Exclusive Interview with Writer Eric Red (New Movie – White Knuckle)
What is White Knuckle about?
It’s a terrifying cross-country thriller about a woman who is captured by an interstate truck driver serial killer and escapes from him. Years later, still haunted by the experience, she hires a long haul trucker and goes on the road with him to hunt down the deadly psychopath and stop him. The movie is female-driven with strong characters, with the emphasis on elevated suspense and tension, and high-octane action.
Where did the concept for this story come from?
The idea came when my wife and I drove across America a few years ago and saw all those countless tractor-trailers driving those thousands of miles of interstate. If one of those big rigs was a serial killer truck driver, I wondered, how would you know who he was and how would you track him down? There’s literally millions of trucks on the U.S. highways and it would be like finding a needle in a haystack. That sounded like a solid mystery idea fraught with thriller possibilities. The notion of a serial killer interstate truck driver is relatable, because we all know what it feels like to drive on the highway and that shiver of anxiety we feel when an eighteen-wheeler hurtles by a little too close. It taps into a universal fear. With White Knuckle, I set out to do for highways what Jaws did for the ocean.
What is your trick to creating memorial characters?
Writing real people who behave the way most of us would when placed in extraordinary situations, I suppose. The trick in an effective thriller is being character-focused and making sure it explores the human level, especially with the bad guys and monsters. The ones that truly scare us tap something deep in our collective subconscious, to use a five-dollar word.
Do you think your style has changed since movies like The Hitcher?
I’m more conscious of maintaining a moral perspective in my work now, doing stories where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, with good and evil clear cut so you root for the heroes to beat the villains in the end. It’s both interesting and realistic when the good guys have some bad in them and the bad guys have some good—that makes compelling drama. But if you aren’t careful in a thriller the bad guy will steal the movie, and over the years I’ve worked much harder creating strong good guys.
In hindsight, THE HITCHER was a really a young man’s screenplay (I wrote it when I was 24) where the moral lines got crossed. Even though that nihilistic quality is what a lot of people like about it, I wouldn’t write that script now. I’m older with a lot more life experience. But my inclination towards contained, stripped-down and linear stories with a clean mano-a-mano confrontation hasn’t changed much, though.
Was it always the plan for this to be made into a feature film?
No, WHITE KNUCKLE was originally written and published as a novel. It’s a graphically violent book that I figured would be too tough to get made as a film. But the idea of a movie pulled at me because the world of the American truck driver is very cinematic, and ultimately I got a handle on how to film the book. When I wrote the script, I built up the suspense and tension elements so the audience uses their imagination, taking the more Hitchcockian approach.
From your perspective, where is the best location for White Knuckle to take place?
The desert, where all good road thriller films take place. That desolate setting is intrinsic to these kind of flicks—the endless stretches of empty highway, the isolated gas stations and remote diner outposts, a lone car or truck pursuing you—it creates a unique sense of claustrophobia of the wide open spaces; there’s nowhere to run and no escape even though there’s nothing out there as far as the eye can see. Road thrillers exploit these minimalist elements for maximum tension. The producers and I are planning to shoot WHITE KNUCKLE in New Mexico and film a section in Monument Valley Arizona for the big action climax with all those epic rock formations in the background. Our goal is to make the ultimate road thriller movie.
How did you get involved with the Horror Equity Fund?
I’ve known Tony Timpone for decades from his days at Fangoria, a magazine that was always very supportive of my films. He is a wonderful, professional guy and a real gentlemen. When I heard he had joined forces with Horror Equity Fund I sent him WHITE KNUCKLE and Tony showed it to his partners Marlon Schulman and Brian Herskowitz Their company shares my desire to make higher quality horror and elevated thrillers, and all three come from a base of integrity and creativity. We came together to bring White Knuckle to the screen, which is very exciting. Am very fortunate to be working with such smart, knowledgeable and quality-conscious producers who all share the same goal in making a first-class motion picture.
What part of the story do you think will translate best on film?
The vehicular action and trucker stuff, probably. The nomenclature of the American long hauler from the big rigs to the truck drivers to the truck stops are uniquely American iconography, and truckers are like modern-day cowboys. There’s something mythical about it. For me, the “film within the film” is about the life of the U.S. truck driver. There’s never been a great movie about the American truckers, and I hope this is that movie.
What do you want your fans to walk away saying about this movie?
“I want to see it again.”
What does the future hold for Eric Red?
WHITE KNUCKLE is keeping me busy but I have NOOSE, the first novel in my Joe Noose Western series, coming out from Pinnacle Books in Mass Market Paperback and Kindle everywhere in August. The sequel HANGING FIRE will be in stores next February.