Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Eric Red and a horrible accident

There's a fascinating story about screenwriter and director Eric Red at LA Weekly. Red, the writer of "The Hitcher" and "Near Dark" (for the record, I think both those films are great, though I haven't seen "The Hitcher" in ages), was involved in a horrible traffic accident in 2000 that left two people dead. Red tried to cut his own throat after the accident. In the months that followed, Red escaped prosecution. But the families of the victims wouldn't give up and eventually won a civil case against him. Meanwhile, it looks like Red is making a comeback in Hollywood.

The story is very detailed and if Red did all the things implied in this story, he's a pretty awful guy. The only thing that bothers me with the story is the attempt to link Red's films to his accident. It's the idea that if you think up all these awful things, you must be a horrible person. You must want to do this stuff. While Red may indeed be a horrible person, this really has nothing to do with the type of films he makes. You can't look at his career and say, boy there sure are a lot of crashes and slit throats in your films. Look at any screenwriter and you'll find that, not just horror writers.

Meanwhile, the films he is trying to get made now can show something about the guy, I think.

But one script appears
striking in the context of his car wreck and ensuing civil trial. Fenderbent,
written by Eric Red and Meredith Casey, in a draft dated May 1, 2003, is the
story of a group of high school students on their way to a concert who run out
of gas in a small town in central Texas. There, they encounter not just the
anticipated killer trucks and car-related mayhem of Red’s signature oeuvre —
METAL against FLESH and BONE,” as the screenplay imperatively puts it — but
an actual society of miscreants who target and run down pedestrians for fun,
as part of an elaborate sport. Driving souped-up GTOs, dragsters and funny cars,
featuring Ed “Big Daddy” Roth-style cartoon murals and tricked out with chainsaws,
harpoons and razor-sharp rotor blades, these chicken-fried road warriors refer
to themselves as the Fenderbents and collect points for every unsuspecting victim
they can tally.

This is reminiscent of the plot of Death Race 2000, Paul Bartel’s mid-’70s
drive-in opus starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, crossed with
the inbred remoteness of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It also carries
with it a kind of gallows-humor defiance. Despite its absence from Red’s list
of active properties in the Creative Directory, Scott Penney, his agent, continued
to shop the project through at least 2004. What exactly are we to make of this?

What are we to make of this? That a guy uses the experiences of his life in his films. It doesn't show that he did it, or even takes any glee in what happened, but it does show a remarkable lack of sympathy for the victims.

Anyway, it's a good piece of journalism on an accident and its repercussions.


writerfella said...

Eric Red's treatment of his own experiences is no less sympathetic than anyone else's remembrances of matters that happened to them. The event 'inspired' its own interpretation of the progression and the people because it has become fiction in its transformation. If all one ever did with his own experiences was to lay them on the page whole and undigested, it would be just words in series such as are in a newspaper article or even a police report, bloodless and formless. Once I was free-associating, and I saw an idea where a man holds an entire sity for ransom. Since I am Native American, I started with the character seeking 'the vision' in a Los Angeles basement, and then seeing earthquakes strike the city. When he finally understands what 'the vision' was saying, he sees his chance possibly to use it as a bargaining chip to get help for jobless and homeless Native Americans in Los Angeles. And thus he goes to a university parapsychology researcher to see if what he saw can be verified as true precognition. The researcher 'experiences' his own version of the same vision but refuses to help when he realizes the client seems to be about to blackmail Los Angeles. Thus, the Native American goes his way, falls into the clutches of a self seeking Native militant, and finds that his vision might be used to extort money from people whose loved ones will died in the coming quakes. The parapsychologist changes his mind when he sees 'the vision' again and must rescue the client from the militant's grasp.
This went on to become an episode of the old ABC series, THE SIXTH SENSE called "I Have Looked Into The Whirlwind..." As it evolved, the upshot is that there is blackmail in principle, and that there is blackmail by intent. What each definition came to mean is how the characters dealt with the principle or the intent...

Brian said...

I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here, writerfella. Is it that Eric Red's script does not necessarily show a lack of sympathy, only the way he treats those characters in the script does? Or am I totally misunderstanding you?

writerfella said...

You totally are misunderstanding me. Which is not hard to do. Realities come in two sizes: 'real,' and 'surreal.' Just because something happens to one does not mean that one understands what has occurred. BUT-- interpreting the event as fiction becomes its own attempt to make some sense of the event. It does not mean that what results is a true interpretation, but simply an interpretation. If a story results from that attempt, all the better. And the final product does not have to resemble the inspiration at all. That is the very essence of storytelling...