Patrick Lussier on ‘Drive Angry,’ ‘Halloween III’ and ‘Hellraiser’

The horror director gives his take on 3D, explains the craziest stunt in Drive Angry and geeks out about Halloween III: Season of the Witch and the Hellraiser franchise.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

Patrick Lussier has horror in his veins. The man who cut his teeth editing such horror classics and Wes Craven's New Nightmare and the original Scream trilogy got his start directing with the first Dracula 2000 movies, but quickly moved on to bigger, baudier fare in My Bloody Valentine 3D and this year's supernatural action romp Drive Angry. We had an audience with the director, who had a lot to say about making a 1970's car movie in the new century, how to fix 3D movies, why hisnew Hellraiser movie isn't a remake and, perhaps most importantly, how he's going to incorporate Halloween III: Season of the Witch into his upcoming follow-up to Rob Zombie's Halloween 1 and 2.

Crave Online: First of all, I wanted to say that I’m actually a really big fan of pretty much everything you’ve done. I didn’t see a couple of the Dracula movies, I’m pretty embarrassed to admit…

Patrick Lussier: Don’t be embarrassed. Nobody else did either.


Crave Online: (Laughs) – Let’s talk about Drive Angry first off. I was a big proponent of this movie, and one of the things I liked most about it – and it’s a little thing, but I liked it – is that the title is bad advice.

Patrick Lussier: Yes. Yes. The title will definitely get you a ticket and is something to be advised against.


Crave Online: I was talking to Todd Farmer about the genesis of the project, and it started as car movie. There are a lot of different kinds of car movies. What was it that most excited you about putting one together from scratch?

Patrick Lussier: You know, I always remember obviously the early 70’s car movies, things like that. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Race with the Devil in particular…


Crave Online: I thought I saw some Race with the Devil in this!

Patrick Lussier: Yeah. Race with the Devil was a movie I remember seeing the trailer for with like Freebie and the Bean or something, and just going, “Oh my God, I have to see that movie!” I was like ten, or something like that. And my parents go, “You will never see that film.” And it wasn’t literally until about four or five years ago that I finally managed to see it. But the trailer had such a profound sort of impact on me, those fragments of how it was sold at that time, the sort of wonderful exploitation involved, it really sort of stuck with me. And it just seemed like all those great old car movies would be fun, to do something like Vanishing Point. And High Plains Drifter was another thing that we really liked from that time period, the time when heroes were total antiheroes, and were just as likely to shoot you in the face as save you. All those things were really brought together and as we started talking about what we wanted to do we added a supernatural element, and fast cars, and Drive Angry is what resulted.


Crave Online: Obviously it has horror elements, but this is your first straight up action movie. Was that a shift you really wanted to make?

Patrick Lussier: I’ve always loved shooting action, and I’ve always loved cutting action, so it just seemed like a natural progression. It’s something I really like to do, and with this it just felt like, yeah, we could have the horrific elements but it would be fun to do something that was action-driven and had a lot of choreography to it. Yeah. It was occasionally daunting because of the sheer mechanics of doing it. Obviously you’re not just having somebody walking down a creepy hallway, you’re actually asking people to put themselves in harm’s way driving the wrong way through one-way traffic. (Laughs) – So that has a different emotional and mental impact to it.


Crave Online: While I’m sure you did a lot of the car stunts for real, I’m having a hard time imagining that William Fichtner actually stepped out of a car in mid-air onto the hood of another car.

Patrick Lussier: Yes, he does it! We did it on stage, and the way we shot it was with air jacks, so the trooper car was on a set of air jacks and the truck is on a set of air jacks. So it was literally hovering, floating…


Crave Online: That’s really cool, actually…

Patrick Lussier: So, yeah, he gets out while they’re moving but he gets out while they’re not moving on the freeway at high speeds.


