Fabianne Therese on Southbound, haunted houses and horror

Southbound star Fabianne Therese on anthology movies, Don Coscarelli, Starry Eyes and more!

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Anthology horrors seem to be everywhere these days but Southbound stands head and shoulders above the competition. From directors Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Radio Silence and Patrick Horvath, it’s a desert-set chiller with intertwining stories and some genuine shocks and chills. We loved it when we saw it at FrightFest Glasgow, and it’s now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

So we were thrilled to get the chance to talk to star Fabianne Therese about her role in Benjamin’s segment ‘Siren’ and Bruckner’s tale ‘Emergency.’ We don’t want to give too much away in case you haven’t seen it yet, but we’ll just say that she plays one of a trio of musicians whose van breaks down in her first segment, and gets into a sticky situation that continues into the next…

She’s also a familiar face to indie horror fans, having appeared in cult shocker Starry Eyes and Don Coscarelli’s excellent film of John Dies At The End. We spoke to her about working on Southbound, the real-life haunted house she stayed in, working in horror movies and why anthology horror TV is due a comeback.

How did you get involved with Southbound?

I had done a couple of other indie genre films, and that whole world is pretty small, so I was sent over to Roxanne by recommendation. I hadn’t read the script but she pitched it to me and I really love what all of those guys do and I really liked the character specifically that she pitched to me, and how it crossed over between two stories. So yeah, I was on board from the very first time she mentioned it to me!

So Roxanne approached you with ‘Siren’ first, then David Bruckner?

She came to me first, but I met with both of them within the same week. I heard Roxanne’s first but it was also after meeting David and hearing his whole pitch for his segment that really made me want to do it. They both just seemed so different and it was like getting to do two films at once.

I did shoot them separately. I shot Roxanne’s segment first, and then it was a couple of weeks and I shot David’s segment, and they could not have been more different.

Fabianne Therese, Hannah Marks and Nathalie Love in Southbound
Fabianne Therese, Hannah Marks and Nathalie Love in Southbound

In ‘Siren’ you play a member of a band and the chemistry between you and the other two actresses is great. Was there much rehearsal?

Well, one of the actresses, Natalie Love, we’ve known each other for a long time. I actually suggested her for the role, so that was a lot of fun working together with her. Roxanne found Hannah [Marks], and the three of us got along really well. We didn’t really rehearse very much but I don’t really think that segment particularly called for it. I don’t think you could tell when the camera was rolling and when it wasn’t rolling.

Roxanne worked as a producer on the V/H/S movies and this is her first directing job. What was it like working with her?

She definitely knew her way around the story and what she wanted, I’m sure just from being such a badass producer for so long! She knew what it was. And the DP Tarin [Anderson], and just her whole lighting crew, everyone that she worked with had so much respect for her. At the time we were shooting The Jinx had just come out and [Anderson] shot that when she was eight months pregnant!

She’s such a badass so it was a lot of female energy for that production, and Susan [Burke] who wrote it was there, she was also the creepy wife.

So it was a positive atmosphere despite the creepiness of the material?

Yeah, it was definitely a really positive group of people and it was really fun, but we were shooting out in this kind of creepy house in the middle of Joshua Tree.

They got us a little house to stay in, which was really awesome but it was so weird and none of us could sleep at night. All three of us got sleep paralysis! The more that we explored the house, the creepier and creepier it got. There was one room with a closet with doll houses in it, this is just the house they rented for us! I had the most insane anxiety trying to sleep. There was this weird hole we found in another room where stuff was dripping from the ceiling, the closer we looked, all of the artwork looked like it was done by children and it was framed wrong…we were so convinced that there was a ghost in that house that we asked to moved to the Motel 6. And we left! And when we left it was the biggest sense of relief I’ve ever had, driving away from that house.

And after we had left, Susan and her husband [Matt Peters] who was in the Monsters segment, they came and stayed at the house and he had sleep paralysis too! They were making fun of us, “There’s no ghost in the house,” and he swears that he saw a little girl outside, and they moved to the Motel 6 too. So everybody that stayed in that house left the house because it was so creepy.

