Read our exclusive interview with Victor Salva, who wrote and is directing the upcoming thriller ‘Rosewood Lane.’ The movie, which is set to be released next year, stars Rose McGowan as a talk show psychiatrist who moves back to her childhood neighborhood. Once there, she is harassed by the local paperboy. Salva discusses with us, among other things, why he cast McGowan, and the future of his famous series ‘Jeepers Creepers.’
ShockYa (SY): Your upcoming movie, ‘Rosewood Lane,’ follows a radio talk show psychiatrist who moves back to her childhood home after her father dies. But once she’s back in her old home, she finds out the local paperboy is really a young sociopath who is targeting her. Where did you come up with the idea for the story?
Victor Salva (VS): It’s hard to say where an idea comes from, because by the time it is fully rendered in your mind, you’re not sure exactly how it germinated. It’s not even possible usually to trace back what brought it into existence in the first place.
If I think about it historically, I would have to say that ‘Rosewood Lane’ has its roots in lots of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, ‘Twilight Zones,’ Boris Karloff’s ‘Thriler’ and other genre television that first introduced my adolescent mind to the idea that your own street wasn’t necessarily free of monsters.
I think every genre filmmaker of my generation saw Bob Clark’s ‘Black Christmas’ and John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ and realized just how truly chilling a nightmare set in suburbia could be. Maybe even more chilling than most, for what better way to scare us, than to suggest we are not safe in our homes or just walking the dog in our own neighborhood?
SY: Rose McGowan is set to star as the psychiatrist. Why did you want to cast her in the lead role?
VS: The role of Sonny Blake needs an actress who can walk a line. Who can find a balance between strength and courage and fear and vulnerability — I think Rose has a wonderful way of demonstrating each of these qualities, and we have seen that in her work.
It made her a terrific choice for the lead in ‘Rosewood Lane,’ because Sonny is someone who has come from a childhood with a lot of fear and violence and has decided as an adult to be strong, to persevere and to help others through their trials and struggles.
The wonderful dilemma in ‘Rosewood Lane,’ is that as she rises to a position of power and authority and one of healer — what she encounters in her old neighborhood, sends her reeling back to the days when she was a frightened little girl.
As she struggles to do battle with a dark force that on the surface isn’t ever supposed to be dark or dangerous — Sonny finds herself not only fighting for her life, but questioning her ideas about reality, and ultimately: good and evil. I think Rose McGowan is a great choice for this multi- dimensional role.
SY: You have described ‘Rosewood Lane’ as one of your most terrifying stories. What is it about the plot that makes it so horrifying?
VS: The element of surprise is a key factor in horror, so revealing too much about what I think makes the film a truly scary one, would perhaps not work to best effect. Call it sharing too much too soon.
But I will say, that in every genre film I make, I try and devise new and frightening scenes — setpieces we call them — that perhaps we haven’t seen in a thriller before.
Without teasing you too much, I think ‘Rosewood Lane,’ like most good roller coaster rides, has a lot of twists and turns, and dips and drops, some rises and falls, a few giggles — and of course a few unexpected plummets into darkness, meant to make us jump, scream and take our breath away.
What I like about ‘Rosewood Lane’ is that many of the setpieces in this film, are I think, unique even to this genre.
SY: There have been several successful horror films, such as the ‘Children of the Corn’ series, in which children have served as the primary antagonists. Why do you think horror audiences are so attracted to movies that feature evil children?
VS: I think we all remember what it was like to be a child. And a child, while innocent, is still an animal. With animal instincts for survival, and a curiosity about all things, light and dark. And I think we also remember how cruel children can be. Maybe even how cruel perhaps we were, when we were children. How dark we sometimes felt, though we learned to mask it, deny it – and certainly not act on it.
You can’t turn on the TV today without seeing that children can be as dangerous as they are young and full of light. Movies, TV, the internet, even the games kids play today, invite a scary kind of cruelty, an antipathy toward others and a disregard for human life. All of that, I think, darkens the psyche. And I think it’s made us more wary of even our own kids.
It’s no secret that the moral compass kids are given today, can break easily under the kind of pressure that comes from being exposed to terrible things. It’s common knowledge that kids can be scary. No great stretch of the imagination.
I also think movies about dark kids, play upon our idea that innocence, like anything else, can also be a mask. Like the classic film ‘The Bad Seed’ that maybe first introduced the idea that a child could be a sociopath. And homicidal. It’s the last place we’d expect evil to live. And I think that makes the idea of evil kids all the more horrific and tantalizing to us.
SY: As a writer-director, you are most known for your movies ‘Powder,’ ‘Jeepers Creepers’ and its sequel, ‘Jeepers Creepers II.’ How is ‘Rosewood Lane’ different from these films?
VS: Like every film I make, and like most of us who work hard at our jobs, we learn as we go. ‘Rosewood Lane’ will make my eight feature film, and with each film, I learn more and more as a storyteller.
In 1989 Akira Kurosawa was given a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars. This was very late in his career, and I remember this old man, holding his statue and saying, in the most sincere and humble way, that “he was still a student of film.”
