Reviews Talks with Patrick Melton
Interview by Gavin Schmitt
Date Posted: July 5, 2010
It's possible you don't know the name Patrick Melton. He's not an
actor, so he doesn't have a well-known face. He's not a director, so he
doesn't get top billing in the theater. But he has created, or
co-created some of the biggest horror blockbusters of the last five
years. "Feast", "Feast 2" and "Feast 3", "Saw 4", "Saw 5", "Saw 6" and
"Saw 7", "The Collector", as well as being involved with "My Bloody
Valentine" and "Piranha 3-D".
Besides discussing the writing process on these films, we covered Ben
Affleck, David Hasselhoff (as always), the fate of the "Scanners"
remake, the ongoing 3-D craze, Dimension Films... and the whereabouts of
Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) -- the man "Saw" fans have been waiting
for the past SIX YEARS.
GS: What has it been like going from an unknown to one of horror's
big players in under five years?
PM: Well, it feels great, I suppose. We were just sort of thrown
right into it with "Project Greenlight", which was this wonderful
contest. They buy your script, which is great because then you're
getting paid. And then they make the movie, which is great because then
you have something to show for it. And even if it sucks or doesn't suck,
you can still say you made a movie. And you suddenly get more
recognizable, which is great when you've made something like "Feast". We
were very frustrated -- I think we tried to be humble and just make the
best of it and work hard and it paid off quickly, because we've had a
shitload of stuff made.
And that's just the result, I think, of being on top of things and
trying to keep doing stuff all the time. And "Feast" is very different
from "Saw" and "The Collector", which has some similar aspects but was
intended to be more of a thriller. And then there were all the rewrite
jobs we got from that, from "My Bloody Valentine" and "Piranha 3-D" were
all just the result of working hard and people seeing that you work
quickly and effectively in terms of executing what we say we're going to
A lot of times in Hollywood you'll have these meetings with studio
bosses where you talk about what to do, you get a rough draft, and
months later you come back and forget about what you've pitched. We've
been good about delivering what we promised, they've been generally
happy and they have continued to hire us. It's been a wild ride, but
GS: I absolutely agree that you deliver on what you promise. I may
not know exactly what the transition is from script to screen, but I see
in "The Collector" or the "Saw" films these elaborate setups, and when
you're writing the script, you have to ask yourself, "Are we going to be
able to pull this off?" But you do, you do pull it off.
PM: (laughs) Well, there's a lot of times where we write it and
someone says, "You CAN'T pull it off." So we have to go back and sort of
re-do it until it's something that is more plausible and able to
execute. It's a process, and having gone through it several times with
the "Saw" movies... and we learned from the "Feast" movies. The "Feast"
movies were made for not a lot of money, so we had to be resourceful.
GS: And you can't even tell, which is the best part.
PM: Well, yeah, the sequels were definitely more difficult than the
first one. Less resources, less time. The thing about filmmaking is
this: if you don't have a lot of money, you'll need time. But if you
don't have a lot of time, you're gonna need a lot of money. So we were
fortunate on the first "Feast" movie that we didn't have a lot of money
but we had a lot of time. The same thing on "The Collector" -- principle
photography was only nineteen days. That's very short for a movie like
that, with all its complicated traps. There's not a lot of dialogue, so
it was all about getting the shots and creating suspense. We had several
instances of additional photography where we were picking up things that
we just didn't get. And we were able to do that because we had time.
It's really tricky if you don't have money and you don't have time;
that's a recipe for disaster.
Jenny Wade and Henry Rollins from Feast (2005)
GS: With regards to "Feast", did you have certain actors for the
characters in mind at the time of writing? For example, Henry Rollins
seemed spot-on for the part he had.
PM: I think naturally when you write you think of people, of certain
actors, that are "dream people" you'd like to have. But what you have in
your head may change once the role is cast and each actor makes the role
their own. The Henry Rollins character was probably written a lot more
over-the-top than Henry delivered it. And I'm actually thankful that he
delivered it the way he did. He did it dead serious, despite saying the
most ridiculous things and dressing with pink sweatpants, which made
what he was saying even more absurd. He could have played it campy, but
it played exactly how he should have. And that's a testament to Jon
Gulager's directing, because the script could have gone more ridiculous,
but it wouldn't have been as effective a movie. Jon had people seriously
saying these crazy things, and that made it a lot more fun, especially
when the horror stuff came around.
