Comic Connections: Farmer on My Bloody Valentine: 3-D

Farmer on My Bloody Valentine: 3-D

My Bloody Valentine

A while back, Newsarama talked with Todd Farmer, screenwriter of such films as Jason X and The Messengers, about his comics debut with the Image miniseries Alien Pig Farm 3000. Now, Farmer has his biggest film yet coming out this Friday with My Bloody Valentine 3-D, a remake of the cult Canadian classic about a very angry miner with a pickaxe to grind. The first R-rated release in the much-vaunted “Real-D” format, the film stars Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith and horror legend Tom Atkins.

With Valentine hitting theatres on Friday, we called up Farmer to get the goods on his new release. We wound up having a rollicking conversation about the film, its director Patrick Lussier, and the state of modern horror movies.

Newsarama: Todd, you’ve got the big premiere coming up! Excited?

Todd Farmer: Oh yeah – excited, nervous, everything.

NRAMA: How did you come on board for this project?

TF: I talked with Patrick Lussier about this before the writers’ strike. He said that Lionsgate had mentioned me to him – which was odd, as we had already worked together on The Messengers back when it was known as “Scarecrow.”

Then the strike happened, so there was radio silence on the project for a long time, though Patrick and I kept in touch. Then Lionsgate cut a deal with the Writers Guild, and I was on the script in a week. Patrick and I worked on a new structure for it – not to different from what was t here, but more thriller-y. Patrick and I work well together, and when you find someone it’s easy to collaborate with, you just want to work with them for the rest of your life. (laughs) It’s so much funner.

NRAMA: Were you familiar with the original My Bloody Valentine?

TF: Oh, yeah. I was way too young when I first saw it. (laughs) One of my mom’s guilty pleasures was to watch scary movies, so every time Dad was out of the house, she would watch them. I remember the washing machine scene just freaked me out to the point that for years afterward, I avoided the movie because it freaked me out so bad. We had a washer/dryer out on the carport, and I never went out there because I was sure a dead body was in that thing.

I watched it again recently, and was surprised at how grown-up it was. I mean, the characters weren’t teenagers, they were in their twenties and living their lives. And there was a love triangle at the center of this, and I can’t think of any slasher movie that does this. And that was perfect to me, because everyone in high school has been involved in some kind of love triangle.

NRAMA: What were some of the challenges in updating the story?

TF: From the beginning, our take on it was to keep it real. Something I thought was fun was that the first 10 minutes of our movie are a throwback to a 1980s slasher movie. But 20 minutes into the movie, it’s completely different, because the idea was that once we got to modern times was to keep it real. This is a real town with real people, and we wanted the characters to react the way the audience would if they were in this situation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love tongue-in-cheek – one of my favorite movies is Tremors, which I just watched again the other night. Love that movie! But one of the things I love about the horror genre is that there are so many ways you can tell a story. What’s funny to me is that most people writing scripts don’t understand that. I love the movie we’ve created, and that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that.

NRAMA: Your film taps into a subgenre of horror that’s very prominent in today’s cinema – remakes. What’s your take on this trend, in terms of what’s negative and positive about it?

TF: Well, you and I both grew up with remakes – John Carpenter’s The Thing, David Cronenberg’s The Fly – incredible remakes. And these are remakes that started because someone had a really good idea to update a very cool idea. Both of those remakes I named are very different from the originals, because the creators had different takes.

Today’s remakes aren’t like that. Today’s remakes are there because some number-cruncher figured out that you can take a movie with some name recognition and you’re already three feet ahead of the competition because your average moviegoer’s going to recognize the name. And that is the wrong reason to remake a movie. Yeah, I guess it works, but that is the wrong reason.

My take on our film is that one, you have My Bloody Valentine, which was made for forty dollars and a box of Canadian smokes – if you were to take that and throw today’s budgets and technology at it, you could do that well. And second, if you look back at the forefathers and do something like Carpenter and Cronenberg, you can take the original concept and do something different with it.

In my opinion, those are the only two reasons to remake a movie – when you can remake it now, and do what you couldn’t do back then, or if you’ve got a really good take. And with My Bloody Valentine, I think we did both – I know we did both. This is a really good movie, and it’s the first time I’m able to say that about a film that my name is on. Usually, there’s something about it that annoys me, but this time, nothing annoyed me. I’m very proud of it and everyone that worked on it.

