Final Destination creator Jeffrey Reddick chats with STACK about his debut feature as a director, the horror-thriller Don’t Look Back.
As the creator of the Final Destination franchise, writer-director Jeffrey Reddick proudly lays claim to the fact that we all change lanes when driving behind logging trucks. Speaking with STACK, he jokingly adds that it’s a road safety message he takes pride in.
“I look at it like I’ve saved lives, maybe, as opposed to traumatising people,” Reddick laughs. “But that idea came when we were making the second movie and we were trying to think of an opening. I’m from Kentucky, which is hill country, and there’s always log trucks.
“Originally the opening was going to be a hotel fire, but the producer said that it needs to be something stronger. So when I was behind a log truck, I pulled off the road and called the producer. I said, ‘What about a log truck and the chain breaks?’ and he said, ‘That’s it!’”
Having produced notable horror movies like Tamara, Dead Awake and The Call, Reddick makes his feature directorial debut with Don’t Look Back (aka Good Samaritan), a unique take on the classic slasher genre that tells the story of a group of strangers who witness a brutal – and ultimately fatal – assault and fail to intervene. Following media backlash and community outrage, the group find themselves being killed off one at a time by an unknown assailant.
When asked where his story originated, Reddick recalls a horrific incident from the headlines, as well as an encounter of his own.
“The seed came from this story about a woman named Kitty Genevieve in New York, who was assaulted in the courtyard of her apartment. It was a horrific assault that lasted for a long time and 23 people watched – that story has always stuck with me.
“And I’ve been in situations, like one time a guy was screaming and about to smack his girlfriend and I intervened, and he kicked me in the nuts, which is a really manly thing to do. But yeah, I think we’ve all been in situations where we’ve wondered, can I help?
“What’s happened with social media is that people’s first instinct now is to start recording,” he adds. “They have a phone, but they don’t call 911 and then record it. They just start recording, and that’s where I think this has gotten more relevant over the years. People have lost empathy for each other.”
Don’t Look Back has some obvious similarities with his Final Destination films, and when asked about using various tropes of the genre, Reddick explains what is unavoidable.
“I didn’t do it on purpose but if you have something happen to a group of people, and then something or someone starts coming after them, then it’s going to be compared to Final Destination.”
One particularly incredible aspect of Reddick’s career is how he broke into the industry – a story we couldn’t resist asking him about.
“When I was 14, I saw the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie and banged out a prequel. And it was bad, because I was 14,” he self-consciously recalls.
“But I sent it to Bob Shaye, who ran New Line Cinema, and he sent it back because it was unsolicited. But then I wrote him back and said, ‘Look, sir. I have spent three dollars on your movie, and I think you can take five minutes to read my story. So he actually read it and he got back in touch with me, and after that he and his assistant stayed in touch with me from age 14 to 19 – they would send me scripts so I could learn formatting and structure, and they would send me posters and trinkets from movies. And when I was 19, I ended up interning at New Line Cinema and I just stayed.”
Following which, Reddick’s career path was well and truly paved, and he would go on to create of one of the most successful horror franchises of all time. Not bad for a geeky, Freddy-lovin’ teenager from the hills of Kentucky.