Writers Mark Swift and Damien Shannon return to Camp Crystal Lake – they wrote “Freddy Vs. Jason” – with their “Friday the 13th” reboot. What was it about that hockey-masked killer that had them beseeching more?
Q. What similarities were there between your script and earlier drafts like, say, the one Mark â€˜Smilin Jack Ruby’ Wheaton wrote??
MS: I think in his, Jason finds a mask. I’m not trying to downtalk him. Jason finds a mask and teenagers die. I think that he had an idea that we also had which was that there’s tunnels.
DS: And a couple other similarities.
MS: Jason’s real pissed off. He’s got a machete.
DS: It’s in the woods. There’s teens.
Q: So you came up with the marijuana?
DS: Yes, that was us.
MS: Actually, that was Marcus’s idea early on.
DS: That’s true, that’s true.
MS: Marcus, that was Marcus.
Q: What did you learn from doing Freddy Vs. Jason for doing a full blown Jason movie?
MS: We learned a lot.
DS: Absolutely. One of the biggest things we learned was tonality, the sort of intermingling of comedy and horror and how best to do that. We don’t think that worked perfectly in Freddy Vs. Jason.
MS: Yeah, we’re not totally thrilled with that movie. It got too cartoony for us so that’s something we learned. Another thing we learned is there’s nothing more painful in horror movies than having kids explain plot and trying to explain mythology to each other. I mean, it is brutal. So one of the things we wanted are the kids to sound very natural in this. We just wanted them to just be normal, just be kids and just be talking. We didn’t even want them to even know this guy’s name. we just wanted to have them sort of fresh and have this experiences. That was something that we learned.
DS: Yeah, we definitely wanted to avoid the Scooby-Doo clichÃ© where it’s a bunch of kids trying to figure something out.
MS: Or solve a mystery. We just really wanted to avoid that.
Q: What was your balance of the self-referential?
DS: Yeah, well, we felt that had been done to death. The Scream series covered that so well. Why not play it straight?
MS: We wanted it to almost feel nostalgic, that it almost seemed like hopefully more like an ’80s movie where they’re unaware.
Q: Did they use your dialogue or ad lib?
MS: They used all of it. If you hate the movie, we’re the guys to blame.
DS: Yes, most of that comedy is ours but there were some great ad libs.
MS: I think they were great young actors. Aaron especially, very funny. Arlen very funny, Travis very funny. I thought those guys were great.
DS: They took our dialogue and made it their own and they did a hell of a job.
Q: Was it fun writing different ways to kill someone?
MS: It’s a great release. In this troubled economy. Yeah, it’s hard in the sense that you don’t want to repeat anything, and there’s been so many movies and so many kills and you gotta do your homework because there’s going to be a fan that grabs you in the street and says, “You ripped us off!” and he gets really mad or it’s too much like this one. So you’ve got to be careful.
Q: Did you go online and read the fans?
MS: I read way too much. Always. Damien always yells at me.
DS: I avoid that. I insulate myself in a bubble.
MS: But I know everything the fans think. I’ve read it all.
DS: And that’s why his blood pressure is much higher than mine.
Q: Was there a mandate to do a different sleeping bag kill?
DS: That was our mandate. We like to take kills that we’ve seen and the fans love, that we love and spin them. That’s how the sleeping bag thing came about.
Q: Did you script visual things like the wheelchair?
MS: NO, I mean, we like to load up with references and then if you put in 20, just because of the nature of making a movie, four might make it. You hope, you describe exactly what the sweater should look like for Mrs. Voorhees. Does it turn out? Maybe not. But you try and you’ve got to make sure that the fanboys get all those nods. It’s fun.
DS: We love to plant easter egg surprises for the fans and hopefully you’ll spot those.
MS: And then like Brad and Drew will say like, “Did you guys plan for there to be 13 kills?” And we’d be like, “Yeah.” Stuff like that.
Q: And red herrings like a chainsaw, did you put those in?
MS: No, that’s probably Marcus winking at himself.
Q: And thank you for writing nude scenes. That’s a staple of horrors we’ve lost.
MS: Hopefully in that sense it’s like a throwback.
DS: Absolutely. That is a part of the F13 franchise and it’s in its DNA and it would be foolish to excise that.
Q: Did you have to come up with new ways to do that, like the waterskiing girl?
MS: Yeah, I remember when we pitched that to Michael Bay, he had a big smile on his face. I knew that was going to make it into the movie.
Q: What got lost along the way?
MS: There was a very complicated sequence at the end that was much bigger. Then with budget, you just simply can’t do it. A particular death was much more spectacular and it was our favorite and it just simply couldn’t make it because you can’t spend a lot of money on these movies and we understand that.
DS: Whenever you write a movie, it’s always your most favorite part that gets cut out, guaranteed.
Q: Which death was it?
DS: It was Jenna.
MS: Hers was spectacular.
Q: That was a surprise.
MS: Well, that was what we knew. We knew that would be the big surprise of the movie so we had an elaborate kill for her. It was great and we were so excited about that because we knew it would be the big shock of the movie and it got cut.
DS: It was expensive.
MS: It was very expensive.
DS: Also the kill with the girl in the lake, waiting in the lake with Jason on the shore, our original intent was for her basically to be stuck there waiting and didn’t know what to do.
MS: For hours and hours.
DS: And time passage.
MS: You cut back and it’s nighttime.
DS: Finally she just drowns. We’d never seen anything like that, we were thrilled but they went with something a little more visceral as you saw.
