[FILMS] Story Behind Danny/Oxide Pang's The Haunting
- The Haunting
By JOHN HODGMAN
2007 Bangkok Dangerous Director
2006 Re-Cycle Director / Editor / Producer / Screenwriter
2004 Leave Me Alone Director / Screenwriter
2004 Omen Screenwriter / Producer
2004 The Eye 2 Director / Editor
2003 The Park Editor
2003 Infernal Affairs III Editor
2003 Infernal Affairs II Editor
2002 The Eye Director / Editor / Screenwriter
Oxide Pang Chun
Oxide Pang was born in Hong Kong in 1967 where he worked as a VTR
operator. He later moved to Bangkok and began to work as an editor
and telecine film specialist but has also written scripts and
produced Super 8 and 16mm films. Ta Fa Likit (1997) is his first
feature film. ~ Gönül Dönmez-Colin, All Movie Guide
2007 The Messengers Director / Editor
2007 Bangkok Dangerous Director
2006 Re-Cycle Producer / Screenwriter / Director / Editor
2004 Ab-Normal Beauty Director / Producer / Screenwriter
2004 Leave Me Alone Producer
2004 Omen Producer / Screenwriter
2004 The Eye 2 Director / Editor
2003 The Tesseract Director / Editor / Screenwriter
2002 The Eye Director / Editor / Screenwriter » Review
2001 Bangkok Haunted Director
2001 One Take Only Director
2000 Bangkok Dangerous Director / Editor / Screenwriter » Review
1998 Tha Fa Likbit Director / Producer / Screenwriter
One bright afternoon last summer, I sat in a Chinese restaurant
outside Regina, Saskatchewan, talking horror movies with Danny and
When it comes to horror, Danny was saying, Americans crave
explanation. "Every detail has to be logical. Why is the ghost
flying? Why is the ghost walking? Why does the ghost attack that guy
and not the other guy? They keep asking." He shook his head slightly
in frustration. "This is a ghost movie," Danny said. "Ghosts are
Born in Hong Kong in 1965, the Pang twins have directed, separately
or together, a half-dozen films: crime stories, thrillers,
psychological dramas, comedies. But they will always be known for
their ghosts, specifically those that haunted their best-known
film, "The Eye," which came out in 2002. It told the story of a
young blind woman who has her sight restored by a surgical procedure
and soon realizes that her new corneas also allow her to see ghosts.
If you must know, the ghosts do not fly. They occasionally walk, and
they don't really attack anybody. They mainly just mope spookily
around on their own ghostly business, puttering in hallways and
hanging out in stairwells, taking turns creeping out the heroine
until they are escorted to the afterlife by a mysterious group of
smudgy, leotarded grim reapers.
Like many Pang films, "The Eye" deploys a startling visual palette
strategic blurs, cuts and off-kilter framing that combine, in a way,
to blind the audience just as the main character is gaining her
sight. The ghosts are felt more than they are seen the way we feel
the prickle of someone reading over our shoulders in the subway. In
one of the film's more memorable moments, the heroine boards an
elevator and senses the presence of an elderly man floating
somewhere behind her, dryly sucking at the air, seemingly trying to
get her attention. We instantly sympathize: the sequence is only
marginally more tense than getting caught in an elevator with a
stranger who isn't undead, and naturally, she doesn't turn around.
Oxide, Danny's very-slightly-older, slightly-more-roguish twin, told
me that this scene caused much of Hong Kong to stop taking elevators
altogether, but he said it with such self-satisfied mischief in his
eyes that it was difficult to take him seriously.
The Pangs were in Saskatchewan making their first English-language
horror film, "The Messengers," due to be released in early 2007. It
is the story of a Chicago family who flee the city to the peace of a
Midwestern sunflower farm, only to find themselves menaced by a
family of ghosts and a murder of angry crows. The film is being
produced by Ghost House, one of a number of new all-horror
production banners, though Ghost House has a pedigree: it is a joint
venture between Joe Drake and Nathan Kahane of Mandate Pictures, on
the one hand, and on the other, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, who more
than 20 years ago made the seminal vacationing-teenagers-stalked-by-
evil-wood-spirits film, "The Evil Dead."
