Jeffrey Reddick talks ‘Don’t Look Back,’ horror movies, gay characters

Screenwriter-director Jeffrey Reddick, perhaps best known for creating the “Final Destination” film franchise, made his feature directorial debut with “Don’t Look Back,” a supernatural thriller about several witnesses who record a fatal attack on their cell phones, but don’t contact the police for help.

Eventually, the witnesses start mysteriously meeting their own demise.

Reddick, who identifies as gay, has fought for LGBTQ represention during his 20 year career, but says “Don’t Look Back” didn’t have any LGBTQ characters for a simple reason.

“I wanted to focus on the crime, and the witnesses’ selfish reasons for not reporting the crime,” says Reddick, who wrote screenplays for the “Day of the Dead” remake, “Dead Awake,” “The Final Wish,” and “Tamara.”

“I didn’t feel I could do justice for the characters. None of their sexualities come into play,” he says. “It would have distracted from the story. It would have felt contrived.”

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Reddick, however, does have LGBTQ characters in mind for another project.

“My goal is to make a gay horror film with LGBTQ lead characters, and I would cast LGBTQ actors in the roles,” he says. “I need to figure out my next few projects first.”

In an interview with Q Voice News, Reddick, 51, talks about what influenced him to direct “Don’t Look Back,” when to use gore in movies, and why he’s hooked on horror movies.

“Don’t Look Back” is available on demand from several platforms: iTunes, Amazon, Microsoft, Google Play, Vudu, FandangoNOW, YouTube.

Here are some excerpts.

Directing ‘Don’t Look Back’

“I’ve been on sets since ‘Final Destination.’ I’ve been on the set of every movie I’ve done. I didn’t have that directing bug, creatively. There comes a point with this story where the audience thinks, Is it a supernatural thriller? Is it in the character’s mind?

“When I was trying to sell the movie, people said, Cut the supernatural, and we can sell it easier. I wanted control on this vision.

“Also, I was coming up on 50, and I wanted to direct before I was 50.”

Jeffrey Reddick Final Destination

Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick is seen on the set of his directorial debut “Don’t Look Back.” The supernatural horror film is available on demand through several platforms: iTunes, Amazon, Microsoft, Google Play, Vudu, FandangoNOW, YouTube. Photo: Courtesy image.

‘Don’t Look Back’ idea

“The idea for ‘Don’t Look Back’ was two things: a lack of empathy for people and why people do things. I wanted to look at the bystander effect, when people think somebody else is calling the police, and they freeze,” Reddick says.

“It’s been frustrating to see how timely the movie is today. People see something, and they grab their phone and start recording it and don’t call the police. It’s almost like a snake eating itself,” he says. “We need to remember that people are people. I don’t expect people to jump into a physical fight, but they could yell, Stop,” Reddick says.

Director, writer influences

Wes Craven has been an inspiration as a writer and director,” Reddick says. “ ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ is my favorite horror film. The way he shot it. He blended fantasy and reality. There was a fine line between them.

John Carpenter’s body of work has been an influence. I’m a big fan of naturalistic filmmaking. It has to look real,” Reddick says. “Also, the scores for John Carpenter’s films enhance his movies so much.

“I adore Kevin Williamson’s writing,” Reddick says. “It’s very witty.”

Horror, fantasy fan

“I was dealing with the emotional turmoil of hiding as a gay kid in high school and the overt racism of (Jackson, Kentucky) where I grew up. I was called the N word more times than my name,” Reddick says. “Horror and fantasy movies were an escape for me.

“I was fascinated with Greek and Roman mythology growing up. I always liked these fantastic stories,” Reddick says. “With horror movies, when my friends and I watched them, we were doing something we shouldn’t be doing. It was rebellious. Eventually, my mom let me watch them because I was staying out of trouble.”

Using gore in movies

“I love a good splatter scene, if it’s done to heighten the movie,” Reddick says. “In ‘Final Destination 5,’ the gymnast scene is one of my favorites. You can find it on YouTube if you haven’t seen it. Part of the thrill of seeing a slasher film is the carnage, but it has to enhance the film.

“I try to one up myself with a death where it gets under their skin. It’s fun to build on the audience expectations of what they think will happen. Everything should build to help the story.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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