GS: One of the film's producers happens to be the love of my life,
Mr. Ben Affleck. Tell me how wonderful he is.
PM: He's a really nice, friendly, smart, outgoing guy. He's a lot
smarter than people give him credit for, and he was actually really
helpful and hands-on in the "Feast" movies. For example, we had those
title cards for each character, and he really helped us with those.
There was a moment where we had like a roundtable dinner and we got
together with some other writers, and he brought in the most creative
minds. You see his on-screen persona and you think of a goofy frat guy,
he has that sort of vibe to him. But then he comes out with a movie that
he wrote and directed, "Gone Baby Gone", that couldn't be more serious
and gritty. I didn't know he had that in him. He's a real smart guy, a
lot smarter than he gets credit for.
GS: In your personal opinion, is there a moral difference between
killing someone and placing someone in a situation where they kill
PM: Well, you know, probably not. But in John Kramer's head he seems
to think there is. Clearly he's a psychopath, but maybe he can see a
difference, because at least theoretically in his mind he believes he
gives people a chance to change, and go through the extremes that he
has. He had a life-changing near-death experience when he crashed his
car, and probably should have died then, but didn't, and that changed
his outlook on life. So in his own sadistic kind of way, he is
implementing that on to others with varying results, as we know from the
movies. But if any rational person looked at that, they would not really
distinguish between the two. They'd both be murder. But that's the fun
of the series: what would I do in this situation? It's a little more
nuanced than a killer who just hacks people's heads off. It's a thinking
man's slasher movie.
GS: Yeah, it gets to be more of a thinker as it goes on. To be
perfectly honest with you, just trying to keep the characters straight
is a chore.
PM: Oh geez, you don't even know. When we first came on in the fourth
movie, we had this big board listing all the characters from each movie
who may or may not be showing up again. If "Saw 4" would have been made
the way we had it scripted at one point, it would have been even more
confusing than it was. We had so many things, such as Benito Martinez
from "Shield", who was Dr. Gordon's lawyer in "Saw". And there was
Drillbit Jeff. Remember in the first movie with Danny Glover, there was
that guy who may have died... who put the drillbit into his head, and we
were like, who is that guy? So we were going to go back, but it would
have been way too much. But yeah, it's a complicated world. There aren't
a lot of other movies that are as serialized as the "Saw" movies. I
can't imagine someone just coming in watching "Saw 6". You have to know
the movies and know them well, which may be fun for the fans. There's a
lot of reaching back, and maybe we're giving people too much credit
thinking we can go back to something obscure six movies ago and assume
people will remember that. Which, by the way, we have all sorts of
things in the upcoming "Saw 7" reaching back...
Cary Elwes in the original Saw film (2004)
GS: And on that note: Without ruining everything, what can you say
about the return of Cary Elwes in "Saw VII"?
PM: I saw, as everyone else did, the Lionsgate announcement that he's
going to be in the movie, and he is. And it's not going to be in a
flashback. He was in Toronto, the footage was shot, and you'll have to
see the movie to see what that means.
GS: So even though you wrote it, you can't actually say anything?
PM: Right. Not really, no. Lionsgate doesn't like that, so we can't
really say. I think this year at Comic-Con we're going to show a clip
and it's going to be pretty juicy. By the way, if you hear noise in the
background (there has been an occasional crinkling noise), that's my
turtle, and she's going nuts -- it's mating season.
GS: You did some uncredited clean-up work on "Bloody Valentine
3-D". What do you think about this growing 3-D trend (including "Saw
VII")? Is it good for the fans or a cynical plot for studios to charge
more and avoid piracy?
PM: Yeah, you're old enough to remember the last time 3-D was used as
a gimmick. (Patrick knows how old I am because before the interview
started, we talked a bit about random stuff and both growing up in the
Wisconsin/Illinois region.) There was "Jaws 3-D" and "Friday the 13th
3-D". Was there a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in 3-D? I don't remember.