When I had lunch with the Pangs, they were already several weeks
into shooting. I asked them how it was shaping up. Danny laughed
ruefully. "Right now, it's really logical," he said.
"We tried to combine it together," Oxide said. "To make it logical
and keep it scary. We're trying to learn."
"The Eye" was the Pang brothers' first Hong Kong production. Before
then, they lived and worked primarily in Thailand, where they
started out in commercials. But the particulars of their geography
did not seem to matter in 2002. After the underground success of the
Japanese haunted-videotape film "Ringu," in the late 90's, and the
mainstream success of its English language remake, "The Ring," in
2001, the U.S. was not picky about what part of Asia it got its
scares from. And so "The Eye" picked up a limited theatrical release
in the States, a small eddy in the dark, inky wave of Asian horror
films and remakes that have swamped our shores over the past five
"The Ring" led the way, followed by the haunted-house movie "The
Grudge," the haunted Roosevelt Island movie, "Dark Water," and the
forthcoming haunted-computer film, "Pulse." All derive from Japanese
films that were already cult hits on video in the U.S. when they
were remade here, and like "The Eye," they are all spooked by
similar preoccupations: the supernatural reasserting itself within
the rational world, often via the very technology that had banished
it (be it VHS tapes, modern medicine or, as in "Pulse," the
Internet a kind of MySpace.com of the living dead); the
replacement of traditional horror movie "scares" with slow, spooky
elevator rides; and also, creepy children, who either are ghosts or
just hang around with them.
Though the wave has subsided somewhat, the aftereffects of the Asian
ghost boom are still being felt. Once confined to big-city video
stores, original Asian horror titles have begun to infect even the
most remote suburban chains (largely because of the efforts of
Japanese producer Taka Ichise, whose "J-Horror" line of original,
straight-to-DVD Japanese-language horror films has spawned its own
wave of English-language remakes). And more generally, the Asian
horror boom has opened America to a provocative new generation of
talented foreign directors who might otherwise have languished in
art houses or on video. It undoubtedly cultivated an audience for
provocative directors like Park Chanwook of South Korea and Takashi
Miike of Japan (even though their brilliant, sometimes grueling
physical-psychodramas cannot really be described as horror their
fondness for cutting off tongues and feet in their films
notwithstanding). Beyond Asia there is England's Neil Marshall,
whose subterranean thriller "The Descent" is one of the most
anticipated horror films of the summer; France's Alexandre Aja, who
recently remade Wes Craven's seminal 70's vacationing-family-stalked-
by-mutants film "The Hills Have Eyes"; and Australia's James Wan and
Leigh Whannell, whose $1.2 million Rube Goldbergian mutilation
film "Saw" boggled Hollywood with an $18 million opening weekend in
For directors like the Pangs, the Asian ghost boom might not get
them straight to Hollywood (they will not, for example, be directing
the American remake of "The Eye," currently in development), but it
did get them to Regina.
Though I'd been in Regina for a couple of days, this lunch was the
first time I'd ever seen the Pangs together. As is typical of their
collaborations, they were directing the film on alternating days:
one supervised the set while the other worked on a rough edit of the
previous day's shots a time-saving technique developed on the
perpetually rushed productions they are used to. While both speak
English rather proficiently, they had brought along their own
assistant director from Hong Kong to interpret their often spare
direction: a grim, round man named Cub, who has one of the most
imposing deadpans I've ever encountered. Cub described the
difference between making a film in Asia and making a film in
Hollywood this way: "There's more food here. Every day, two hours
before the real meal, there will be sandwiches. So every day when
sandwiches come around, we know: two hours to lunch."