MS: Because we had to write an alternate which was the dock and then they basically just tried to put the two together.
Q: Were you on the set?
MS: No, we were there for a short period of time.
DS: We were there for a week which was a lot of damn fun. A lot of damn fun.
MS: And it turned out it’s a lotta damn work so we wanted to get back to Hollywood and work on something else.
Q: If you’d gotten to do Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash what would it have been like?
MS: I don’t think that we would be interested in writing that movie because I think that it would by the very nature of its beast get too campy. I love Ash and I love Evil Dead but I think once you put three in there, and something like Ash, I wouldn’t be interested in writing it.
Q: Would you have been interested in a Freddy Vs. Jason 2 rematch?
MS: You know, I think that’s hard. Freddy Vs. Jason feels like a one off to me.
DS: Well, you know what? We did our version and they did come to us asking us about that and we thought maybe somebody else should tackle it because we shot our wad so to speak. Every idea we had about that was in the first. I don’t know what we could have done with a second one.
MS: And then when we turned it down it turns out they never made it. So then all the fans were like, “Why isn’t there a sequel?” I’m like, it’s not our fault.
Q: Rebooting seems like the right idea.
MS: That’s what we always said to New Line, was what you need to do is restart each franchise.
DS: Yeah, the new Freddy and the new Jason will have their own Vs. movie, 10 years from now when we’re old.
Q: What classic horror film do you think should be redone?
MS: Wow, I don’t know the answer to that. There are ones out there that we hear about and then they’ll maybe even ask us our opinion. I think there’s a lot of them you cannot touch.
DS: I think a brilliant one is The Thing and we love that idea but we would never try and remake it. We were kind of tinkering, we would be excited about actually making a sequel to The Thing.
MS: Because there’s way to make a sequel feel like a standalone.
DS: Almost what we did with Friday the 13th.
MS: Because I think a lot of fans can still argue to themselves this is kind of a sequel with the only returning character being Jason, and I think that’s great because we don’t want to get over the original mythology. We’re not telling people those movies don’t exist. I love those movies and they’re not going to be thrown out. So I know that hopefully hardcore guys can still say this felt like even a sequel in a lot of ways.
Q: Were you aware it’s kind of like IV, a brother’s journey to find his sister?
MS: Well, that’s a brother’s journey trying to find a killer.
DS: All these movies are seeped into our brain.
MS: It’s unavoidable.
DS: Yeah, it affects us without us even knowing.
MS: For instance, I’ll tell you honestly, Clay looking for his sister, we were not thinking about IV. So when people say, “Oh, they’re definitely doing that for IV,” I think that’s a cool thing, but it wasn’t intentional.
Q: How did you rewrite Jason to be faster and how much is Derek?
DS: Originally when we sat down with Brad and Drew, the first things we said to them were, “Let’s make this guy lean and mean and fast.”
MS: “And real.”
DS: “And real. Make this guy someone who actually survives in the woods. What would he be like in that case?”
MS: We also really wanted to get into his head. I mean, to us, I don’t think he for this movie should be the shark in Jaws. We wanted him to be a little more intelligent, to set people up, to set a trap. And that was something that hadn’t really been done and then I think Derek, who I truly believe when all is said and done at the end of the day is going to be the best Jason of all time. He brought a lot to it.
Q: And we get that without having to do the childhood backstory like Halloween.
MS: Yes, very important to us not to show childhood, explain. I think that takes away mystery. It takes away magic and I think it takes away what makes him great.
Q: But you gave him a home.
MS: We really wrote it more as a shack. It became a home but the shack was very important to us.
DS: We wanted to keep it so realistic to the point that in our screenplay, when you’re downstairs in the basement or in those tunnels with Whitney, you see that he has deer carcasses. He hunts, he survives and he actually eats.
MS: And then it turns out a deer carcass is $100,000 which I did not know. I remember the day that Brad called and said, “No deer carcass.” Everything costs money.
Q: It feels like an old school indie movie.
MS: Yeah, and the thing is it’s Michael, Brad and Drew. This is essentially almost and independent movie. Michael gets his deal and then the studios release it. The studio didn’t come down on us. It really felt like almost like an old school indie in a lot of ways.
DS: But of course it’s shot by an A list cinematographer, Daniel Pearl. It looks slicker than anything.
MS: And an awesome director.
DS: Yeah, I think Marcus Nispel brought so much to it. I mean, never has a Friday the 13th movie looked so slick and cool.
Q: What are you working on next?
MS: We’ve got a lot of stuff in development around town but right now, we’re working on a couple things for Paramount and something with Joel Schumacher at Paramount.
Q: Any more classic characters we know?
MS: Not at the moment. Hopefully getting some original things too because they can’t all be remakes.
Q: Which would you say you can’t touch? Chucky?
MS: I love the Chucky movies.
DS: The one that came our way that we said no to was Rosemary’s Baby. You can’t follow Roman Polanski. The guys who wrote Freddy Vs. Jason should not be rewriting Polanski.
MS: You’ve got to know your place. I am not going to follow Hitchcock. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen.
Q: Have they come to you to punch up the Nightmare script?
MS: Oh, we can’t talk about the Nightmare on Elm Street series. That’s a separate issue.
DS: We are not currently working on that, no.
Q: What’s the Schumacher project?
MS: It’s a rewrite of a project originally called Inland Saints.
DS: It’s an action horror film set in the Inland Empire. It’s really cool.
MS: Could be fun.
DS: It’s really cool.