Crave Online: So Drive Angry is your second 3D movie. And I actually wrote an article on Crave Online talking about how I prefer the 3D in Drive Angry to the 3D in Avatar, and I meant that because it’s aware of itself. It’s actually having fun with it, and I got the impression – and I’d like you to correct me if I’m wrong, please – that you seem to be embracing 3D as a novelty as opposed to something that’s actually immersive.

Patrick Lussier: Well, yeah. It does both things, and while you can’t do the novelty every five seconds because it gets really, really tiring, to me it’s fun to exploit what the technology can do. It has this great element of rollercoaster to it. It has this great element of… and not just letting you immerse yourself in, but also reaching out and smacking you in the head. And that’s a really fun component to it, especially for a movie like Drive Angry or a movie like My Bloody Valentine, they have a real sort of ‘haunted house’ vibe to them, so why not use the technology for all it’s worth? Because it can do that stuff really well, it can do other stuff, it can be immersive, it can be pretty, it can be intoxicating, blah-blah-blah. But at the same time, it just seems like, why not use everything that it has to offer?

Crave Online: Do you think that 3D is actually the wave of the future, or do you think it’s just another tool?

Patrick Lussier: I don’t know! I think if they just charged the same ticket prices as for a regular movie, and use it as an exhibition tool, that would be a fun way to bring people to the theaters instead of using it as a way to soak people for more money.

Crave Online: They’re saying that the latest Pirates of the Caribbean didn’t do as well as it could have because people were sick of shelling out all the cash.


Patrick Lussier: Yeah! No, I suspect that’s true, and I think that people are getting tired of sensing that they’re just being soaked for more dough.


Crave Online: On multiple trailers that I’ve seen with a large audience, they’ll end with the title, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2…” and everyone cheers! And then they add, “In 3D” and everyone goes “Boo!”

Patrick Lussier: Yes, because especially movies that are post-converted, it just feels like you’re scammed. [Drive Angry] was shot in 3D…


Crave Online: …and it was good 3D.

Patrick Lussier: When 3D first started coming out, back in the 80’s or whatever, nobody charged you more money. It was a way to make you not sit in front of your home video and your old Panasonic top-loader VHS…


Crave Online: That was reward enough for the studios, getting you to the theater.

Patrick Lussier: Yeah, and that’s what I think 3D should be used for as opposed to a way to jack up ticket prices and a way to sell people something that they might not actually really want to pay more for. Especially when everything’s so much more expensive anyway, and all the studios are making so much, it feels like, “Why are you doing that to us?” Why don’t you just do it as a way to enhance the cinematic experience as opposed to a way to take more money out of people’s wallets?


Crave Online: I concur. I’d like to talk to you about a couple of your upcoming projects if that’s okay.

Patrick Lussier: Sure!


Crave Online: You’ve got a couple of things I’m really excited about, and I talked to Todd [Farmer] about them too. We’ll start with Halloween III. And I’m excited about it because I, and a couple of people I know, were secretly hoping that for Halloween III you just do Season of the Witch.

Patrick Lussier: You know, I will tell you right now that’s what we’ve done because that’s not what we’ve been asked to do. I think there’s a different rights issue with Season of the Witch, but I would do that in a heartbeat. I love Season of the Witch. Season of the Witch, and the whole Silver Shamrock, and all the magic… It’s got Tom Atkins! How can you possibly go wrong? I will say that in the version that we wrote, we do have a very specific homage to Season of the Witch, and if we ever get to make it we’ve written a significant part for Tom Atkins that – (laughs) – that would feature a Season of the Witch homage within it which is really fun. We have to just get them to say, “Yes, go make it.”


Crave Online: Is that in turnaround right now? What’s going on with that?

Patrick Lussier: It’s not in turnaround. It’s sitting there with Dimension. They’re focused on Hellraiserright now. We’re hoping we can make it afterwards, or if Hellraiser takes a little longer to go through that we can do [Hellraiser] after that.