I knew that he meant that the art of filmmaking is so vast, that it was something that could never really be mastered, and that he was still learning. (Though we could argue that he is one of the great masters of filmmaking)
I feel the same way about my films. I learn on each one. I learn something different each time I go out and tell a story. And so what makes ‘Rosewood Lane’ different from all the other stories I have told, is that this time, I will be bringing what I have learned from ‘Peaceful Warrior,’ from ‘Jeepers II,’ from ‘Rites Of Passage,’ from all the films I have made and learned from, before.
SY: There are reports that the next installment in the ‘Jeepers Creepers’ series, ‘Jeepers Creepers III: Cathedral,’ was originally set to be released later this year. However, after its studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy last year, there has been speculation over whether or not it will be released. Is there any official word over when audiences will be able to see ‘Jeepers Creepers III?’
VS: ‘JC3’ or ‘Jeepers Threepers’ as I like to call it, has been on more “almost ready to go” lists than just about any film I can think of these last few years. With the enormous amount of money each of these films made for the studio — each Jeepers film was United Artist’s biggest money-maker for that year — you’d think even with the financial downfall the industry took, or the collapse of MGM and then seeing it rebuild again, that more than one person would see the wisdom in continuing the ‘Jeepers’ franchise.
It is the most requested horror sequel of any genre franchise, even above ‘Scream,’ ‘Nightmare On Elm Street,’ ‘Halloween,’ ‘Friday The 13TH,’ and many, many others — but I have learned, that there are a lot of entities involved in getting another Jeepers film before the cameras. MGM is only one of them, but doesn’t actually own the franchise.
And though I have been told many times, that Jeepers Threepers looks like a “go” — it looks like this might finally be the year that the Creeper actually flies again. More details as they develop.
SY: There have also been reports that when you were making the original ‘Jeepers Creepers’ in 2001, you knew from the beginning that you didn’t want to create a follow-up. So why did you change your mind and decide to write and direct both ‘Jeepers Creepers II’ and ‘Jeepers Creepers III?’
VS: ‘Jeepers Creepers II’ came out of a couple of things: A lot of talking and convincing from the one man it is next to impossible to ignore. One of the greatest filmmakers in the history of movies: Francis Coppola. Francis was executive producer on ‘Jeepers’ (he had paid for my very first feature film out of his own pocket) and he was anxious for me to do another. In some ways, I think, it was to keep United Artists actively funding some of his other projects.
But whatever the reason for wanting ‘Jeepers to go to sequel, Francis was one and MGM was another. In fact, Chris McGurk, then president of MGM, called me that Saturday morning, shortly after the Friday numbers from ‘Jeepers’ opening night had come in, and said, “We have to do another one.”
That was a big moment for me. I had never been called at my home by the head of a studio, to tell me they wanted a sequel to one of my films, to go into production right away.
I found out later, that those Friday night opening numbers for ‘Jeepers’ One, indicated that we were on our way to breaking a world record. Namely, being the biggest Labor Day opening in movie history.
Back then, I was a young filmmaker with a very a very short track record, and with Francis and MGM promising me the budget for ‘JC2’ would be twice as large as the first one, and that I would be able to do many of the things I wanted to do in ‘JC1’ — but couldn’t afford — well, I just couldn’t say no.
The reason for wanting to make ‘Jeepers Creepers III: Cathedral’ is a different one however. I have lived ten years now with these films, and met many of the fans of Poho County. At horror conventions and through email and my blog — and I truly am a little in awe of all the love across the globe, for the Creeper and his truck, and all the terrible things that happen every 23 years in Poho County.
So ‘Jeepers Threepers’ I really wanted to make for everyone who has genuine affection for ‘Jeepers Creepers.’ To continue the story of the Creeper in a large third film, making it a trilogy. Three is a nice tidy number. And I have always been fond of it for some reason. Maybe my Catholic upbringing. I have also designed this last film of the ‘Jeepers’ series to kick off a one season TV series about Poho County and it’s flying nightmare.
SY: What do you find most appealing about the horror genre, and why do you continue to write and direct horror films?
VS: I think genre filmmakers work out a lot of their fears in telling dark stories. That’s one of the reasons I find myself drawn to the genre. But I have worked very well, and enjoy working in other genres. ‘Powder,’ ‘Peaceful Warrior,’ ‘The Nature Of The Beast,’ and now ‘Rosewood Lane,’ I have lots of stories to tell. Not all of them dark, and not all of them light.
I have to think that the reason I feel so at home, even excited about telling a good campfire story, which I think my horror films are (the Italians call my films “Dark Fables” — which I think describes my horror work perfectly) I think the reason I am so at home with making scary movies, is that I grew up on them.
And also the fact that where I grew up, my home was not a safe place. There was a lot of fear in that house. And so I turned, for some reason, to fear I could control. I chose to be scared in ways that couldn’t hurt me — scary movies on TV. Monsters that were frightening — but that I could empathize with: Frankenstein for instance: he was created and then cruelly treated and feared, The Wolfman: a man cursed when he attempted to do a good deed. The Creature from the Black Lagoon: a lonely child whose world is invaded by men who want to either kill him or take him from his home.
There were all monsters I could understand. I think a lot of us were drawn to these creatures and their films for the same reason. We are frightened as children, because there is so much to be frightened about, and it doesn’t change all that much as we become adults.
I think people like to take a good, dark ride. I know I do. A good “whistle past the cemetery” so to speak. And I think I grew to like the dark rides so much, that I started to have my own ideas about how to tell them.
Written by: Karen Benardello