With American Mary, the Soska Sisters announced themselves as two of the most exciting talents working in horror today. So it was a bit of a surprise when they announced that their follow-up to their arthouse darling chiller would be slasher sequel See No Evil 2, but, as Jen and Sylvia tell us, they like to keep us guessing.
Picking up right where the first film left off, See No Evil 2 finds morgue attendant Amy (genre icon Danielle Harris) and her friends trapped in the mortuary with the not-at-all-dead psychopath Jacob Goodnight (Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs), who has some unusual ideas about punishing sins. Can Amy survive the night and the unkillable nutjob?
SciFiNow talked to the Twisted Twins about subverting expectations, working with WWE, and why they’re desperate to make a good Twilight movie.
You mortgaged your parents’ house to make American Mary. We’re assuming working with a studio budget must have been a nice change?
Sylvia: Especially knowing that my parents didn’t have the risk of losing their house! That was nice but I think always having our own money, like our own money went into Dead Hooker In A Trunk and our parents’ money went into American Mary, we really value where the budget goes so any time you see a movie is ours it’s always a little bit bigger than the budget suggests because we don’t like to waste money. I think it put the fear of God in us having done that last movie that way.
So how did this film come about? Were you fans of See No Evil?
Sylvia: Well, we’re huge fans of the original one, we started watching wrestling when Kane was first introduced which was 17 years ago. I’m a bit of a jerk when it comes to horror movies, there’s always times when I’m sitting there like “I wish this would happen, oh I wish this would happen,” and he’s such a huge, unique guy and we were watching the film and he was just in work slacks and he’s just gouging out eyes and after a certain while it was just like “Ah, do something different! Let’s really define him as a different character from just this dude’
Jen: And when they approached us to come onto See No Evil 2, Michael Luisi from WWE Studios, he had the same vision that he wanted to recreate Jacob Goodnight, especially with some of the mythos that he had from the first film but with a fresh look for this generation.
Were you given free rein to bring your own style to it?
Sylvia: It was amazing how much free rein we got; everyone said “You’re going to work with a studio? It’s going to be hell.” It’s the least hellish experience I’ve ever had working on a movie. For example, I’m a big camera nerd and I always wanted to shoot something on the Phantom but the Phantom camera is super, super expensive. And I wanted to shoot all the final big murders in the Phantom, and I go over to my bosses and I’m ready fight it, I’m ready to show them the opening to Antichrist and be like “This is why we need this camera!” And as soon as I said “Oh, I need this camera,” They said “OK.” I’m like “What?” “Yes, yes, that would be great.”
Jen: The only thing they asked was, “How many days do you need it for? Do you think you can get everything you need in one day?” “Yes, I think so; I think I can do everything in one day.”
What about the script? Did you guys take a run at that as well?
Jen: Well, [writers] Nathan [Brooks] and Bobby [Darby] are so talented but it was so nice that they were so creatively open to us working with them on the script. If you watch the film it does have a lot of our sensibility and a lot of our humour, and a lot of our characterisation and I guess the female characters were definitely beefed up from the original script to the final script, because we liked them being the aggressors. I hate watching horror movies and it’s the typical scene where the boyfriend takes the girlfriend to go screw her and he’s trying to scare her, it was so nice to have a gender reversal with Katharine Isabelle, where she brings her boyfriend into a morgue and she’s just such a big fuck bringing him in there. He’s scared like a little girl which is such a nice switch.
Sylvia: And it is amazing how collaborative the script process was. Like Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs and Danielle Harris, they always had something they wanted to bring to it. Glenn, because he was the only person that was returning from the first film, and Danielle, because since she was a wee little girl she’s been chased by these masked men so when she was in the room she was like “Oh, I could go there, or I could do this,” We’re like “No we have to keep you trapped.” And she was like “OK, well we should do this, this and this.” And it’s so funny, the more Danielle spoke, the more we took a lot of the way she speaks and put it into the script. Just because she’s such a vastly interesting woman. Like she’s a real-life Amazon. I heard she once got stuck in an elevator and then she got out on the roof and climbed out, I’m like “Nobody would do that!” Nobody would do that except you because you’re Danielle Harris!
Jen: She is the final girl, since she was a little girl, that’s actually how she would deal with the situation.
Sylvia: And I love that she walks into a room and she’s like “I could use that as a weapon, use that as a weapon, I could get up there!” We love her; she’s the perfect woman.
That must have been great, to get to work with someone who’s been a part of the genre for so long.
Jen: It was such an honour to be able to work with Danielle. I can’t believe Danielle and Katie have never worked together. And as soon as they suggested “What do you guys think about working with Danielle Harris?” I was like “It’s on my bucket list to work with Danielle Harris.” I don’t think there’s been any actress that’s had a career that started when they were so young and so deeply engrained in horror, and not only does she do horror films, she actually loves horror films, and I hate when someone gets their start and works largely in horror, and says, “Well, I’m trying to do real movies.” Horror movies are real movies! They’re just cooler.
