- Sporting a dingy look far worse than what director Wes Craven used to be able to achieve on half this movie’s budget
- Having a silly premise about a serial killer with multiple personalities that live on after he dies (because those “souls” have to go somewhere)
- Converting this premise into a rote, tedious slasher film in which a group of teenagers are targeted by what appears to be a reincarnation of the killer
Defenders: Director Wes Craven, joined by actors Max Thieriot, John Magaro, and Emily Meade
Tone of commentary: Mutter-y and giggly. Early on, after introducing his three participating cast members, Craven jokes, “The rest of the actors were not available, so we can talk about them.” And while Thieriot, Magaro, and Meade don’t exactly dish, they do dominate the track with their low, monotone voices and abashed comments about how goofy they look onscreen. They’re also oddly fascinated by how Craven shot their scenes in pieces—some on a stage, some in practical locations—and by the work the stuntmen did on the movie. They swap rumors about what stuntmen get paid, and after one explosive ambulance stunt, Made marvels, “How do you not… die?”
What went wrong: The film underwent several changes during its journey to the big screen, starting with the title, which was going to be Bug (until Craven learned that “Billy Friedkin” already had a movie in production with that title), and then 25/8 (as in one degree more intense than “24/7”). Craven was also working with some technology for the first time, including digital blood and post-converted 3-D. He tells the shaggy Magaro, “In the 3-D process, they went insane with your hair. In fact, they called your hair after a while ‘the world’s most expensive hair,’ because they spent more time pulling mattes from that hair than anything else in the entire movie.” To make matters worse, the largely teenage cast was called back in for re-shoots, and had changed a lot over the course of a year—especially Magaro, who had to wear hair extensions to match his earlier mop.
Mainly, though, the commentary gives the impression that working with a bunch of youngsters wasn’t always easy for Craven, as much as he enjoyed his actors’ crazy slang and constant cut-ups. The cast admits to driving cinematographer Petra Korner nuts by consistently failing to hit their marks and get into their designated light. Magaro gave Craven fits because he didn’t know how to say the line “Bwah-hah-hah!” Meade says she got the giggles during a scene in which the stage-blood on Thieriot’s face resembled a Hitler mustache. Even during the commentary, the kids repeat each other’s lines from the movie and laugh, and make jokes like “That was my actual poop; that was not stunt poop.” And in keeping with the flightiness of youth, Thieriot leaves the commentary halfway through, because there’s somewhere else he has to be.
Comments on the cast: Craven notes that Danai Gurira, who has a small role in the film, also wrote the play Eclipsed, about the civil war in Liberia. Craven also expresses surprise that well-known Broadway star Raul Esparza, who appears in the movie’s prologue, had such a strong voice when Craven heard him singing the national anthem at an Obama fundraiser in 2008. For her part, Meade says she was excited to work with Jessica Hecht, because she’s always been a huge Friends fan.
Inevitable dash of pretension: An early version of the script featured scenes in which every major character would be seen through an open window, because Craven wanted to get across “the idea that portals between these friends were always open.” Craven ditched that, but he did throw in a shot that holds entirely on the victim’s increasingly bloodied boots, in what he calls “my art-film scene.”
Commentary in a nutshell: After a scene in which Thieriot closes his medicine cabinet and is shocked to see Magaro standing beside him, Craven admits, “I threw that in because it’s one of the classic clichés of horror films.”