Jeffrey Reddick (Director - Dont Look Back)
The Devils In The Details
In Jeffrey Reddicks new movie, Dont Look Back, a bunch of strangers stand and watch as a man is beaten to death in a public park. Someone films the murder and the clip goes viral. The witnesses are named and shamed on TV by the victim’s brother, then they start dying, one by one.
So far, so superficially familiar to Reddicks most famous creation, Final Destination, the slasher movie that cuts out the middleman. Instead of teens being chased by psychos like Freddy or Jason, the bogeyman is death itself.
The endlessly exploitable franchise formula (five films and counting; a reboot in the works) is someone having a premonition that leads to a group of people dodging a dreadful catastrophe, only for death to pick off them off later in a karmic balancing of the books.
In Dont Look Back, though, most of the deaths take place off screen. I knew it was going to be compared to Final Destination, especially since I deal thematically with karma, but I wanted this to be something different, says Reddick. But I could not do these amazing death scenes, because I did not want to give away what was going on.
Dont Look Back started out as a short in which the central character was the guy who films the murder, but for the full-length feature Reddick, who is biracial, changed the protagonist to a young black woman who has her own reasons for not intervening.
Reddick grew up in Jackson, Kentucky, where the population was 99.9% white – and out gay people were also in a distinct minority. He ordered videos of Maurice and Another Country. So I grew up thinking I got to find a nice English chap and we are just going to live in a cottage in the rolling hills of London.
But it was at the drive-in that he saw the film that changed his life. I fell in love with A Nightmare on Elm Street and wanted to write a part for me – and, of course, the goal was to be the first biracial centrefold in TV Guide.
At the age of 14, he wrote a Nightmare prequel and sent it to Bob Shaye at New Line Cinema; he kept in touch with Shaye and, after college, worked at New Line for a decade. One day, he read an article about a woman who was on vacation and her mother called her and said: Don’t take the flight home tomorrow. I have a bad feeling about it.
She switched flights and the first plane crashed. But the studio could not wrap its head around the idea that death was the killer in his script.
If you are not going to show it, we do not understand what the people are fighting. And that was the whole point! You cannot fight death!
Fortunately, the director James Wong was emphatic about not showing a Grim Reaper character running round with a scythe. Instead, deaths approach is conveyed by a rippling breeze, shadows, mounting unease, before claiming its victims in cruel and unusual ways, transforming seemingly innocuous everyday objects into elaborate traps that end with the luckless victim crushed or decapitated.
The process could almost be a metaphor for storytelling, in which the writer must find connective tissue to weave random events into a coherent narrative.
The objects are also memento mori for the modern world, none more salutary than the terrifying freeway pile-up at the start of Final Destination 2. The inciting incident was originally going to be a hotel fire, until Reddick found himself driving home behind a log truck. I pulled off the road and called the producer and he said: That is it!
The log truck has since become a popular internet meme. Think of how many lives I have saved over the years by having people not drive behind log trucks! says Reddick.
The films are peppered with such warnings: look both ways before you step into the road, always use a non-slip bathmat, never pour freezing vodka into a hot mug.
Official Dont Look Back Movie Trailer