With a resume that includes remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hitcher and the upcoming Friday the 13th, Drew Form and Brad Fuller's Platinum Dunes production company can be considered the latest incarnation of Full Moon or Troma – but with a much, much, (much) larger budget. So who better to take on The Unborn, the new shocker written and directed by prolific genre vet David Goyer? At the film's recent LA press junket, Form and Fuller told us how they got involved in the tale of a woman haunted by the ghost of her unborn twin brother.
What do you think is the continuing appeal of horror movies?
Form: People want to feel something. You go to the movie theater, and you want to feel. A genre film makes you feel something. Brad and I, we love horror films. When we started our company, I don’t think we ever thought we would specifically be in the horror business. We started with Texas Chainsaw Massacre and we kind of fell into what we are doing now, and we love it. Last night I was at the screening, watching the audience. It’s amazing to watch an audience. When the scare works, it’s an amazing feeling. Just like in comedy, when the joke works. It’s about feeling. We love the idea of scaring.
What about going to David Goyer with this idea?
Form: We didn’t go to David. David wrote the screenplay, and we got a phone call – hopefully if a horror spec is out there, we will get the call. But when we got the call that David Goyer had written a spec script, we thought that was crazy – he’s David Goyer! They asked if we wanted to see it – of course we want to see it!
Fuller: But there is a funny story here. Usually I do my reading on Saturdays, and Drew does his reading on Sundays. I read the script, and Drew calls me and says, “I am at the pet store and David Goyer is here!” I had met Goyer before, but Drew had never met him. So he says to me, “Should I go say something to him?” I tell him, “Yeah, the script is really good – go tell him! Say something! Work him!”
Form: I saw this guy with all these tattoos, so I said to my wife, “I think that’s David Goyer.” I was in line buying dog food and I said, “I’m reading your script this weekend.” It was pretty funny.
How did he react?
Form: He was like, “Oh, cool. Let me know what you think.”
Fuller: Goyer’s cool.
Form: He’s like, “Nice to meet you, whatever.”
Fuller: But when the script came to us, Goyer wasn’t directing it. It was purely a writing job for him. But the writer’s strike was looming – days away – and as a company we felt that if we wanted to get this movie going, we needed to put a director on it before anything happens. Why not David Goyer? He wrote it, he knows this material, and he said no. We just wouldn’t take no for an answer. In that way, the strike was helpful to us because I think that, as we were getting closer to the strike, Goyer didn’t want to be idle. He felt that if he was directing the movie, at least he would be working. No one had any idea how long the strike would go. In a moment of weakness, he said yes.
What was his reluctance to direct it?
Fuller: At the time he was dealing with Magneto and The Invisible Man. There were these big, huge movies looming for him to direct, and he was just dealing with those. That’s in my mind – I don’t know what he would say.
Did you think of Gary Oldman and Jane Alexander for this film?
Form: Nope, that was David.
How did he know Jane Alexander?
Fuller: He didn’t. You put the list together of all the women who would play that role, and he said Jane would be amazing. And he was right; she was. She was amazing to watch. She worked very hard on that accent. She did great work.
As producers, about how many scripts do you read in a weekend?
Fuller: A lot less than you would think. The reality is, at least we have found, that people aren’t really writing horror scripts on spec. If someone is going to write a spec, they are looking for a “big win,” like an action spec or a comedy spec. There are just not a lot of horror scripts that are coming in unattached. It seems that, for whatever reason, horror scripts are all developed internally, or they are remakes. Which is why, I think, we have fallen into doing remakes. We started doing remakes because we couldn’t find the material we were really looking for. At least a remake gives us an architecture from which to build.
What distinguishes a script for you?
Fuller: It begins with the story. I guess the test we like to apply is, does the script work without the kills? If the story is compelling without the kills, then it is something we are interested in. Once you get past that hurtle – which, with a lot of scripts, we can’t get past that hurtle – it’s about how clever are the kills, or the situations are that characters are in. As Drew said, will that elicit an emotional response from the audience? The most fun part of the process for us, to until the release, is when you test the movie and you get that DVD of the audience watching your film. We always set up a camera to watch the audience. The most gratifying response you can get is that everyone goes back in their chair at the exact same time. It looks like a wave. The second most gratifying thing is when the audience starts covering their eyes.
Form: We’ve seen a member of the audience who has seen one minute of the movie. Out of 91 minutes.
Fuller: She has no idea, but she is famous to us, this girl.
Form: She has no idea, but we have her on video, even daytime scenes, barely looking.
I noticed in the screening, the audience was laughing with the movie, not at it.
Form: We are very conscious of a bad laugh. We work very hard to remove them. We’ve had them.
Fuller: It haunts us! I’m not kidding. It was the worst possible thing that could happen. You work your ass off, you put everything you have into the movie, and people are laughing where they are not supposed to be.
The casual viewer might see a description of The Unborn and think, “Jewish Exorcist.” Is that what hooked you into this story?
Fuller: I think it is more a story about karma from previous generations coming back to bite you in the ass. The Judaism angle did intrigue us. We are pleased to be able to say that ours is the first film of this century to feature a shofar. People have said that there is a lot of imagery that we might have seen before, but I think that is true of a lot of films that borrow from other films. The thing that is unique about this film is that it is rooted in one of the origins of evil: what happened in Auschwitz. David came up with that, and I thought that was a really interesting thing that I had never seen in a movie before. It just kind of made sense to us that that’s where some really horrible things not only happened, but could have happened. You could believe it. That’s what we liked about it – it made it feel fresh. But I really hope people aren’t calling it “The Jewish Exorcist”.
Did you have any trouble with the censors in either The Unborn or the Friday the 13th remake?
Form: I think that, as a company, we always try to push things to the furthest level. Strangely enough, on Friday the 13th, we did not have a problem. It was a hard R rating, but [in the past] I have had trouble even getting an R rating!
Fuller: This PG-13 [for The Unborn] was a challenge to get. We went back a number of times to get, and David was very cooperative. Ultimately, the ratings board was as well.
What did you put in that you knew you would want to take out?
Fuller: We always knew that the hand going into the stomach was never going to make it the way Goyer shot it.
Will these extended scenes make it to the DVD? What can we look forward to, as far as deleted scenes and extras?
Fuller: There is a radical sex scene where both of the teens get naked [laughs]. You know, we haven’t dealt with it yet, honestly. It’s what you would think.
Are you envisioning an unrated cut?
Form: There is definitely an unrated cut. When you see the film, you can see where it is cutting [where we had to cut things out]. Everything goes. The footage is all there.