I have always been a die-hard feminist when it comes to the horror I love. I fist pump in triumph every time Jennifer Hills mutilates a perverted mountain man in I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. Ripley and her alien-whoopin’ ways will always hold a tender spot in my heart. Danielle Harris’ portrayal of Marybeth in HATCHET II offers one of my all-time favorite “fuck you!” moments, when she goes berserk on Victor Crowley at the end of the film.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that a film made about two bad-assed chicks by two bad-assed chicks would rank amongst my top favorites. The Soskas’ driving force and my deep-rooted love for the bad-assed X chromosome is a perfect match. When Sylvia snarled the epic line “like dying could kill me”, I immediately made room at the top of my “Most Bad-Assed Moments in Horror” list.
Read on as I wrap up my interview with the fantastic Jen and Sylvia Soska – The Twisted Twins.
RavMon: Eli Roth is a big time supporter. I love the fact that he seems very pro-“women can be bad assed, too”. How did you get in touch with him?
Jen: Eli is amazing. He’s been incredibly supportive and a very good friend to us. We sent our DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK trailer around to every director from GRINDHOUSE as they had each inspired us. We couldn’t believe that only two days after we messaged him, Eli Roth wrote back to us and asked if he could see the finished film. We spoke back and forth and he gave us some really good advice. And you know what? He still does.
His films are very pro-feminist. We loved HOSTEL 2, especially the Blood Bath part. It was incredible. It was so empowering to see a female murderer that was every bit as blood thirsty as any man.
Sylvia: Eli Roth has to be one of the nicest, most down to earth, honest to goodness horror nerds in the world. He started with CABIN FEVER, so he knows what it’s like to be there. What I love about his work is that it isn’t the same shit you see in every other movie. In the first HOSTEL, you’ve got an openly gay, crazed doctor-wanna be. He wasn’t some outrageous stereotype with a lisp; he was a badass, creepy motherfucker who liked to cut people up. In the second part, you get this beautiful, intelligent female protagonist and guess what? There’s an evil bitch that gets her into the hostel. There’s a sequence in that film with the bloodbath that has to be one of the best horror scenes I’ve ever seen. With two incredibly talented actresses that killed it in that scene.
I hate when you see a film and the female characters are just written so pathetically that it’s fucking annoying. Give me a strong character that I can watch and say I wanna be like her. Eli writes women like that and he’s been an amazing supporter of our stuff. The script for AMERICAN MARY came from him asking about what other scripts we had. He’s a great guy.
RavMon: Are the Soska twins doing any touring to promote their baby?
Jen: Right now we’re in pre-production for our new baby, AMERICAN MARY. We’re in pretty deep so it’s unlikely we’ll be touring much anytime soon. We might be coming by the Toronto International Film Festival next month (The Soskas attended the TIFF, which ran from September 8-18). We’d love to meet all the DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK enthusiasts while we’re there. We haven’t been at any of the conventions yet, but we are hoping to make up for that when we travel with AMERICAN MARY. As it hits the film festival circuit, so will we. It’s going to be amazing to be returning to a lot of the great film festivals that had shown DHIAT.
Sylvia: That’s something that’s really important to us, to be able to get out there and meet all the rad folks that have been supporting our flick. I’d love to go over to the UK because they were the first to screen the flick, the first to release it, and the first to give it its television premiere on the fabulous Horror Channel. There’s alsoTexas- we have some amazing supporters inTexas.CaliforniaandNew York, too. We’re planning to be able to travel with AMERICAN MARY more than we did with HOOKER, big time.
RavMon: As an original independent director, is it frustrating to see fantastic indie films go relatively unnoticed while their money-bloated, recycled idea counter-parts rake up a king’s ransom?
Is there an antidote for this?
Jen: It’s not just the shitty movies themselves. It’s the massive money they have behind them. A big studio piece of shit CAN rake in millions because their studio can afford to pump millions into advertizing. One of the best things anyone can do for an independent filmmaker or artist is telling someone else about them. It’s much harder to do when you can’t afford a publicist or full page ads in magazines. What we independents have to do is making work worth talking about.