It's a gimmick, and I'm definitely not crazy about it. When you go into
a movie, you want to be immersed in it. And with a good story, you
forget everything that's going on around you and just pay attention to
the screen. Sometimes with 3-D movies, they actually take you out of it
because they remind you that you're watching a movie, especially if
something really gimmicky like an ax comes flying out of the screen and
you remember you're wearing glasses.
But I guess it depends on the movie. "My Bloody Valentine" was very
aware of what it was: totally crazy and fun. And it had no pretenses, it
knew it was fun, and you could throw the ax at the camera. But do I need
to see "The Brothers McMullen" in 3-D? Probably not. Certain movies I
think it's appropriate and other movies it's just not. I don't mind if
directors go in with the intention of shooting a film in 3-D, because at
least they'll be going in with that in mind and not just something that
will be used to get three extra bucks at the box office.
So "Saw", it's totally different from "My Bloody Valentine" because
there's nothing particularly funny about "Saw". It's meant to be very
serious and shocking and disturbing. So I think the idea of making it
3-D was for enhancement with the traps. It was not shot in a gimmicky
kind of way. The whole point of shooting it in 3-D was to make it new
fresh from the past few "Saw" movies. A dialogue scene in 3-D isn't very
interesting, but a trap could be pretty cool. I have yet to see it, so I
Hotties from Piranha 3D in theaters August 2010
GS: It sounds like we're on the same track here. I'm all for 3-D
if it serves a purpose, but it's a frustration to me if it seems like
they're using the effects to hide the fact they have no story.
PM: That was a criticism for "Clash of the Titans", and it was sad
that Warner Brothers knew at some point it needed something else, and it
used 3-D as a crutch. And that's definitely unfortunate, because it just
seems like the studio is trying to trick the audience. But people are
growing wise to that. It's going to wane after a while. There will be a
series of inferior movies and studios will realize it's not worth the
extra cost. It's expensive to make a 3-D movie, it really is. Conversion
is somewhat cheaper because it's done after the fact. Like "Piranha 3-D"
was shot in 2-D, but Alex Aja knew that it was going to be released in
3-D so he intentionally shot some scenes knowing that in advance. In the
script he would bold and underline where there was a 3-D moment.
That's one thing, but converting a movie to 3-D just to make three
more bucks and make the film seem epic, that's cheap, and peopel will
sniff that out after a while. And studios will catch on that it's not
worth the cost. But right now, when these inferior movies open and make
record numbers, that's not helping the cause. I'm sure now they're
thining they should have made "Kick-Ass" in 3-D because it didn't quite
make the numbers they were hoping it would make, and putting it in 3-D
would make it an event. Would it make the movie better? No. But it would
be an event. But right now, with the fervor over "Alice" and "Clash of
the Titans" and "Avatar"... it will be a while before it dies down.
GS: Some reviews have said "The Collector" has a 1980s aesthetic.
Do you agree and was this intended?
PM: Oh, yeah! That just comes with Marcus and I having grown up in
the 80s and being introduced to horror movies in the 80s. Those were the
horror movies that inspired me or scared the crap out of me, the movies
from that era. Aesthetically, Marcus is a huge fan of Dario Argento -- "Suspiria"-era
Dario Argento -- so he intentionally had a giallo look to it with the
colors and the contrast. So yeah, that was certainly what he intended
when shooting it. I take that as a compliment.
GS: In the television electrocution scene, do you know what is
playing on the TV?
PM: I do! That's John Gulager, and me and Marcus! John is dressed
with like a crown on, as a king. I'm dressed as a mailman, and Marcus is
dressed as a bunny. Originally that's from "Feast". In "Feast", the
little boy Cody is upstairs, above the bar, watching TV with this
bizarre kids show. And then he gets eaten and puked up on his mom. We
put it in that movie, so we wanted to put it in "The Collector", as
The Collector (2009)
GS: On IMDB, some one has this complaint: "In order for the
Collector to have the time and freedom to set up all the traps, the
family in the house would have to have already been captured --
eliminating the necessity for traps." Can you address that?
PM: Well, yes. How it works, what the ruse of what this killer does
is... he will wait for a family to be out, and then he'll place this
large box with a person in it, the bait. So, imagine yourself coming
home and seeing this large box -- you're going to say, "what the fuck is
this box?" Then you hear movement and the door closes, the Collector
will grab you and incapacitate everybody. A lot of this really didn't
come through, we had it a lot more explained in script format. We're
showing the film from the art thief's POV, so you don't see it all. But
when the Collector does show up at the house, he incapacitates them and
puts them all in the basement. Then, one by one, he releases them into
the house, and it's up to them if they live or die. So when we see
Michael, the father, he's down in the basement. Did you notice there was
smoke? It's probably too minimal to really notice it, but conceptually
the idea was that once you're captured you're put in the basement. Then
the killer will blow off a smoke grenade, which will force you to go
upstairs. Once there, you're either going to die or live.
That's why there were all these baited things all around the house.
Like, if someone's chasing you and you see a pair of scissors, you're
going to grab them, right? But then you realize they're connected to
something, and you get thrown into the spikes that are against the wall.
Or you see golf clubs and you grab them to hit someone, but that's a
trap. So that was the idea, that it's just this sort of game of cat and
mouse in this house where the killer finds joy in playing with the mice.
Because, sure, if he just wanted to kill them, he could walk in and stab
them in the chest and walk out. But that's not what he does.
GS: Well, now I know what the traps are for.
PM: Yeah, and that's our fault, because we probably should have tried
to explain that better. We're doing "Collector II" and you'll understand
it more. Because at the end of "Collector", the art thief Arkin is stuck
in a box. So, in "Collector II" that box will open and we'll be in a
different location. So, you'll understand the process a little bit more
in the second movie.
GS: So you can confirm "Collector II"... it will happen?
PM: Oh yeah. We're writing it now. And it should be going into
production in October. And that's what we're shooting for, starting to
shoot in October. It will pick up right at the end of the last movie.
GS: I ask everyone this: What dirt can you dish out on David
PM: David Hasselhoff? Dirt? Only what I have gleaned from YouTube and
"America's Got Talent", pretty much the same as anyone else. I don't
know if this is dirt, but I could play something that might add to your
cause... hold on a second. (theme from "Knight Rider" plays) It's my
ringtone. That's all I've got on Hasselhoff is just a ringtone dedicated
GS: Oh man, you're stuck in the same boat I am. I read a rumor
that you were rewriting the "Scanners" remake...
GS: But it fell through...
GS: If your version of "Scanners" were to be made, what would it
consist of compared to the original?
PM: Well, we were just doing some rewrites for David Goyer. He's a
great writer, and he had a draft. His first draft was very faithful to
the original movie. And then he did a second draft, which was a little
bit more of his own, and it was really good. The first two acts are so
great that the third act needed to be a little more monmental. So it was
our intention to just go in and try to make it a little bit better...
just to continue the energy it starts with and bring it to a greater
crescendo. But the problem is that there are many different people
involved and they all sort of think it should be something different. To
me, it seems like a very straightforward update, but the powers that be
can't quite agree on what it should be and I don't think it's going to
get done any time soon. Hopefully it will be, it's a really great draft.
GS: We're not going to see that for a while...
PM: Probably not. It's with Dimension, and Dimension seems to waste a
lot of time spinning their tires in the mud.
Famous doll from the Saw Franchise
GS: You've survived the interview. What's next for Patrick Melton?
PM: Well, you know, we're doing "Collector II". And there's a couple
other ones I shouldn't mention yet because they're not quite finalized.
But "Collector II" is what we're doing now, and I'm excited to see the
first cut on "Saw VII". That's all I can mention.
GS: Well, we already know everyone will go see "Saw VII", but if
they weren't going to -- GO SEE "SAW VII"!!! And keep your eyes peeled
for "The Collector II", sure to be just as good or better than the first
one. Thank you, sir, for the wonderful interview.
PM: Thank you. It was fun -- have a good time in Wisconsin!
Gavin and Killer Reviews would like to thank Patrick Melton for his
time and for such a great, insightful interview. Hopefully we run into
each other again.
See what people are saying about this interview!