NRAMA: It’s interesting what you say about remakes. I avoid a lot of them, but a while back I had to review the remake of The Hitcher for a local paper, and all they did was change one character that died and eliminate most of the subtext that made the first one cool.

TF: Well, look…I know. I actually went in and pitched on The Hitcher, and I didn’t get it. I love the way those remakes look, the Michael Bay look, but I’m not a fan of the storylines, because they don’t really do anything different. Like The Fog, for example. It might be just what the studio expected. With My Bloody Valentine, Patrick Lussier had a vision, and he stuck to it, and it turned out great. I am telling you, Patrick Lussier is the best-kept secret in horror…but not for long.

NRAMA: One thing I want to talk about is that this is a 3-D horror movie. This is becoming increasingly popular among film studios, and aside from the fact that we can now mention My Bloody Valentine in the same breath with Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers…

TF: Yes, you can. (laughs)

NRAMA: …I’m curious as to how this became the first modern-day 3-D horror film, and how you wrote the script toward this technology.

TF: Well, it’s a couple of things. First, with the Hannah Montana concert, you play it in 3-D and you think, “What’s she going to do, throw guitar picks at the screen?” Today’s 3-D is completely immersive. It’s not like Friday the 13th 3-D where he’s just throwing things at you…

NRAMA: You’re making me think of Count Floyd from SCTV.

TF: Absolutely! This is a different kind of technology, in that you’re sitting in the theater and the scene goes on forever. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s a different way of watching movies. When we saw the footage…it was like there were things we didn’t know that we didn’t know, things that were jumping out that I hadn’t noticed when I was writing the script. For example, there was a photograph in the background that you never would have thought about, and it just leaps out of you!

The first few drafts were just about story, but the final draft was about incorporating all these visual elements. Patrick would call me up with an idea – I have to say, the best kills in this movie are all Patrick’s. And it’s other things – two characters turn a corner, and because it’s in 3-D, they’re right in front of you!

It’s one thing to see a concert in 3-D, and another to see a narrative in 3-D. It’s exciting to see how the technology has evolved, and how it’s going to evolve in the next few years. With this movie, it’s going to blow your mind.

I believe the idea came from Mike Paseornek, an executive at Lionsgate, who’s been there forever. He proposed it, and his ideas have been great.

NRAMA: One of the big deals with this release is that the original is being re-released on DVD with the lost extra-violent footage restored – along with London after Midnight, that’s like the Holy Grail for horror fans.

TF: Out of respect to that – this is the most violent movie I’ve ever been involved with. I was talking with some people the other day, and this girl said, “Well, I’m thinking of seeing it, but I don’t want to if it’s going to be violent.” And I said, “Well, any movie with ‘Bloody’ in the title…”

This one’s got a lot of blood. I’m actually shocked that the movie everyone’s going to see is actually rated R, because it’s pretty bloody. And there’s a lot of sex and a lot of nudity, so there’s everything you want. (laughs)

NRAMA: (laughs) I thought you couldn’t do that in horror films any more…

TF: Well, we got away with it!

NRAMA: That’s what’s killing the horror genre – all the PG-13s.

TF: Yeah, it’s a money thing. I don’t know what will happen now that we’ve dropped into a recession. I came out to LA in 1996, and I watched the industry change. In 1996, there were a couple of people who had the power to change a story, and now there’s a lot more people like that.

I watched a lot of young, hungry people come out here with a different take, eager to get their foot in the door, and as a result, they took a lot less money and made whatever changes executives told them to make.  If you argue with an executive, they’ll look at you like a deer caught in the headlights – they don’t understand why you’re doing that! This is the first movie I’ve been involved with in 10 years where the creators created it.

Look, I’m fine with how The Messengers turned out, it’s a great, fun movie, but it’s a different kind of movie – there were eight or nine writers on that. And I think things have changed, and the pendulum is about to swing back.

The remake of The Fog – we should all be going crazy over that! That should have been the greatest movie ever! You remember when you first heard they were remaking that? I thought, “Wow!” And then it was a TV show for the WB. And no offense to the people who made it. We’re all trying to make better movies, we’re all trying to figure out how to do it in today’s Hollywood.

But let the people who make movies make movies. Make it easier for them to do their jobs. Make it an easier environment for us to work in, and we will make good stuff, and we will all make money together.

