Wes Craven had the perfect name for a director of horror movies. That name was not only interesting but when you heard it mentioned, it was a sure thing that you were about to watch something made by the master himself. With iconic titles like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, The Hills Have Eyes and The People Under The Stairs (my personal favorite), Wes Craven enthralled audiences for over forty years. Yet no one recalls Red Eye, a lesser known Craven movie that’s still quite a fun ride.
One thing that made Craven stand out was his ability to scare his audience while also throwing in moments that would make us laugh thus making the horror experience much more enjoyable. Technically, Red Eye isn’t a slasher film by any measure and is best described as an intense thriller, one that succeeds thanks to the performances of its main actors and a simple plot to follow; all of which Craven expertly blends together. The movie follows Lisa (Rachel McAdams), a hotel manager who is based out of Miami. She’s catching the red eye flight out of Dallas (the last flight to leave) to return home and, during all the hustle and bustle of checking-in, she meets a nice man named Jackson (Cillian Murphy). They make small talk and even share a drink together at the airport bar. He seems like a nice guy and once the boarding of the plane begins Lisa learns that she’s sharing a seat next to Jackson! What a coincidence.
They continue their small talk and everything appears to be going well until Lisa asks Jackson the all important question; “What type of work are you in?” That’s when things take a sinister turn when it’s revealed that Jackson’s business involves Lisa! I won’t get into the details but to put it simply, Lisa plays a critical role in an assassination plot that is due to unfold at the hotel where she’s employed.
Instead of making Red Eye similar to his previous work, Craven takes this movie in a different direction. It’s a cat and mouse game between these two characters, where Jackson wants something from Lisa, while Lisa will do anything to avert his plans. Taking place mostly in an airplane, Craven figures out ways to keep to the audience wondering what is going to happen next while building suspense through its natural claustrophobic setting. Is Jackson going to kill Lisa during the flight? Does he have other associates of his on-board? Is there going to be a hijacking? Well, the script is too smart for that. Big credit to screenwriter Carl Ellsworth for making Red Eye‘s story feel plausible without resorting to mindless slasher-like cliches, even if Craven ironically popularized those cliches and later satirized them with Scream.
While Lisa is figuring out a way to survive this ordeal, she worries about her father (Brian Cox), who’s still at home in Miami. Once the plane lands, that’s when the action kicks into high-gear and the chase is on. As said before, the film’s plot is very simple and easy to follow, and while there are some questions that aren’t answered, for the most part those answers aren’t important. Craven makes good use of a wise script and solid performances by both of his main stars. The action isn’t over-the-top nor is the acting. There are a cast of colorful supporting characters, another common theme from Craven as well.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 Stars
Even with the PG-13 rating- something I’m cautious with when watching a horror film- Red Eye is still a lot of fun. It doesn’t have the body count of Craven’s more famous stories but, as a thriller, Red Eye is very tightly wound. At first glance, this might be something you’d pass over, but considering the rating, this remains fun movie to watch with the family. Just make sure the youngsters aren’t around.
Wes Craven may have scared us with his earlier films, but his filmmaking craft further proves that even a simple thriller can benefit from the right director. He will be greatly missed but we thank him graciously for everything he brought to the horror/thriller genre.