I visited the set on an Oxide day. While the interiors were being
shot on a local sound stage, the sunflower farm scenes were staged
in a hot green valley some 50 minutes north of Regina. In addition
to the steady stream of food, there were other cues that this was a
set buoyed by the typical though still-startling largess of a
Hollywood budget. The Pangs chose the spot in the valley that most
appealed to them visually, and a two-story family home was built
there from scratch all peeling paint and dying vines on the
outside; on the inside, a hollow plywood shell. It was surrounded by
some 60,000 actual sunflowers, planted from seed, with another
20,000 silk sunflowers from China on standby.
Dylan McDermott, who plays the father of the family, was wandering
around the set wearing a bloody shirt with pitchfork holes in it.
The Pangs were shooting a scene at the house where McDermott's
character, Roy, would be taken away on a stretcher as the family of
ghosts looked on from an upstairs window.
Jason Shuman, one of the film's producers, pulled Oxide aside.
"Did you see Roy? Is it too much blood?"
"No," Oxide said. "He'll be covered with blankets."
"And the ghosts.. . ." Jason said. "They don't look like ghosts
anymore. They just look like people. Is that O.K.?"
"Of course, of course," Oxide said.
Meanwhile, Cub was standing nearby, offering his regular 1,000-yard
stare, when he was approached by a young guy who had been hired to
take photos of the production.
"What do you say in Hong Kong when you want to say, `Action'?" the
young photographer asked.
"Action," Cub said, without pausing or even moving his eyes.
"Really?" said the young guy. "You say `action'?"
Cub stared straight ahead. "Yes."
At that moment, Oxide swooped around the ambulance and the
stretcher, examining angles. He explained to the visual-effects
supervisor what they wanted for this scene.
"Camera looks up," he said, indicating a second-floor window. "We
see the ghosts. Then it tilts up. The crows fly. Camera tilts down.
The ghosts are gone. We can cue them, and they just move. No special
Oxide went on to explain how he wanted to have the crows fly out
over the roof of the house. The production had a barn up on the
ridge full of 16 trained ravens from the Czech Republic, for
situations when actual crows are required to perch menacingly, for
instance, on the rim of the baby's crib. Oxide prefers the real
ravens ("No special effect!"), but in this case he relented and
agreed that digital ravens would probably be more practical.
Then, almost reluctantly, Oxide walked back over to the monitors to
let the scene begin and called out: "Action."
Horror, like comedy, has always been something of a reptilian-brain
endeavor, unusual among the arts insofar as it is successful only
when it is able to produce a single, audible emotional effect a
scream or a laugh that is primal, cathartic and difficult to
understand. This is one reason that horror has always been a
director's medium: the horror movie is a contraption, and it takes a
certain organizational flair to design, pace and frame a scare.
About a month before I went to Regina, I visited Sam Raimi and Rob
Tapert in Raimi's office, along with their partner in Ghost House,
Joe Drake. The term that kept coming up was "roller coaster." "It's
the novelty of a horror-movie concept that attracts the audience,"
Tapert was saying. "They want the new and the different. They want
the roller coaster built with new curves in it."
Tapert and Raimi, who met in college at Michigan State, first
learned how to build a horror movie in 1978. They were just 24 and
19, respectively. Along with Raimi's high-school friend Bruce
Campbell, Raimi and Tapert had worked on a Super 8 offbeat comedy.
But the only kind of feature film they could raise money for, Tapert
figured, was a horror movie. So they all went to the drive-in.
"Everyone else was making out in the cars around us, and these three
geeks were actually watching the movie," Raimi recalled. "A
tremendous amount of European films came into America back then, and
they were horror and soft-core for the drive-ins. None of them ever
made it to the hard tops." Raimi paused and laughed softly. "That's
a term they don't even use anymore.
"We'd watch these films, and they always had 30 minutes of slow
stuff. Then they had a good scare. Then there was another 15 minutes
of slow stuff. Then there was a good suspense sequence. Then there
was more slow stuff. Then a good ending.
