**Editor’s Note: Jeffrey Reddick: The Gay Man who Taught Horror Fans a New Way to Fear Death is a continuation of iHorror’s Horror Pride Month celebrating the LGBTQ community and their contributions to horror.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Final Destination.
I had gone to my local movie theater, a small three screen set-up where the price of admission topped out at $4 and on Tuesdays you could get in for 50 cents. It was opening weekend and I headed to the theater as soon as I got off work.
I got inside and was excited when I ran into a friend who was very excited to see me because he was on one of the most awkward dates of his life!
We settled into that broken down theater that I loved so much and that familiar rush of anticipation for a new horror movie hit me as the lights dimmed. Devon Sawa soon filled the screen and I was completely drawn in as he and his friends cheated Death only to be picked off one at a time as He returned to settle the score.
I returned to the theater a couple of times to see the film, and it became my favorite of that year. I also went to work tracking down as much info as I could about the people who created it.
That was when I discovered Jeffrey Reddick. It would be a few more years before I discovered that the man who wrote my favorite film of the year 2000 was gay, as well, but at the ripe young age of 23 he had already made an impact on my life.
Seriously, every time I tripped or some weird accident happened for several months after that first viewing the thought “Is that you, Death?” would run through my head, and because of the first sequel, I still won’t drive behind one of those big ass logging trucks.
Eventually, I did discover that not only was Reddick an out and proud gay man, but that he was also from a small rural town in Eastern Kentucky that probably had an old movie theater just like the one where I’d seen his first film.
It’s hard to describe what that meant to me, then. I was an out and still struggling to be really proud gay man living in the sticks of East Texas and the connection to this man and his work just seemed alive to me. It also gave me hope that maybe, someday, I could contribute to the genre that I loved so much.
Reddick’s story is one that’s hard to believe.
At 14 years old, he wrote a letter to Bob Shaye at New Line Cinema with a story idea for a prequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street which Shaye promptly returned to him saying he could not accept unsolicited material.
Not to be defeated, young Reddick wrote back telling Shaye that he’d paid good money to see the man’s films and the least he could do was read the story. To his surprise, Shaye did, and sent it back with notes on how it could be improved.
For the next five years, Reddick, Shaye, and Shaye’s assistant Joy Mann would write numerous letters back and forth and when he was 19 years old, the young man from Kentucky started his internship at New Line.
It was during his time there that he read a story about a young woman who had escaped what would most certainly have been death in a plane crash after her mother called to warn her she had a bad feeling about the flight.
The seed from that article would grow into what ultimately became Final Destination. His idea of Death with a capital “D” as a force of nature weaving a pattern for the end of each and every life on the planet sparked the imagination of audiences, and spawned a franchise that would produce four sequels.
Eventually, Reddick left New Line, but he continued to write interesting horror films like Tamara and the recently released Dead Awake, and in that time, he’s never ceased fighting for the inclusion of minorities in his work even though studio execs continue to balk citing the difficulty of selling those films overseas.
As he told me in an interview in 2017, “An action movie starring Will Smith? No problem. But a horror film with a black leading actor or actress runs into problems every time. But I’ve been explaining for years that if you cast an African American leading actor or actress in a horror film, horror fans will see it so long as it’s good. That’s the key.”
His tenacity extends to including LGBTQ characters, as well, though he’s met with the same kind of push back from producers, agents, and actors.
It’s hard not to respect a man who keeps working and chipping away at those walls, even when they sometimes seem insurmountable, but then again, he’s starting to get some real results.
Perhaps due to the success of last year’s Get Out, or perhaps because people are just finally paying attention, Reddick’s feature film Superstition: The Rule of 3’s is currently in production.
The film, which takes place on a college campus and plays on the old saying that “death comes in threes,” stars a cast filled with African American and Latino actors and actresses like Ludacris, Prince Royce, Terayle Hill, and Lauryn Alisa McClain.
He also spent several months earlier this year working on the popular television show “Midnight, Texas” that not only features a racially diverse cast, but also boasts a prominent gay couple in the mix.
Through it all, Reddick remains true to himself as a writer, enriching the genre with his unique voice.
He once told me that if living his life as a gay man of color in the open positively affected one person, then it would all be worth it.
Well, Jeffrey, I’m sure I’m only one of thousands, but you have certainly been a positive role model for myself, and as I continue to write about the genre and dig deeper into the best of what it has to offer, I offer my humble thanks to the man who continues to inspire me with his work…
…even if it still makes me worry that Death is on my tracks when I trip over my own feet.