Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick was in attendance at this year’s Mile High Horror Film Festival (MHHFF). He is one of the most respected filmmakers currently working in the horror genre. He is best known as the writer and creator of the Final Destination series. He also wrote the horror film Tamara and the remake of Day of the Dead. While at the MHHFF, Reddick participated in a filmmaker panel called “Trends in the Horror Genre,” with fellow filmmakers Dan Myrick (The Blair Witch Project) and Brian McCulley (Chillerama). They spoke about trends in the horror genre to the impact each has had making films that have influenced millions of people. In a recent interview, Reddick talked about how he got his start in the business, his influences and much more.
As a child, Reddick always wanted to be an actor, and it wasn’t until he was an adult that he really started focusing on writing. “English was always one of my favorite subjects, but I always wanted to be an actor up to the age of 22. I didn’t realize how tough it was to get into that, so I started focusing more on writing. It’s interesting, it didn’t turn into a passion until age 24 or 25,” he said. However, writing and horror films were always a part of his childhood. At the age of 12, he wrote his first short story which was called “Midnight Madness.” Legendary filmmaker Wes Craven has always been Reddick’s biggest influence and his favorite movie is Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street. He’s also a fan of John Carpenter’s Halloween. When it comes to writers, he said, “Clive Barker and Stephen King are writers who inspired me a lot.”
The first horror movie he saw was Salem’s Lot, and the experience is something that greatly affected him. “I remember I snuck out in the hallway while my mom was watching it, because we weren’t allowed to watch it,” he remembers. His mom never knew; however, for a week after that, he had to stay in his mom’s room at night.
An innocent trip home to Kentucky would forever change his career. While sitting on a plane reading an article about a woman who was on vacation, he got the first idea for the Final Destination series. The woman’s mother called her and told her not to take the flight because she had a bad feeling. The woman didn’t take the flight and the plane crashed. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that he wrote a spec script for a X Files episode that had to do with the inspiration from the article he had read. A friend of his read the spec script and told him it was a good idea for a feature film, so he did it and the rest is history.
Final Destination (2000) changed so many things when it first came out. At the time, there needed to be something new and different to come on the horror genre scene. When the movie opened, it placed number three on its opening weekend. It was an instant hit with fans, and the series has now gone on to be included as one of the greatest horror films in history. It made a great impact in the horror film industry. Final Destination 2 was released in 2003 and is Reddick’s favorite. “I like the fun roller coaster ride of it….and the log truck is my favorite opening ever.”
When Reddick wrote Tamara (2005), he got the idea from Stephen King’s Carrie. “I wanted to write something for fun and Carrie has always been one of my favorite movies…I always hate that you have to wait until the end for something to happen at the prom, so I tried to think of a different spin. Bullying is something that I think we all go through…no matter how popular you are…So, Tamara was my fun take on Carrie, basically,” he said.
Reddick is a great inspiration to the aspiring writers of today. He talked about how his writing style has evolved over the years. Normally, he will outline a story he is working on and writes every day. When it comes to inspiration, he said, “As a horror fan, I try to think of stories I haven’t seen before…I try to come up with scares I haven’t seen, and I like to come up with stories that can touch people on a different level.”
What’s the best advice Reddick have for aspiring screenwriters? “The first thing is to write. Write, write, write. You have to be very persistent and very patient at the same time. I heard when I was young that it takes ten years of working in an art field to actually make a living at it. I thought that was ridiculous but it was actually ten years from the time I graduated high school that I sold Final Destination,” he said. He also suggests entering scriptwriting competitions to learn more about how the industry works.
There are definitely many more great things to come from Reddick in the near future. He’s working on a couple of different projects now, a sleep paralysis project and another supernatural thriller. In closing, he has a message to the fans: “Thank you for all the support.”