As a filmmaker, it can be fun to hear differing interpretations of your work. Often, a viewer’s reactions can help you to think about your craft in new and interesting ways. I have to say, though, in the case of Edward Scissorhands I constantly run into people who seem to have missed the point of it completely. They’ll say that they really related to Edward or even—in the most bizarre cases—that they felt sorry for him.
How in the world does anyone come up with that? I thought I made it pretty clear that Edward is the villain. For starters, just look at the guy: those lurching, inhuman movements. The sallow complexion and dead, glaring eyes. And oh, yeah, I almost forgot: He has deadly razor-sharp blades for fingers. Isn’t it obvious this is a story about someone who doesn’t belong among normal, decent people like you and me? Because that sure is the movie I thought I was making.
I worked to establish this theme right from the outset: When Edward first meets Dianne Wiest in the sinister gothic mansion he calls home, she is rightly startled by his hideous appearance and decides to leave. But Edward looks her over hungrily. He sees she’s weak and would go down easily. The wheels turn in his mind… She’s from the outside. If he befriends her, she might lead him to many others he can brutally kill. So he says, “Don’t go.”
Tell me: Is that not what came across on screen?
Or take the chilling scene in which Edward first sees photos of Winona Ryder. I remember telling Johnny Depp, “Show me unrepentant bloodlust in your gaze. You’ve never seen anything like her before, and you want to destroy what you don’t understand.” It sets up the scene of their terrifying first meeting, when she comes home late and finds the horrific, malevolent Edward lying in her bed.
That’s slasher movie 101, for crying out loud. Guess who the bad guy is!
The whole reason I cast Johnny as Edward was that I knew he could nail the icy-stared derangement the part called for. We dressed him in studded black leather to make him appear menacing against the lighthearted, innocent pastels of the movie’s suburban set. We even put him in that elaborate monster makeup. Why? Because he’s a goddamn monster, that’s why.
All those shots of him making beautiful topiary and ice sculptures show the audience how precise he is with his lethal hands: With that much control he could plunge a fist into your chest and come out with your heart impaled on one finger! When you see that flawless, 10-foot ice angel, how can you not be scared of the unstoppable, ruthlessly efficient beast that made it?
Yet instead of immediately concluding that he’s a dangerous psychopath, some viewers think this shows that Edward has human feelings, even a soul! What?!
Seriously, I give up. I know the movie doesn’t have the highest body count, but I did put in a scene where the neighbor lady warns everybody, very clearly and in English, that Edward is straight from hell. Was that scene cut from the TV edit? Because a quarter century after the film’s release, there are still people who, against all logic, feel bad for the knife-handed freak.
If you’re going to pity someone, pity the protagonist, Jim, played by Anthony Michael Hall. He’s the only one who stands up to Edward and tells him how horrible he is, the only one brave enough to take real action, and for all his trouble he gets stabbed in the gut. I like Jim. He’s cool. He’s the guy we all wished we were in high school. Handsome, blond, all-American. I just assumed everyone would root for him.
And need I mention the final scene, where it’s revealed that Edward is still alive and out there somewhere? That’s such a familiar horror film trope that I might as well have flashed “The End???” across the screen.
Maybe I should have, considering how one critic wrote that the film is about—get this—challenges faced by the disabled. Boy, was that the topper. I called him up and said, “Listen, you idiot: He has scissors for hands. He’s a deformed ghoul with a face full of scars and he was fucking built by Vincent Price.”
I guess it’s time for a remake, since my first attempt was apparently too subtle. We’ll retitle it Fistblade. We’ll use a dumb tagline: “Next December these hands are coming for YOU.” Then maybe my horror masterpiece will be understood.
Incidentally, could everyone please stop looking for deeper themes in Big Fish? It’s about how much it sucks when your dad’s a liar.