"So after about 20 of these, Rob and Bruce and I said, `Why don't we
just make one that has all the good stuff and skip the slow stuff?"'
The result was "The Evil Dead," shot on half a shoestring in a
decomposing cabin in the Tennessee woods in the winter of 1979 and
released in 1983. Drawing as much from the Three Stooges as from
classic horror films, it was economical, unrelenting and infused
with a kind of manic ingenuity particularly in the swooping evil-
spirit P.O.V. shots that would become a Raimi trademark, and the
distressing spectacle of a young woman being molested by a tree. One
executive who turned the script down in disgust called it 90 minutes
of the possession scene from "The Exorcist." Tapert would later tell
me with a smile that the guiding principle for "The Evil Dead" was
this: "Punish the audience."
While "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" ushered in a decade of
masked-killer films that would define horror in the 80's, "The Evil
Dead" nestled into the cult following that accrued around a pack of
uncompromising American horror films from the 70's, including George
Romero's zombie films, Wes Craven's "Last House on the Left" and
Tobe Hooper's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The films were often laced
with corrosive social commentary, and their low budgets gave them an
amateur, near-documentary feel that would make them all the more
harrowing. There were rarely ever any slow parts just a constant,
By the 90's, however, horror had waned as a genre. Countless
iterations of "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" had
fallen into rote familiarity and low comedy and gradually
disappeared, to be replaced by the knowing self-parody of
the "Scream" films. Horror didn't go away, but with the drive-ins
gone, it found new, often-profitable exile in the direct-to-video
market. Raimi, meanwhile, left the genre behind, making "Evil Dead
2" as a kind of satire of the first, and turning to pure slapstick
by the second sequel, "Army of Darkness." In 1998 he earned acclaim
for his somber, humane thriller, "A Simple Plan," and then brought a
reverent, pulp sensibility to "Spider-Man," which made the film
among the most successful in history and Raimi an A-list director.
It was around this time that Joe Drake founded his own production
company, which would become Mandate Films. Drake had spent years
selling movies to overseas territories for studios like Lions Gate,
and he takes obvious pleasure in measuring the market's appetite.
Later he would tell me a story about a producer acquaintance of his
who had gone to Indonesia. "He asked the Indonesian buyers what they
wanted, and they said, `Creature stories.' And so he asked, `What
creatures?' And I don't remember the exact order, but it was
something like snakes first, and then alligators, and then tigers.
And so he made a movie with a tiger fighting an alligator."
By 2002, Drake began to sense that there was an audience for well-
made, modestly budgeted genre movies that wasn't being served. He
and his business partner, Nathan Kahane, decided to start a single-
genre production banner, and they wanted a name director to headline
it. They were thinking maybe comedy, until Raimi's and Tapert's
names came up. Then the path was clear: horror. Drake remembered
being amazed by two things about the pair: that they would be
interested at all, and that the entire deal was struck with a
handshake. "We actually shook hands," he said again, astonishment in
This was not the way it was supposed to be. Horror was traditionally
B-movie territory. It had long been a place where A-list talent
might start out Francis Ford Coppola with "Dementia 13," for
example, or James Cameron with "Piranha II: The Spawning" but not
one where it typically longed to return. But by the early 00's, the
distinction between A movies and B movies was blurring, in no small
part because of the success of the Asian horror remakes. "The Ring"
and "Dark Water" were attracting Academy Award nominees and lending
the genre respectability it hadn't seen since Gregory Peck tried to
kill the devil child in "The Omen."
In the meantime, the 70's horror library, from the iconic ("The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre") to the pedestrian ("The Amityville
Horror") has been profitably plundered for remakes (though
curiously, the remake of "Amityville" was stripped of its Satanic
subtext, filling in the scares with a dare-I-say typically Asian
vengeful ghost plot line, plus a rousing gabled-rooftop chase
scene). And for the first time in a decade, the hard-core, largely
male horror fans who long ago had been ceded by Hollywood to the
direct-to-video market are now being lured back to the theaters with
a string of violent, hard-R horror films.
