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Part 3: In Pursuit of the Million Dollar Question

Blake J. Harris: Speaking more broadly here: you’ve made a career out of scaring people. This is kind of an odd (or perhaps just poorly worded) question, but I was curious if, going into a film, that was an explicit objective or more a byproduct of the type of stories you like to tell? I especially ask since your work tends to focus on more of a slow-burn, psychological fear than, say, the jump-in-your-seat moments common in slasher/monster film.

Eric Red: I like working in the thriller and horror genres, which deal in suspense and tension, because they are cinematic and exciting movies to make and those are the stories I’m naturally drawn to. But the human elements must be present. I always try to exploit the human level of the story and explore the psychological underpinnings of the characters, because that makes a thriller more convincing and involving. In Body Parts, the essential mystery is whether Jeff Fahey’s personality is disintegrating because of the trauma of losing his arm and getting someone else’s, or if it’s serial killer’s spirit in the flesh of the new arm that is changing Jeff’s personality. In some ways, the most horrifying scene in the film is when he hits his son with the arm and has to leave home and his family, and he’s cut off from those he loves and alone. This is the human stuff that makes a thriller or horror movie really work on an audience, not just splattering a lot of blood and gore around.

Blake J. Harris: Right.

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Eric Red: There’s a scene in Body Parts where Jeff goes back to Lindsay’s office and confronts her telling her he wants the arm off. In writing the script, I thought the character would feel the arm was alien, not part of himself, and would want it removed. Ten years after we made Body Parts, surgeons in France successfully grafted someone else’s hand onto another man’s body after that guy had lost his own hand. Six months later, the patient came back to the doctors and demanded they remove the hand. He said it felt like it wasn’t his and somebody else was invading his body. Life imitates art.

Blake J. Harris: Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

Eric Red: My most recent film 100 Feet was about a woman under house arrest haunted by the ghost of husband she killed in self-defense. It had only one kill in the whole film. Almost the entire movie is Famke Janssen alone in a house with a ghost. What interested me in writing the script and directing the film was doing an exercise in tension and suspense without relying on blood and gore, just manipulating audience expectations—just when you think something terrible is about to happen, it doesn’t, and just when you least expect it, it does. And when that single extremely gruesome kill does come it’s a doozy, because there’s nothing in the movie up to that point that leads you to expect it. That’s the kind of stuff I enjoy as a director.

Blake J. Harris: Last question…and taking us full circle a bit. You’ve been telling creepy, unsettling stories for several decades now. What have you learned about the nature of fear? And, in your opinion, why the hell do we—as humans, as filmgoers!—pay money to be creeped out and unsettled?!?!

Eric Red: That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?  I suppose that for most people it’s fun to be scared in a safe way like a movie, and ultimately horror movies are a thrill ride like a roller coaster. But Alfred Hitchcock put it best when he basically said that the intrinsic importance of pure shock value is it jolts the audience out of their rational complacency and intellectual considerations to a pure emotional place where they feel on a primal human level. That’s almost profound.

BODY PARTS Fahey, Red.2016

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