I have to tell you it is frustrating watching what films and television shows get green-lighted when so many independent artists are literally starving trying to get their stuff made. Jim Carrey and fucking penguins? I saw that onSouthParkbefore I saw the trailer on TV and couldn’t believe it was real. And all those talkingChihuahuamovies? I’m kind of afraid to look up what they made.
Sylvia: It’s amazing how so much of filmmaking can be broken down into math equations. Big studios know if they put male star A with female star B with five million in marketing, that they will get a certain dollar amount back in box office sales. If it all boils down to some math equation, how can there possibly be any soul in the projects that are coming out. There are lots of talented artists out there, but your favorite star isn’t going to go under his rate to do your independent. It feels like it’s all going to become under a million independents and hundred million big budget spectacles.
I almost feel like the lack of originality in mainstream big studio pictures is helping the independents because people are getting so fucking bored of watching the same tired shit. I really hate the remake trend, instead of getting something new and brilliant, you get another person’s version of someone else’s story.
RavMon: Does Hollywood appeal to you or are you content mixing it up on the indie front?
Jen: I don’t hate Hollywood. They’ve made some missteps as far as horror is concerned, but they’ve also been responsible for some outstanding films. I love the indie front. I have that independent spirit and that’s something that’s not going to change. However, it has been a hard journey to getting to this point. We’ve struggled. We’d like to be able to take our work to the next level and if those opportunities come fromHollywood, we wouldn’t turn them down. I don’t think we’ll ever quite fit into the Hollywood ideal or at least theHollywood ideal as it stands. I hope our films mix things up a bit. I hope our story inspires other people out there to make their own films.
Sylvia: I would love to partner with a big company to pull off some other projects. So far, it’s still very independent what we’re doing. It’s not so different from DEAD HOOKER in the sense that we are trying to pull off a multi-million dollar project and we don’t have that kind of funding. AMERICAN MARY is a super fucking different project and the people working on it are all taking reduced rates to make the film happen. It’s a team of people working on a project because they love making movies and they dig the story that they are creating. If I had a big studio, I could pay people properly which is something I working to be able to do. People who will work for a good project despite the money, that’s a big difference between studio and independent films.
RavMon: Who are some indie directors you two follow or enjoy watching their work?
Jen: Last year we had the pleasure of attending the Viscera Film Festival. Viscera is a non profit organization committed to expanding opportunities for contemporary female horror filmmakers and educating the public by raising awareness of the changing roles for women in the film industry. It’s run by two amazing ladies, Shannon Lark and Heidi Honeycutt. We met so many talented filmmakers while we were down there. Both Shannon and Heidi are talented filmmakers themselves. I really enjoyed meeting Maude Michaud, a fellow Canuck filmmaker that’s sadly all the way over inMontreal. She makes these awesome, very interpretive, provocative films. We got to work together earlier this year for the Women In Horror Massive Blood Drive that we host alongside Brenda Fies, Elisabeth Fies, Tara Cardinal, Marichelle Daywalt, Shannon Lark, Jennifer Cooper, and Olga Ganova, all outstanding women in horror.
Sylvia: Jen stole most of my answers, ha-ha. The Vicious Brothers, who are responsible for the creepy as hell GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, are just great indie horror filmmakers. They’ve worked hard for years to get their flick to this point, so if you can get out to a theater or rent it on VOD, you would really be helping some talented guys out. The film is like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY on crack set in the British Columbian local haunted asylum, Riverview. You’ll dig it.
RavMon: With the success and buzz DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK is garnering, your next project, AMERICAN MARY, is already hotly anticipated. Can you tell us a little about this project?
Jen: I could but I’d have to kill you. Just kidding (mostly). AMERICAN MARY will be the polar opposite of DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK in a lot of ways. Our dark sense of humor, unconventional characters, “WTF?” moments, and lots of the red stuff will be returning, but AMERICAN MARY is a much more polished project. Whereas DHIAT was wild, impulsive, and going in every direction, MARY is much more precise and thoughtful with the emphasis on the characters, their development and growth, and the story itself. It’s a mature piece. DHIAT may not make you a different person after you see it, although hopefully the film paired with our story will inspire people to go after their own dreams, seeing AMERICAN MARY will have a profound effect on those that see it. It’s hard to tell you why and how without spoiling anything. I can tell you it is a film unlike any before. It’ll change the way people see horror.