Consider Eli Roth's "Hostel," which opened at No. 1 in January,
replacing "The Chronicles of Narnia." Like many horror films, it
opened at around $20 million. Not a huge amount, but bear in mind
that its budget was less than $5 million. And bear in mind that it
was an R movie, thus reducing its potential audience, and what's
more that it was an R-rated movie about teenagers running afoul of
an elite torture club in Slovakia. Bear in mind that this $4.8
million R-rated torture movie has gone on to earn some $80 million
worldwide, and you might get a sense as to why studios seem eager to
rely on scare-driven niche films to offset what they're really
frightened of: a changing marketplace in which box office is
besieged like a teenager in a cabin by DVD sales and the looming
threat of the Internet and on-demand cable distribution; where the
great mass-market monsters of old like "King Kong" or "Mission:
Impossible III" can open at two to three times the audience of the
average horror movie and still be considered, on Monday morning, a
tragic, wounded beast.
Joe Drake is allergic to the suggestion that he saw any of this
coming. "I think right now the horror feature is defying gravity,"
he said. "We're all kind of looking at it going, God, another horror
movie has opened well. It sort of defies logic." Nor is it to
suggest that Raimi's and Tapert's instincts to get back in the
horror game were in any way mercenary; if anything Raimi seems
genuinely delighted to be back, reputedly going over every Ghost
House script and marketing campaign with avid, affectionate
attention. It's only to say that, while the drive-ins where Tapert
and Raimi initially studied the horror movie have disappeared, drive-
in movies are thriving in a way they haven't in decades.
nitially, Raimi and Tapert thought they would give a Ghost House
movie a very specific, recognizable structure, going back to the
formula they had teased out of the drive-in. "We did start with a
very hard formula of five sequences of six minutes of suspense,"
Raimi recalled, "no less than 18 scares. Because we knew that three
or four would be cut, and three or four wouldn't work, but we'd end
up with 10 or 11 really jolting, leap-out-of-your-seat moments for
All that changed when they saw the original Japanese-language
version of "The Grudge." Tapert and Raimi were not new to Asian
cinema and the talents that were incubating there. They had worked a
lot of kinetic, Hong Kong-style action into their 90's TV
series "Xena: Warrior Princess," and they produced John Woo's first
English-language film. But this was a roller coaster that they had
not seen before. "Ju-on," as it was originally titled, was a quiet
film about a house with a ghost rattling in the attic and a curse
that attached itself indiscriminately to even the most casual
passers-by. It had little discernible plot or logic, jumped back and
forth in time and moved at the speed of dread. This was nothing but
the slow stuff.
And yet, it was shot entirely on practical locations the kind of
stripped-down, efficient, uncomfortable kind of horror filmmaking
that Tapert and Raimi had started out in. And in no small part
because of its novelty and nightmarish strangeness, it delivered a
number of new curves. As Tapert put it: "A little black cat is
scary. Evil little kids are scary. But evil little kids who mew like
a cat?" He laughed, still shivering. "Well, that's a new
In an unusual turn, Raimi and Tapert hired the original director
of "The Grudge," Takashi Shimizu, to helm his own English-language
remake of the film, even though he speaks no English. Shot in Tokyo,
it's exceedingly faithful to the original, except with more computer-
generated imagery and the pointed addition of a rooftop scene in
which a Japanese police office explains to Sarah Michelle Gellar the
logic of the story's central haunting.
After the success of the "The Grudge," the proposed Ghost House
formula would be thrown out the window. Just as Tapert and Raimi had
rewritten the rules of the horror movie back at the drive-in, now
they would look all over the world for directors who could build
them a new roller coaster.
The first film the Pangs made together was a ghost story.
