Red Eye

You can take the director out of the horror film but your can’t take the horror film out of the director. Wes Craven is best known for his garish horror films but Red Eye pulls the director into the foreign territory of the psychological thriller. While he makes a respectable go of it, his horror roots are irrepressible and their mismatched presence in the film undeniable. How the heck do you set a thriller movie on an airplane? Sure, Jodie Foster managed it with Flightplan but she got to get out of her seat and ran around a massive, state-of-the-art, full of nooks and crannies airliner. The characters in Red Eye spend most of their flight stuck in their seats but Craven manages to carve out some impressive suspense and dialogue thanks mostly to a clever script and an exceptionally talented cast.

Lisa Reisert is catching the red eye home from her grandmother’s funeral. While waiting in the terminal for the delayed flight she meets the gentlemanly yet enigmatic, blue eyed stranger, Jackson Rippner. It’s one thing when he seems to know her favorite drink. It’s another when his seat on the place is right next to hers. Matters get really disturbing when he pulls her father’s wallet out and threatens to have him killed if Lisa doesn’t comply with his demands.

Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy truly carry the entire film, not an easy task. Chemisty is usually something used to describe what a pair of romantic leads share, but Murphy and McAdams blend nicely as predator and prey. They manage to build suspense and hold dramatic tension for the hour long portion of the film where they’re generally relegated to sitting in coach. With all the magic they work with scenes in the first half it’s sad to see their final encounter reduced to something out of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

Craven holds true to the thriller nature of the story for the first two acts of the film, but once the plane lands the action merges into a slasher hybrid full of fright clichés and campy horror dialogue and setups. Over the course of the movie’s last half hour it becomes an absurd game of how much beating Murphy’s character can take. Thanks to a series of silly injuries and impalements he’s turned into a sort of modern day Frankenstein’s monster complete with wheezing voice and stiff-legged limp. At least Craven knows horror and when he benches the thriller and subs in the fright he’s right at home. It’s a darkly humorously way to end a film and probably not the best option but if it keeps him away from thoughts of Scream 4 I’m all for it.

Red Eye isn’t the worst movie you could spend an hour and a half on but it’s by no means a milestone for anyone involved. If it weren’t for the exceptionally entertaining acting talent it would have been a waste of complete celluloid and nothing more than a footnote on Craven’s resume. It’s nice to see the man broadening his horizons but until he’s ready to stop listening to those little horror voices in his head his projects will risk the same sad sidetracking. A middle-of-the-road movie deserves a mediocre DVD release and Red Eye doesn’t disappoint. It’s a pretty basic package but there’s enough there to nicely compliment the movie-watching experience.

Wes Craven and a couple members of his production staff put together a commentary full of all the usual bantering. It’s a pleasant stroll through the film from a technical point of view, though their constant pointing out friends in cameos gets old early on. After watching the movie I was disappointed that Cillian Murphy and Rachel McAdams hadn’t offered a commentary as well. As the driving forces behind the film, I bet they would have had some interesting stories and viewpoints to share.

An odd inclusion to the bonus menu is a gag reel. I expect them from comedies but it’s not the sort of extra you find on a thriller DVD. In fact, it ends up being less of a gag reel and more a nod to all the fringe members of the cast. After a few funny outtakes it flips into a montage of the cameo characters and homage to the extras who spent all those weeks of filming just sitting in an airplane seat.

Wes Craven: A New Kind of Thriller is a brief look into the mind of a horror-film director trying to stretch his creative legs. If you’re a Craven fan you’ll probably appreciate it more than the rest of us. The Making of Red Eye is a run of the mill making of featurette. The redeeming quality is we finally get the chance to hear Cillian and Rachel add their thoughts on the movie and their experience making it.

Not including the commentary, you can take in all the bonus material in under a half hour and it’s worth watching since the movie itself is less than 90 minutes. If nothing else it’s fun to hear Cillian Murphy going back and forth between an American accent and an Irish brogue. Be sure to pick it up in widescreen. Craven has carefully sculpted those airplane shots to maximize the widescreen ratio and it deserves to be seen that way.