Bloody Valentine 3D as well as directed it.  Was it easier to cut something you had directed?

Yes.  If I direct and edit a film, I usually cut with a partner.  I find it is great to have someone who can offer another take on the material, another interpretation.  At the same time, if I am shooting something I am cutting, I will shoot it in a very specific way.  Especially if we are running out of time, I will shoot only what I know we need to get out of a scene.  That all comes from editing, from knowing the way something will piece together.

Your resume is largely horror films.  Was that by design or by accident?

Totally by accident.  I do like horror movies a lot.  As a kid, I was not allowed to see them.  I remember wanting to see At The Earth's Core, and my parents saying, "Oh no, that will be too scary."  I saw it years later and said, "These are guys in rubber suits!  This isn't scary at all!"  Gradually, as things like The Omen were available on television, I would watch them, but they would terrify me!  I would change the channel… but always ended up changing it back.  I became very seduced by horror.  I didn't plan to work in horror, but I was very fortunate to get a job working with Wes Craven on a show called Nightmare Café.  Wes and I hit it off, and he asked me to cut his next feature.  I had only ever done television at that point, so I was thrilled to have the chance to cut a feature.  That movie ended up being Wes Craven's New Nightmare, the seventh Freddy movie.  It is one of my favorite movies that I have ever cut.  I thought Wes did a brilliant job on it, and it was so much fun to edit.  Every time it is on TV I stop to watch it, and marvel at what an amazing job he did, and what an incredible experience it was, to be part of that.  From there, working with Wes, you tend to develop a genre resume quite quickly.  I've been very fortunate.

Do you have a "dream project" you would like to direct?

Years ago I read Michael Slade's book, Headhunter.  Michael Slade is the pen name for a cabal of Vancouver lawyers who specialize in the insanity defense.  Headhunter is basically an incredibly brutal murder mystery that takes place in two or three different time periods, an all centered around the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Coming from Canada, that is a big thing – my grandfather was a Mountie.  It is a project I would love to do.  I would also love to do some big space epic – I guess that is back to that Star Wars thing.

Can you tell us about your next film, Condition Dead?

Sure.  It's not necessarily going to be my next movie, though.  It's a really fun project with Clint Morris producing and Dave Davis writing.  It's basically Saving Private Ryan with zombies.  When I first read the script, and did a bunch of development on it with Dave, it was just so fun.  It has a great cast of characters, and some wonderful uber-zombies that are unkillable in the best way.

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