"It was so simple," Oxide told me on the set one afternoon during
lunch. "A man, at midnight, looking in a mirror, peeling an apple."
It's a Chinese folk tale, he explained: if you peel an apple at
midnight in one unbroken piece, you see your future in the mirror.
If you break the peel, a ghost appears."
I asked him if that's what happened in this short film.
"It's not complete yet," he said. "I shot it in the corridor of my
building. It was low lighting, so when we shot it, it was black. So
we didn't finish," he laughed. "We were 14."
"How old are you now?" I asked.
"Fourteen?" he said, eyebrows raised, and then he collapsed in
In fact, both Pangs are 41, and their lives have entwined with the
typical amount of creepy mischief you might expect from identical
twins. Growing up in Hong Kong, they regularly switched identities
in the classroom, and when they saw my tape recorder, Danny
introduced himself as Oxide almost reflexively. After "The Eye,"
each of the brothers decided to make a movie on his own: "Leave Me
Alone," by Danny, and "Ab-Normal Beauty," by Oxide both thrillers
involving zero ghosts. When they watched the rough edits, they
realized that both films featured a pivotal car accident at about
the 10-minute mark. It was too good a joke to pass up: Oxide asked
for Danny's accident footage to replace his own.
They first worked together as adults in 1999 on "Bangkok Dangerous,"
a fierce, pulpy crime film about a deaf-mute hit man that combined
the Hong Kong-style operatic action and the Thai-Buddhist languor of
the Pangs' twin homelands. Here they first and most boldly developed
their style: an audacious cascade of varying film stocks, colors and
speeds that is equally adept at capturing the agonizing slow motion
of a sexual assault as it is the strangely painterly image of a man
fighting off a horde of phantoms with his own luminous flatulence.
This latter scene is from the "The Eye 10," which, despite its
title, is the second and probably final sequel to "The Eye." The
film, which the Pangs directed in Hong Kong and Thailand, is
controversial even among their fans for jettisoning the story
of "The Eye" altogether and replacing it with a buffoonish teenage
comedy, including a ghostly break-dance fight. In fact, "The Eye 10"
perfectly captured the Pangs' eagerness to move from genre to genre,
to learn and to move on.
"After our action movie," Oxide said, "we wanted to make a ghost
"Why?" I asked.
Oxide said, simply, "To try."
"We want to make action, comedy, ghost movies.. . ."
"You want to make everything?" I asked.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Oxide said.
When asked what attracted them to this particular movie, Oxide's
answer was swift: "Sam Raimi." The Pangs had seen Raimi's work as
kids in Hong Kong and loved it."The pacing, the pacing!" Oxide
exclaimed, perhaps not surprisingly: much of Raimi's early work and
all the "Evil Dead" films lurch wildly between real, sometimes
affecting earnestness and pure clowning.
When Raimi first invited them to consider the script of "The
Messengers," the story involved an evil scarecrow that demanded
human sacrifice. This was not entirely to the Pangs' liking, so they
proposed two major changes. Instead of a scarecrow, there should be
ghosts, and there should be a creepy child: an infant who can see
the ghosts but cannot tell anyone about them.
Almost immediately, the Pangs started sketching out the scares,
designing and framing the film first on scraps of paper and then on
storyboards as the script was still being written. They were not
terribly concerned with the plot that would connect and make sense
of these moments. In fact, talking to Oxide now, the whole idea of
plot seemed remote, strange, overly logical. Asian movies, he said,
are allowed to be "unreasonable," and to his mind, scarier. "With a
scary movie," he said, "when the audience comes out of a theater,
all that matters is whether it's scary. No one says, this scary
movie is so cool. It's so reasonable."
Later I would speak with Mark Wheaton, a screenwriter, about this
view. Wheaton worked on the final draft of "The Messengers," a job
he received in part because of the credentials he earned as a writer
for Fangoria, the magazine of record for the horror fan base.