NRAMA: Good perspective!

TF: I try.

NRAMA: Okay, getting back to My Bloody Valentine: As a fanboy, I have to ask what it was like getting Tom Atkins for this.

TF: You know, I rarely get stage frights or starstruck, but the first day Atkins was on-set, I was a wreck. I grew up watching his movies – I will have words with anyone who says Halloween 3 is a bad movie. We will go to the mat! I love that movie, and a big part of it is because of Tom Atkins.

I have to give Patrick credit for getting him – I don’t think Lionsgate knew what a big deal it was to have Tom Atkins, and Patrick always did. Atkins brings everything he’s supposed to bring to this picture, and he is a class act, just off-the-board. We’re privileged to have him.

NRAMA: It’s always fun when you can get a really good character actor in a big film.

TF: You know, when you can get someone like Atkins, who’s that good – it’s funny, because we have a bunch of actors people would associate with the CW like Jensen Ackles and Kerr Smith, and they’re good, but I wasn’t expecting them to be that good. And sometimes you’ll have someone who comes in and does well in rehearsals, but doesn’t do that well on set – I know, because it’s happened to me!

But that didn’t happen at all with anybody on our set. Everything fell into place and it worked. I give a lot of credit to Lussier – he is the Ron Howard of horror. Everyone loves him, and will bend over backwards for him.

And Atkins’ part, because he was so good, kept getting bigger and bigger! I think in my first draft, his character died in the first 10-15 minutes. And that character lives on now. When you find an actor and a character and the two just mesh, you have to keep them around.

NRAMA: (movie trailer voice) Nothing can kill the Atkins!

TF: You can’t kill the Atkins! …or can you?

NRAMA: (laughs) I want to talk a bit about what you have coming up next. You’ve got The Messengers 2, and it sounds like you’re a little more satisfied with this one than the first.

TF: There’s pros and cons to both. The first one, as I said was called Scarecrow when I was involved, there were a bunch of writers on it, so you can’t have eight or nine writers on the same film and get the same story. So I got “Story By,” but it wasn’t my script. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film, but it was a surreal experience watching it, because so much had changed.

The thing is that Ghost House got a hand of my original draft, and said “Let’s make this!” So I wrote a movie, and from that one draft came two movies. The difference is Messengers 2 has a much smaller budget. That required a lot of changes, but the interesting thing is that when you do a movie that small, it’s like guerrilla warfare. Like it or hate it, at the end of the day, it’s all you! So there’s a certain amount of fun involved with that.

I’d kind of like to do both – the indy version of a film, and the version with a bigger budget. It’s such a learning process – you can’t get any better than going in down and dirty and getting it done. And I’m proud of the movie – I saw it with Martin Barnewitz, the director, recently, and did the commentary for it. For that budget, the amount of stuff we did – it was so much fun. The acting is phenomenal. It’s great.

NRAMA: Do you see yourself moving into directing at some point?

TF: Nah, I’d rather write every movie Patrick Lussier directs from now ‘til the end. I trust Patrick, and I like writing, I like being in my office -- I love going to the set, and I might be comfortable with producing, but I know that directing’s not for me. I know writers like to direct, because as the director, you can keep to your script, but I know Patrick respects my writing. And it’s a year of your life, at least, and putting out fires constantly.

NRAMA: Any comic work coming out in 2009?

TF: Thomas Jane, Tim Bradstreet and I have The Lycan, which is sort of a six-issue1800s werewolf story. We are looking for an artist, so that will most likely happen. The three of us are doing Devil’s Commandos, which is a screenplay at this point, idea by Tim Bradstreet. Bradstreet is fairly brilliant – he’s a natural. And as a film, Thomas Jane would star and direct.

And Patrick and I are pursuing a few things after Bloody Valentine and we’re going to start writing together. There’s so much of him in the screenplay that it’s a travesty he won’t get credit for story! So from now on, we’re writing together.

NRAMA: Anything you’d like to talk about that we haven’t discussed yet?

TF: Everyone who’s seen My Bloody Valentine so far has been very happy with it! This is new for me. So I’m very nervous. We’re getting good reviews and good hype, and I should be happy, but I keep waiting for the anvil to fall and hit my head. I keep thinking something will happen, but every dog has its day – maybe it’s my turn.

My Bloody Valentine 3-D puts a pickaxe through the audience on Friday.

Twitter activity