BEVERLY HILLS, California — The name Wes Craven has been synonymous with slasher and horror flicks for nearly three decades, but now the man behind such blood-and-gore franchises as "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" wants to add another genre to his directorial list: the psychological thriller.
In his latest film, "Red Eye," the master of horror pulls back on in-your-face scare tactics and relies on more subtle ways of frightening his audience.
"You would be amazed by how little blood I use in this picture," Craven told MTV News recently while promoting the film, which comes out August 19. "It's all about situations and the characters. I had been looking for [a thriller] to make and [Carl Ellsworth's] script was a complete page-turner, unlike most of the crud I was reading. People were sending me scripts and I just thought, 'No, I've seen that before.' Then, suddenly, I get this thing that's so fashioned and clever.
"I felt like 'Red Eye' was an opportunity to show my stuff in something other than a horror movie," he continued, "yet it was also a story that used all the elements that I do well: suspense and surprise and keeping people at the edge of their seats."
"Red Eye" focuses on the story of a young businesswoman, Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams), who heads up the posh Lux Atlantic Hotel in Florida. During a delayed late-night flight back to Miami, Lisa ends up sitting next to the charming and mysterious Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), but when the ride turns sinister, Lisa discovers she has become a pawn in his game.
Soon after takeoff, Jackson reveals he is an operative assigned to kill the head of Homeland Security and he needs Lisa to change the man's hotel room in order to successfully carry out his mission. If Lisa refuses to comply, her father will be killed by an assassin standing by for orders. Trapped within the confines of a jet at 30,000 feet, she has no one to turn to and no place to escape.
"The element I was most looking forward to in the script was the psychological mind-play between these two characters," McAdams said. "There was so much to think about with this script, so much to wrap your head around."
"Everyone says Wes is a master at creating suspense and tension, and making an audience jump and all that we want from these types of movies," Murphy added. "So doing a movie like this, a psychological thriller, was quite a departure for him, and I thought it would be interesting to see what he would do."
The cast shot for two and a half months last fall at Ontario International Airport, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, Los Angeles International Airport and Miami International Airport, where the one of the film's climactic chase scenes takes place.
Craven is also aware of the motivation behind many people's fear of flying. "I have to say that the post-9/11 malaise is there's a lot of people feeling jittery [about flying]," he said.
"It's such a common thing, especially now, and most people hate sitting besides strangers on a plane," Murphy said. "I think this film taps into all those fears and anxieties."
The 29-year-old Irish actor, who had to train for months to perfect an American accent for his ominous role, notes that the horror of "Red Eye" is amplified by the fact that it touches on reservations we all share — and director Craven agrees.
"You never know who you're sitting next to on a plane," Craven said, "and I think that's a great metaphor for life."
For more on Wes Craven, check out the feature"It's Alive! Horror Is Reborn (Again)".
Check out everything we've got on "Red Eye."
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