According to Wheaton, the American horror film had been defanging
evil for decades. By the end of the "Nightmare on Elm Street"
series, he said, you pretty much knew what would happen the moment
the lights went down: "Whoever the last girl standing is defeats
Freddy." But in Asian horror, there is no puzzle to solve that will
chase off the illogical ghosts. The characters in "The Grudge" are
haunted not because of a past sin that they can atone for, Wheaton
said. They are haunted because they walked past the house. "This
movie put the fangs back in and said: `Actually, you aren't strong
enough to beat this. Hollywood was wrong. You cannot win."'
"The Eye" is a perfect example of this differing sensibility. At the
end of the movie, the heroine waits in a traffic jam. She begins to
see masses of the grim-reaper ghosts assembling amid the cars. The
audience sees that a truck accident ahead is about to set off a gas
explosion that will kill everyone for blocks around. As the heroine
begins screaming at everyone around her to run for their lives, the
American viewer sees, almost disappointingly, a classic resolution:
she has only a few minutes to save the day. How will she use her
rare and unusual power for good? Will she follow the ghosts to the
disabled truck? Will the heroic boyfriend help her? But then the
truck explodes, and the heroine is left wandering among the charred
remains of mothers clutching their infant children.
Oh, thinks the American viewer. Or, that could happen.
While it's a grisly scene, it's not so much the fatalities that are
alien and troubling as the fatalism far more so than a meowing
child. Much hay has been made about the connection between the
headiness of the horror market these days and the national mood
after 9/11. And it is true that, between unrelenting natural
disasters and the war on terror, we are feeling pretty jumpy. The
last time we were this existentially freaked out as a nation was
directly after Vietnam, when Raimi and his colleagues were rewriting
the rules of horror. Curiously, though, Hollywood's remakes of those
very films often turn them upside down: where the cannibal clan
in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was a subversive distortion of the
classic American family, its remake is not grueling but comforting,
drenched in the sheen of big budgets and nostalgia. With few
exceptions, we have given over the real scary questions to those who
were not born here: Do you need to be threatened with certain death
in order to at last appreciate life ("Saw")? Why go on living once
your entire family has been killed ("The Hills Have Eyes")?
Perhaps because it is so difficult to face, we seem to be off-
shoring our deepest fear, the creeping terror of the day: despite
our rare and unusual power, what if we cannot stop the evil? What if
we can't win?
I asked Oxide again if there was a reason he and his brother were
attracted to ghost stories, other than just wanting to try them out.
He nodded. "It's like U.F.O.'s," he said. "It's something you will
never get an answer to."
I asked him if that meant he would make a U.F.O. film.
He nodded quickly, eyebrows raised, "Later!" he said. "Later!"
I went back to the set on a Danny day.
"They're very into eyes," said Penelope Ann Miller, who plays the
mother of the family. "One time, Oxide told me to look to the right
and hold it. But I looked to the left for one second. All of a
sudden, Cub's arms went up in the air, and I said: `I'm sorry! I'm
Both brothers direct with spare efficiency. They are used to telling
stories without a lot of language, for international audiences, with
very precise visuals, and doing it fast. When one actor asked to go
back to an earlier part of the scene to get into character, Danny
didn't understand. Why would they go back to something he's already
shot? "Danny told me," Miller said, "you have to empty your cup to
drink from my tea."
But now, as the sun went down over the sunflowers, Miller told me
that the brothers had softened to the American system. In one of the
last scenes of the film, Miller's character is supposed to come out
to the yard carrying lemonade. The family has survived, but the cost
has been high, and the scene is supposed to be silent and calm. But
she couldn't help herself. She put her chin up and announced, "I
Immediately filming stopped. Jason Shuman, the producer, said: "No!
It's too corny!"
"But Danny said, `I love it,"' Miller said. "`It's so American!"'
With the sun nearly set, the horror over for the day, Penelope Ann
Miller laughed. "I couldn't just stand there. Who makes lemonade
without saying they made lemonade?"