And it’s really nice to get to really go with that tone that she has and it’s so funny because her then fiancée now husband was saying “Oh, go easy on her” and I was like “No, we have to make it real, we have to make her feel like she’s about to get murdered every time!” And that’s how Danielle goes into these roles. She makes it as real as possible so poor thing’s like being chased, everybody had bruises. Poor Kaj-Erik Eriksen who plays Thad had his hand get smashed, he fell on his shoulder, and he twisted his ankle, so he was on painkillers trying to do everything and it was just amazing how these guys just threw themselves into these roles. And everybody wanted to do their own stunt work and everybody wanted to do their own bit to make it as realistic as possible. And against someone as big as Glen, I mean he was very careful and very gentle but when you go through a wall, that’s going to affect you! There’s no way to do that without some sort of damage to the human body!
It’s great to see Katharine Isabelle in this as well. Was it important to have her on board again?
Jen: Absolutely, before we cast her as Mary Mason in American Mary, her huge iconic role was Ginger [from Ginger Snaps] and for whatever reason I found her playing Ginger in so many movies again and again and again, and with Mary everybody was like “Oh she’s so sophisticated” and absolutely that is one part of who Katharine Isabelle is, but she’s also incredibly hilarious. I think she’s very, very funny but she’s so rarely the funny girl and in horror films you don’t get to see the beautiful girl get to be the hilarious girl as well, so we wanted to show another aspect of who Katie is and give her something more fun, something she could really have fun with and play around with.
Sylvia: And now that she’s one of our best friends, Katie’s a bit of a crazy person and it’s so much fun to get her to do these kinds of things because you talk to her, you watch her and I started my relationship with her as a fan and now that we’ve worked together on a few films, I really love the person she is and she makes me laugh so hard but you don’t see her in comedies and it was just so much fun to just let her go. And let her be wild like that and let her be something that you haven’t seen before. I mean Tamara, who she plays in See No Evil 2, is so different from Mary; I don’t think those two girls would even talk to each other. Mary would probably end up slicing her up and Tamara would probably get off on it.
Jen: Especially with this, which is such a self-aware throwback to 1980s slashers.
It was nice to see her having fun, especially after Hannibal…
Jen: I think I next season she’s going to try and have more fun but yeah, Season Two, oh yeah, it was hard to watch. I was like “Poor Katie!”
Sylvia: But I heard Bryan Fuller say they’re going to cast her love interest and it’s going to be a Bound-esque storyline and it’s so fun because Katie hasn’t watched Bound. That’s one of my favourite movies, and I was like “Katie, you’re going to be kissing a lot of girls.” And she was like “What?” I was like “Hardcore, you are going to have a hardcore girlfriend” And she got so excited, she was like “I thought I was just getting beaten up!” I was like “Nope!” And we’re huge Silence of the Lambs fans, I’ve read all those books, and Katie gets a little scared by things like that. So I was kind of like, “Oh my God, do you know this and this and this?” And she’s like “Oh yeah, I know that, and we’re doing this,” and then she’ll say one little thing that’s coming up and I’m like “Oh my God! You know what that means?!?” “No, crazy person, I don’t know what that means!”
Watching this I was getting a bit of the Ole Bornedal film Nightwatch, and the original Halloween II. Were you deliberately referencing these classic slashers?
Jen: Definitely Halloween II was a big one but it was a lot of things came out of the situations that we had for making a slasher movie, like we knew it was very self-contained. And we knew the location that we had and we knew the kind of scares we had. And we wanted to take a lot of things that you’ve seen before but do them in a more beautiful stylistic kind of way.
Sylvia: Halloween 2, and we looked at Psycho as well because of the relationship with Jacob Goodnight’s mother. We didn’t want it to be the same relationship that he had with his mother. Having a religious background. And I have wonderful, wonderful parents, I have seen overbearing, overly religious parents as well though, I don’t think they even knew that when they brought us onto the project, I was like “No, no, no, it would be more like this, he would have this weird Catholic guilt” or whatever.
Was it a deliberate choice to go from something like American Mary to something like this, a gory slasher sequel?
Jen: We really like to keep our audiences guessing. Especially from our first film Dead Hooker In A Trunk into American Mary. When we made American Mary we wanted to make the most polar opposite film from Dead Hooker In A Trunk. Especially because a lot of people say “Oh, Grindhouse, that’s easy to do.” “OK fine we’ll make a really sophisticated Asian and European inspired horror film.”
Sylvia: And every time we read a script, the only reason we jump onto a project or even one of our own scripts, it’s a movie we want to watch. If we’re a fan of what we’re reading, if we’re really excited about it selfishly we want to be the first people to see the movie and there’s no better way than actually creating the movie yourself.
The jumps from Dead Hooker In A Trunk to American Mary to this definitely seem to have surprised people!
Sylvia: It’s so funny there’s even a really raunchy dark comedy Christmas movie that we have a script for that I’m so excited about. And I know that once that goes out there people are going to be like “You’re doing a Christmas movie? What the fuck is going on, girls?” But I kind of want to tackle every genre. I just hate to be labelled or pigeonholed, like “Oh, that’s all they do.” Because we watch so many movies and it’s just fun to see how we could do everything. I recently saw online that they’re doing this contest for five female filmmakers to do a short film on Twilight and I messaged my people as soon as I heard that, I was like Oh my god I want to do a cool version of Twilight!” And of course they were like “What?” And I was like “I have a vagina! I can do it!”
Jen: We’re firm believers that no film has to be bad. There’s no reason a film has to be bad. Even if you’re making a film based off another a film that was really, really bad. I think actually that’s the reason films should be remade, if they didn’t quite get where they needed to during the first attempt.