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Our breakfast with Wes Craven

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Saturday, the second day of New York Comic Con 2007, started devilishly early for this bleary-eyed camper, thanks to an invitation to breakfast with horror legend Wes Craven at a press event to promote The Hills Have Eyes 2 (which hits screens on March 23). A sequel to the 2006 remake of the original Wes-directed 1977 cult classic (keep up — there may be a test later), the new film was produced and cowritten by Craven, who this time opted to have the franchise’s hideously mutated, desert-dwelling cannibal villains terrorize a band of undertrained National Guardsmen.

But what would this bona fide master of horror — whose other directing credits include A Nightmare on Elm Street, all three Scream movies, and, most recently, Red Eye — serve for breakfast? Parboiled tarantula legs? Lightly sauteed vulture wings? A family-size bucket of virgin’s blood (not a particularly difficult delicacy to acquire at a comic convention)? The answer, mercifully, turned out to be waffles, bacon, sausage, and chef-made omelettes. Although, given the less than sylph-like nature of many of the gathered journalists (your correspondent included), it could be argued that this was actually the most evil and/or potentially fatal option imaginable.

Regardless, the never-before-shown footage screened at the event — which included a birth sequence that finds one of the aforementioned human-flesh-eating psychos acting as an hygenically doubtful midwife — reveals that the 67-year-old Craven’s fright-inducing chops are still very much intact. Afterwards, a cholesterol-crazed EW sat down to exclusively chat with the director about mutant kids, future plans, and dog flashbacks. Read our interview after the jump.

So, that’s the first time I’ve ever eaten at omelette while watching a radioactively mutated homicidal maniac assist in a birth…
You got the ovulation comparison, then.

Uh, yeah… Presumably, that’s one of the film’s more disgusting bits?
It’s the opening of the film. One of the underlying premises of the film is that the hills people have been pared down to just a few. So they have to regenerate the clan. And if a woman doesn’t deliver a viable baby, then she’s out. Think of Henry VIII!

You filmed in the Moroccan desert, which is a long way from the suburbia of A Nightmare on Elm Street. What was that like?
It’s very rugged. Socially, it’s totally cool. That’s what I had scary thoughts about — it’s like, Oh my God, what if I end up dead in an alley or something? But they’re very professional. However, the environment itself is untamed. We had a local guy whose sole job was to go in to sets before we went in and take out the scorpions and cobras.

The film was actually directed by German filmmaker Martin Weisz. As an experienced director yourself, was it hard to stop yourself peering over his shoulder all the time? Or do you regard that as part of your job as a producer?
Only when necessary [laughs]. That’s actually true. But if you see the guy doing great work, and he knows what he’s doing, then you just stay away.

What’s up for you next as a director?
Um, well, I have an idea for a script. I’m not saying anything about what it is. It’s young people, but a little bit more towards a thriller.

Do you think the success of Red Eye has helped loosen your horror movie shackles?
It did make a big difference. It seemed to finally break the idea that I can only do scary material. It was clearly a thriller and, you know, fairly sophisticated. After that I started to get all sorts of different scripts shown to me. Yeah, it was a pretty important film. And, to me, personally it was important because it came on the heels of Cursed [Craven’s much troubled, long-in-production werewolf flick], which was really not very pleasant.

You directed 1977’s seminal first Hills Have Eyes movie. But you also directed 1985’s considerably less seminal Hills Have Eyes Part II. What do you remember about making the latter film?
I desperately needed a job. I was absolutely broke. I think I wrote the first draft of Nightmare on Elm Street in ’79. No one wanted to buy it. Nobody. I felt very strongly about it, so I stayed with it and kept paying my assistant and everything. At a certain point I was literally flat broke. I had to borrow five grand from Sean Cunningham [producer of Craven’s 1972 film The Last House on the Left and, later, director of Friday the 13th] to pay my taxes for that year. So I was five thousand in debt and had no job and I’m broke. I was close to the point where I was going, That’s it, my career’s over. So The Hills Have Eyes Part II literally got me out of debt and back directing again. The problem with the film was that we were trying to do big stuff and we had too small a budget.

But the film is worth at least a footnote in Hollywood’s annals for featuring probably the only ever flashback from a dog’s point of view.
Yep, if nothing else it gave that to cinema. I thought that, thereafter, there’d be hundreds of films with dog flashbacks, but they haven’t done it. I thought I was going to be the father of dog flashbacks!