Sylvia: AMERICAN MARY follows the story of medical student, Mary Mason played by the intoxicatingly talented Katharine Isabelle, as she grows increasingly broke and disenchanted with the medical profession and the surgeons she once idolized. The allure of easy money sends Mary into the messy world of underground surgeries that leaves more marks on Mary than her so-called freakish clientele. I fell in love with horror when I was a little girl terrified by POLTERGEIST and my mom told me that is was the collaborative efforts of talented artists that make everything you see with the intention of scaring the audience. Talented people like the team at Masters FX that will be bringing this unique piece to life. We’re going into new territory with this film, so expect some wild shit you’ve never seen before.
RavMon: Finally, what would you tell a young girl or woman who dreams of scaring or shocking the crap out of the boys?
Jen: Go for it. We mean that from the bottoms of our Twisted little hearts. You have to go after what you want in this life. Women have been long encouraged to be actors or singers or models. I want to tell them they can be anything they want. You can be a director, a writer, a producer, the CEO of your own company. Horror is a place that has supported women for ages. There are so many strong, influential women working in horror and written in horror. Take Ripley for example. She is the iconic hero. Ridley Scott made history when he cast Sigourney Weaver in the role. Mary Harron faced off against an army of pissed off feminists when she directed and adapted the screenplay for AMERICAN PSYCHO. The result was a brilliant satire loved by men and women alike.
My advice? Ask yourself what you want out of life. It doesn’t have to be reserved to horror, though if it is you’re going to be one happy lady. Find out what that one thing you love more than anything is and do it. Anyone that tells you that you can’t is just some miserable fuck that gave up on their own dreams. When I found filmmaking, it felt like coming home. It felt so right. After years of quite literally being starving artists, I know it’s what makes me happier than anything and even if I never achieved any great success in it, I’d keep making films forever. And please don’t think for a second that the boys don’t want us crashing their party. Sure, you’ll meet some closed minded men that think we should all be either pregnant or in the kitchen, but there are women that are just as catty if not more so. Too many women make the mistake of thinking that it’s men versus women. I believe in equality and that means recognizing men and women for the work that they do.
There’s this outstanding horror community out there. Growing up, I’ve always been a bit different. I was a geek; I liked creepy things, and having an identical twin on top of that made us like these freaks of nature. We’ve always felt like outsiders, but being adults now, we’ve realized we’re not alone. There are so many of us “weirdoes” out there and when we band together? Wow. We out number the “normies”. So, go out there, make some cool shit, and drop us a line and tell us about it.
Sylvia: What really inspires me is that the very first director of non-fiction filmmaking was Alice Guy. I was doing research for WiH articles and was ashamed that I only then heard of Ms. Guy. She was a secretary that worked at the Gaumont Company and their new camera seemed useless so it was given to her. She loved horror – she made two vampire films. So much for a useless device and a secretary being teamed up. She created one of the first film cameras.Alicethought it would be fun to create a story for the amusement of her friends. That fun would turn into a career that would have her involved in over seven hundred films, building up her own studio that would be the only of its ilk to challenge ‘Hollywood’, and evolving the world of filmmaking forever. If you want to make films, are willing to work hard and sacrifice to make your projects happen, then you will be successful. Everyone will tell you why you can’t do it; those people will never do anything in their entire lives. You have to go out and make your movie. An excellent resource is Rodriguez’s REBEL WITHOUT A CREW where he recounts making his own indie flick EL MARIACHI and changed the world of indie filmmaking.
I would like to finish off this article by simply thanking the Soska twins for all of their time and fantastic conversations we shared over the last month or so. They are truly gracious, fan-friendly and devoted directors from whom a lot of Hollywood’s big wigs could learn a thing or two (or five).
Keep up on all things Twisted Twins by checking out their website: http://www.twistedtwinsproductions.net/
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