Crave Online: Obviously the film will be its own thing, but as an individual, what is your take on Hellraiser? Because the franchise evolved in such a weird way: it went from very private in a little house, then it expanded to hell, and then it turned into this weird metaphysical thing where everyone’s aware of Hellraiser the ‘movie’ in the later films.

Patrick Lussier: Yeah, Hellraiser is an interesting thing because it did four theatrical releases and then four Straight-to-Video releases and then the one they just recently did, which I haven’t seen. The micro-budget one. Obviously, because the scope financially just kept getting smaller and smaller, the stories became smaller and smaller, [but] the canvas is pretty huge. You know, Clive [Barker]’s movie [the first Hellraiser] is a small movie, budgetarily. The concepts are massive… the introduction of the Cenobites as, as he called them, almost a Hammer-esque villain. You know, he talks about Pinhead comparing him to Christopher Lee in the old Hammer Draculas, which is an apt comparison. I love those films. He created something completely and utterly iconic, and showed a glimpse into an amazing world that is just full of possibility, of chaos and mayhem and macabre. With us that was the interesting thing, stepping into Clive’s world, and really playing with the world that he created and having it be very much Clive’s world. Not remaking Clive’s film. When we first met with them we told them we didn’t want to remake Clive’s film. Clive’s film is obviously a very personal movie, it’s not like My Bloody Valentine. It’s not like remaking other genre movies like Prom Night or stuff like that. It’s not like that. Hellraiser is a very personal statement of an artist. That’s what Clive is. And as such, you need to have respect for what he’s created, and even if you’re going to work within the canvas he’s created, not to go in and try and one-up his original work by remaking it.


Crave Online: I’m really excited about Hellraiser. I think it’s time for another theatrical release. It’s always depressing when a franchise ends up going to Straight-to-Video, because very rarely do they get to go back.

Patrick Lussier: Yeah, and it’s interesting that they want to do that with this next… They’ve been trying to do it for a long time. They’ve been developing it for a number of years, trying to find the right story, because Hellraiser, even though it’s not like Halloween, it’s not like Friday the 13th, the rules are very different in Hellraiser. The setup is very different in Hellraiser. It’s darker. It’s genuinely horrific.


Crave Online: Hellbound: Hellraiser II I still consider to have the best depiction of Hell I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Patrick Lussier: Yeah. I agree with that. There’s some amazing stuff. The first three, and even the fourth one had some really cool imagery.


Crave Online: The fourth one’s Bloodline, right?

Patrick Lussier: The fourth one is Bloodline, yeah.


Crave Online: Hellraiser: Bloodline is an underrated movie.

Patrick Lussier: It is!


Crave Online: People see that it’s an ‘Alan Smithee’ film and assume that it’s bad, but it’s pretty cool actually.

Patrick Lussier: The way it moves back and forth in time, to the distant future to the whole creation of the box and to the present day, is really ballsy.


Crave Online: It’s really ambitious, and they were able to pull off the scope of that surprisingly well considering what I can only imagine were serious budget constraints.

Patrick Lussier: Yeah! I remember seeing that movie in the theater…


Crave Online: Oh, you were the one.

Patrick Lussier: …and going “Huh, this is really unexpected for this franchise, to go in this direction.”


Crave Online: Obviously you’re doing a lot of remakes right now and entries in a franchise, but what direction do you want your direction to go in? Do you have a dream project?

Patrick Lussier: A dream project?


Crave Online: Yeah, do you have a dream project? Something where you say to yourself, “God, one of these days I’m just going to go direct a whole season of Doctor Who” or something?

Patrick Lussier: Oh God, I would love to do that. You know, I edited the Doctor Who movie…


Crave Online: The one with Paul McGann, right?

Patrick Lussier: Yeah. Jon Pertwee was the Doctor I grew up with as a kid, the Third Doctor, and to me, directing Doctor Who, that would be awesome! I love that show, and have for years. Yeah, that would be on there. I’d put that on the list!


Crave Online: Wow, what a good guess!