(Spoiler alert! Although I doubt people would read a review of the commentary before seeing the movie itself, but just in case….)
Last time we heard about some of the challenges writer/director Victor Salva‘s experienced while making the horror film Jeepers Creepers and his decision to stick to his guns rather than bow to outside pressure. That’s not meant to suggest, however, that he feels writers and filmmakers should tune out everyone’s suggestions all the time.
Knowing when to say ‘yes’
Salva thinks it’s important for directors to have someone they trust to tell them when something is working, and when something isn’t. Surrounding yourself with people who only say ‘yes’ can result in a weaker film (00:44:30).
That said, Salva received some advice that he did choose to follow. For example,
in the original script, Darry has his sister lower him into a rat-infested chute down which he’d seen The Creeper throw a couple dead bodies. She loses her grip and Darry falls down the 20-foot chute and crashes to the earthen floor of a cellar. As a way to have Darry notice the bodies, Salva wrote that Darry then stops to tie his shoe. Not the most believable choice, considering the circumstances. Producer Barry Opper pointed this out to Salva. He suggested that it would make more sense if Darry’s shoe fell off as he fell down the chute and he had to put it back on. Salva agreed, and that’s how the scene plays out in the finished film (00:20:45).
Technical tricks for filmmakers
Throughout the commentary, Salva shares a few tricks of the trade and notes on his style. When he shot Darry landing on the cellar floor, for example, Salva used a trick he learned from the original version of The Omen: Justin Long actually slid across a room on his feet and hit a wall, rather than falling and hitting the floor (00:20:00). Also, you might notice a few shots featuring smoke pouring off a spinning tire as a car speeds off. Apparently putting oil on a tire will help to create this effect (00:49:00).
On a more stylistic level, Salva feels that a film’s score is more evocative than sound effects, especially since the score has been written to give a specific effect in a specific sequence. For this reason, Salva tries to keep the music up and the sound effects down in the sound mix (00:11:30).
Writing character motivation
Finally, Salva does talk a little about the process of writing Jeepers Creepers. Early in the story he faced a problem common to many horror writers: how could he get his characters to go back when the logical choice for most people would be to run like hell? Unless they have a good reason, the audience (if they even keep watching) will probably think they deserve whatever happens to them. Salva eventually solved this problem by thinking about what the characters could ask him that would get him to go back. “What if it was you back there?” and the empathy it evoked struck him as sufficient motivation (00:13:45).
Salva’s enthusiasm for the film and his respect for his craft really come through on the commentary. He provides a balance of the mildly interesting anecdotes from the set that I’ve come to expect from commentary tracks and the kind of helpful advice that would actually make them insightful. While it would’ve been nice to have a bit more of the latter, I never found boredom creeping up on me.
What do you think? Do you enjoy horror films with a creepy score to set the mood, or do you find creaking doors more unnerving than eerie violins? Did you think that Trish and Darry behaved more realistically than average horror movie characters, or did they deserve what they got? Leave some comments below and let us know!