Wes Craven, the master of horror, has returned. After the success of films like A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Scream (1996), he returns to take advantage of the public’s new found fear of flying with Red Eye.
While the previews looked interesting, the name of Wes Craven (as it’s supposed to) probably attracted more people to this film than anything else shown in the preview. So, would Red Eye be another great film from Wes Craven, or has his finger slipped off the pulse of horror?
Rachel McAdams, as the lead female in Red Eye, does a decent enough job of showcasing the range of emotions she needs to portray as her character goes through the the film. Cillian Murphy also does a decent, if somewhat unimaginative, job of playing the typical bad guy role that has almost become a cliche by this point in horror films. Brian Cox, usually a pretty good actor, unfortunately goes largely unnoticed as Lisa’s father, not really getting much of a chance to contribute to the film. The other characters are all mostly just background noise, and contribute very little to the film overall.
Red Eye does a great job of taking advantage of the public’s new found fear of flying after 9/11 that the commercial airlines have been spending almost every waking moment trying to ease ever since. What better way to try to build tension and fear for the viewer than getting them to picture themselves trapped on a plane with someone like the bad guy of this film? It’s an easy hook that will keep the viewers glued to their screens. After all, if the tragedy of 9/11 could happen in real-life, what would a filmmaker do if given half a chance?
Thankfully, Wes Craven takes the viewer in a different direction, and makes the terror confined to just the main characters. This also heightens the terror for viewers, because viewers will also be able to imagine themselves as one of the other people on the plane who have no idea these events are unfolding right in front of them. A great set-up that unfortunately loses a lot of it’s force once the plane lands.
Once the plane is on the ground again, Red Eye loses a lot of it’s terror element, and reverts to classic horror – an evil guy stalking a female victim. It’s surprising, since Wes Craven himself spoofed this very cliched set-up in Scream (1996) and it’s sequels. Why go back to it when you have already shown how ridiculous it is? It’s a rather bad choice on his part.
But, with 9/11 still fresh on the public’s mind, what other choice did he really have? That’s the problem filmmakers encounter when making thrillers involving planes – how do you create horror without taking undue advantage of a national tragedy? Obviously, Red Eye doesn’t know.
Wes Craven starts off well in Red Eye, and the tension while the characters are in flight is palpable. Unfortunately, once the plane lands, the film gets considerably worse, and gives the viewer an incredibly predictable ending they’ve already seen hundreds of times.
Next time Wes, if you’re going to do a plane thriller, here’s a piece of advice: keep ’em on the plane! Once the plane lands, the movie should end. Simple as that.