SPOILERS BEGIN

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So what was it like going from that to David Bruckner’s segment?

I guess at first glance it might seem that that one was easier, but that one was actually a lot harder. The first one was really easy to improvise, learn the lines and do, but that one we did a lot of rehearsal for. We did a lot of rehearsal for specific body movements, I made the mistake of showing David that I was double jointed in my elbows so he made me have my arm twisted the whole time to look like it was broken. We practiced the pick up and then Mather [Zickel], who was so amazing to work with, what you see is what it was. He didn’t put me down in between, his arms were shaking they were so sore from holding me.

That was a pretty brutal shoot. We were in the desert, it was freezing cold when we were outside on the ground, and then when we moved to the hospital, all of the special effects gags that I had to be in really kept me in one place, covered in this sticky freezing cold blood, it was miserable!

That bit with your leg, I have to say, got such a loud reaction from the crowd at FrightFest, myself included!

[laughs] I know, somebody walked out of one of our screenings, I was so proud!

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You’ve worked on quite a few horror movies now, is it a genre that you feel drawn to?

I think that there is this misconception sometimes that horror films are just  shock and gore, and I guess that is sometimes what it is, but all of the genre stuff that I’ve done have been really interesting characters and really interesting stories. And there’s something about horror when you’re playing it, it’s kind of the most intense level of whatever emotion you’re feeling, and that’s really fun thing to play and to try to do authentically.

Like when I did Starry Eyes, they rewrote it a couple of times to make her not such a one-sided bitchy character and I didn’t want to necessarily play her like that. So I really enjoy it, I love supernatural elements, I love heightened elements, I think that it’s so much fun to play.

It does feel like there’s a great community of filmmakers working on these movies…

Yeah, and we’re all fans of each other. And honestly the people who maybe recognise me from a horror film, like the other day I was eating lunch and the guy who brought me Sriracha was like “I love Starry Eyes!” And I know that those people are so cool!

Fabianne Therese as Amy in John Dies At The End
Fabianne Therese as Amy in John Dies At The End

I did want to ask about John Dies At The End, it’s such a great film! What it was like to work with Don Coscarelli?

Oh my god, it was amazing! When I read the script I hadn’t read the book, I hadn’t even heard of the book, and I read the script and was like “I have no idea what the heck this is!” I was a little hesitant about it and then when I went for the callback and saw that it was Don, I was so excited and the exact same script became amazing in my eyes because I love Phantasm, I love Bubba Ho-Tep and it was great, the whole experience was so much fun. Chase [Williamson] is still one of my best friends, we just did another movie together that we wrapped a couple of weeks ago, and I just saw Don a week ago. They’re the best.

And he’s so meticulous and precise about everything he does that I couldn’t be more thankful that he was the first director I ever worked with. I get offered a lot of different horror films and I don’t take a lot of them. I just take the ones that it seems like the directors and the people involved are dedicated and good and the stories are good. There’s a lot of other stuff that’s just purely for kicks but I think working with Don right off the bat made me have a higher expectation.

That film with Chase, is that Sequence Break? Can you tell us anything about that?

We just wrapped it, and it’s with Graham [Skipper] who’s also part of the horror community. It’s his first directing job and he gave me and Chase free rein to develop these really weird characters. It’s about this videogame that he creates that comes back and alters reality, and it was really fun.

Finally, can we ask what your favourite anthology horror movie is?

You know what, I think that the only anthology movies I can think that I’ve ever seen are Roxanne’s films! So for fear of sounding biased, I am going to say no! I mean, I do love Twilight Zone more than anything in the world probably. The whole concept of a TV show with a 30 minute story is really needed again. I think so many stories don’t need to be features, they’re so much better and more powerful as a short 30-minute piece. I think Joe Swanberg is doing a version of that for Netflix where it’s a different story every episode, and that sounds amazing, I want to get in on that! [NB: The show is Easy]

It definitely feels like we’re missing that kind of show right now.

I think it’s going to come back. Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, when I just want to have lunch and have something to watch, that’s what I always put on. Those are the stories that stick with me.

Southbound is available on Blu-ray and DVD now. Keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow.