Book Review - Never Sleep Again - Behind The Scenes Scares

 

Anyone who loves films and especially if you are interested in horror movies, you will want to pick up a copy of Thommy Hutson's Never Sleep Again.  Published by Permuted Press, it is one of Mr. Hutson's many successes.  There hasn’t been many in-depth, feature-length retrospectives specifically covering a single film or franchise, so this one is exciting.

 

Based on his Saturn winner Scream: The Inside Story, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, the book goes deeper into the backstory of how Wes Craven developed, wrote and filmed the franchise as well as his partnership with Robert Shaye of New Line Cinema

 

I asked why he wrote a behind the scenes book.  "As a fan of the horror genre it was fun to explore the behind-the-scenes stories and making of some of the films I grew up watching.  It’s also always interesting and fun to meet the cast and crew who brought the movies to life and hear their take on what it was like to be in the trenches, especially since so much time passes between the film(s) and the retrospectives. You get a really honest perspective from everyone involved."

 

Among the things he learned when writing the book is that good thrills, or good scares, are subjective.  Every person is different.  While there are universal fears, such as the dark, it’s what waits inside the dark that creates the scare.   It’s also crucial to  have characters your audience or readers relate to, understand and root for. Crafting characters that you care about is key.

 

While many writers who compose horror see it as an easy way to do a film - create a monster, slash and kill stock characters, Wes Craven was one of the better writers/producers who really worked to imbue both the protagonists and the villains with complex personalities and clear motives or back stories. 

photo by Permuted Press

It’s something that Wes Craven did so well in his original 1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street and something he and the cast of the film talk about a lot in the book. "You really felt you knew kids like Nancy, Tina, Glen and Rod. They could have been your friends so it made the horror of what they were experiencing so much more real, relatable and frightening."

 

Horror, I realized,  has a way of looking at difficult problems.   A lot of genre stories are very much like parables: do the right thing and you’ll be okay. Do the wrong thing and you get punished. Ultimately, horror stories can be looked at as morality tales and be a mirror to deal with and conquer one’s own issues.  Wes's themes included the destruction of innocence, vigilante justice, lack of parental guidance and more. 

 

When asked what advice he, as a horror writer himself, would give to writers, he said, It sounds a little odd for the horror genre, but I’d say write what you know. And by that I mean write about what scares you. What motivates you to the place of fear and how do you deal with it. I think when writing in the horror genre it comes across if what the characters are doing or saying in any given situation is real when it comes from a place within yourself--if even a kernel--that is truthful. It’s not always that the dark is scary, but what about the dark scares you? What monster are you worried is creeping up behind you on the basement stairs? And once you have that, how would you and, by extension your characters, deal with it? If you create a version of that, it’s truthful and real.  From there you are primed to go off in so many fantastic, interesting and, hopefully, scary directions. Horror isn’t always monsters. Sometimes it’s wondering if you’re going to be loved, alone, have any friends or even get asked to prom.”

 

In crafting the history and making of the original Elm Street, Thommy felt it was important to give a context to everything that led up to the film for both Wes Craven and Bob Shaye, of New Line Cinema.  Within the book, you learn of the ups and downs of both careers and how directing a film that he had written boosted Wes up a notch.  The film and it's sequels altered both men's lives.

 

Though Thommy Hutson, himself, has a degree from UCLA in communications, and his first writing job was with Warner Brothers Animation for a Scooby-Doo movie, he talks about the importance of relationships in this industry.  Multi-talented, he has not only written, but directed and produced numerous films himself.  A member of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) he has produced THE ID, and will soon come out with the thriller -  Dryland - among many others.

 

His representation is Italia Gandolfo of GH Literary Agency who has encouraged him to finish his young adult thriller trilogy.  We look forward to that shortly. 

 

 

 

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