Exclusive Interview: The Final Destination’s Eric Bress

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Dancing with death one more time

One half of the team that brought us Final Destination 2 and The Butterfly Effect is back to wreak more havoc in The Final Destination, the supposedly last entry in New Line’s grand guignol franchise. Eric Bress, who penned the second installment with J. Mackye Gruber, spent the last few years since the 2003 sequel cutting his teeth in the director’s chair (with Butterfly) and writing/producing the television series Kyle XY. He returns to the Destination series with director David Ellis (again, from part 2). And as I came to find out in my chat with Bress this week, the sick bastard still exudes the same passion about devising ways to kill people as he did when I met him six years ago.

ShockTillYouDrop.com: You’re back, but this time without your writing partner – how did this come about?

Eric Bress: I’ve always been a huge fan of the entire franchise. So has Jonathan, but in this particular case I was dying to do this. If there was a [part] four, it’s got to be me. It would be great if it was us, but if it’s got to be me, it’s got to be me. I’ll tell you the truth, it was tough to see part three and not have worked on it. I loved part two so much. The Butterfly Effect is great, I can see it every couple of years, maybe. But Final Destination 2, I can watch all of the time.

Shock: It is interesting that the team that did the first film did the third and the guys who did two are back for four. A pattern is forming. Maybe you can corner the even numbered Final Destination films.

Bress: I’d like to liken that to Star Trek.

Shock: How difficult was it to try and keep things fresh this time around?

Bress: I’ve had a lot of time off from doing part two. There were tons for things and there were things in part two…we wanted to do an escalator. We’ve always wanted to do something with a ceiling fan even if it comes to fruition or not. These things were just brewing for four years. The only difficult thing was: What’s the opening gag? What’s the set piece? In my estimation, these films get bigger and bigger. If you go back the plane crash was awesome. But the highway pile-up was much bigger. And the roller coaster is something everyone wants to see anyway. The subway train at the end of part three was even bigger. It was really thinking, what’s the biggest f**kin’ thing we can think of? The great thing about the studio is, we’re not going straight-to-DVD and our hands are not tied by production costs, the bigger the better. That’s a freedom writers just don’t get. So we had to come up with something that is accessible to everybody, whether or not you’re into NASCAR, everyone has been to the track or concert, we’ve been in that venue before. Still, people leave the theater and they’re going to be thinking, “Oh shit, there’s an escalator.” Certain things, like the pool, we’re taking from actual events. The first draft had this incredible scene at a supermarket where moth balls are falling on ammonia which is tripping the fire alarm which is setting the misters into overdrive. There were all of these things, but at the end of the day, it was the hair salon scene that made people cringe from just watching someone get a pedicure. A toe being scraped got such a visceral reaction.

Shock: The mythology that you guys created in part two are set aside this time. Why was that?

Bress: It’s double-edged. You’ll notice, if you watch the film, the crash happens in section 180, the bus is number 180, the dog’s name is Browning, Alex Browning…there are a lot of things that tie the two together. For the fourth one we understood, how can we explain the rules as quickly as possible? Or not explain them at all and just have the characters discover them without all of the back and forth about it. Just get into it differently without showing people on the internet for five minutes. Also, I think we have seven funerals through one, two and three. How do we get away with a memorial where we can spend more time introducing characters and getting out development? There were a number of things we wanted to do differently this time around because we were embracing the fact that these movies are fun. I watched part two over the weekend again as a refresher, I got goosebumps during the scene in the car when everyone realizes that if people hadn’t stepped off the plane in part one, the ripple effect wouldn’t have effected the people in part two. I love that. But that was something that almost didn’t make sense to go back to. We did it so well and nailed it on the head, so let’s just give the people what they want – bigger and better deaths.

Shock: When you’re scribbling out the blueprints for these deaths on the page, how detailed are you, as the writer, supposed to get?

Bress: Put it this way, when writing the crash scene for part two, that entire pile-up, I believe in the script, the line that was written was, “and then a pile-up of colossal proportions.” That was it and we just turned it over to David [Ellis] because it didn’t make sense to flesh it out. We hadn’t choreographed it exactly how it was going to go down. We’ve got one of the top stunt men coming in to take the reins, let him figure all of that out. Why write it out? In this case, the death sections are what the people come to see, and they can be so elaborate and so drawn out you actually find yourself trimming bits away. For some scenes, David will just go crazy, like the mechanic shop. This guy knows cars and he can orchestrate a lot of the mid-direct, but when it comes to the chain of death coming to get people, that’s sort of my in my hands.

Shock: There’s talk that this could be the last film. Where do you think Final Destination can go, if the franchise does carry on?

Bress: Right now, the four movies of the franchise, they’re part of a formula, which is fine. You don’t beat off the path too much. But who’s to say this couldn’t happen in Russia or Japan? Where the social mores are completely different and the perspective of death is completely different. Mythology is different. Like Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, I thoroughly enjoyed that movie – “Hey, we’re in Japan!” We could do that. I don’t know if there’s another film, but the sincere thought was this will be the last. We’ll got out with grace than beat a dead horse. We have some of the bigger set pieces and gags than the entire franchise. It’d be better to go out that way than make direct-to-DVD crap.

Shock: You’ve got another film in the works called Blindsighted, tell me a bit about that…

Bress: That’s with Gruber and I going back to stuff we love about Butterfly Effect. It’s a supernatural meets gritty world kind of thing about a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has a stroke and gets remote viewing and can have these out of body experiences. But one of the side effects of the stroke is he’s extremely paranoid, he starts feeling and thinking things that are not there. His wife gets killed and he’s got to figure out who did it and why.

The Final Destination opens on August 28. Click on the title link for trailers, clips, stills and more.

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor