Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
Q&A: The Soska Sisters talk “VENDETTA”, “HELLEVATOR” & More…Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley No Comment
When it comes to twin female directors working in the horror genre, there’s nary a pair working harder and more consistently than Jen and Sylvia Soska. The Canadian born-and-bred directors of such fright fare as AMERICAN MARY and DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK have since found a haven of morbid material over at WWE Studios, helming SEE NO EVIL 2 before moving onto the bloody revenge flick VENDETTA. Now with the latter film breaking into the home video market this week, FANGORIA spoke with the Twisted Twins themselves about VENDETTA, their upcoming Blumhouse game show HELLEVATOR, their latest fright feature PLASTIC and their visceral venture into the world of comic books…
FANGORIA: I know you previously worked with WWE Films for SEE NO EVIL 2 but you must have impressed the people over there for them to bring you back for VENDETTA. How did this project come to you both, considering the film isn’t necessarily “horror” material?
SYLVIA SOSKA: It was such an amazing opportunity because we were so excited with how SEE NO EVIL 2 turned out, and then Michael Luisi, who is the head of WWE Films, told us he wanted us to do this action/revenge thriller. He said that everyone he had told that he wanted us said, “What? The Soska Twins? No fucking way! What do they know about killing people?” And he would say, “You probably haven’t met the Soska Twins yet.”
JEN SOSKA: Being female, twin, Canadian horror directors, we already come with a branded label but the part of that label we love the most is the “director” part. But we love horror, and when you see VENDETTA, you will see there are some horrific aspects to literally everything we do. In the future, I’d love to explore many different genres because I don’t think there’s a genre we wouldn’t do. I’d love to do a comedy film or a sci-fi film, and I think AMERICAN MARY qualifies as our romantic comedy, although I think we overshot that a little bit.
SYLVIA: I think we made AMERICAN MARY way too romantic and that’s why people didn’t get it. [laughs]
FANGORIA: Working with a lot of these WWE Superstars like Kane and Big Show can be really intimidating, but when you actually get to know these guys, they’re incredibly nice people. What is it like directing these otherwise pleasant people in bloodthirsty villainous roles?
SYLVIA: I felt like VENDETTA was an exciting opportunity for everybody because Jen and myself are perceived as particular types of directors, and Dean Cain is perceived as a particular type of actor and Big Show is a particular type of Superstar. So what we wanted to do was to take these preconceived notions that people have of us and tear it down so that we could play and have some fun with it.
Paul Wight, a/k/a Big Show, has an amazing ability to get into this really mean darkness, and it was so much fun watching that come to life because he is such a nice guy and he’s so wonderful. He’s the funniest guy on set and you laugh your ass off the whole time you’re working with him. But when he wants to get dark, he just scares you, especially because of his physicality. I remember one time he raised his voice and everyone except for Jen ran screaming away from him, while Jen was like, “Guys! It’s still Paul! He’s got a big voice because he’s got big lungs but he’s still Paul!”
JEN: We love casting actors against type, even on AMERICAN MARY. Katie [Isabelle] often played “ginger-esque” characters up until that point, and we wanted to give her the woman role that she could play. With SEE NO EVIL 2, it was nice to take a character that Glenn [Jacobs] took originally and reintroduce him to audiences. And honestly, I want to do a THREE NO EVIL because SEE NO EVIL, despite being an introduction to everything was more of his mother being a villain rather than Jacob Goodnight being a villain. SEE NO EVIL 2 was Jacob’s first time to play a real villain, but THREE NO EVIL would really show you what he could do.
Then you’ve got Paul, who is so big that he kind of takes your guard down immediately because he’s a sweet and hilarious guy. He doesn’t want people to be intimidated or turned-off because he doesn’t want to be seen as a villain, and as a result, fans have always seen him do comedy. But for us, he’s like the Kingpin [from Marvel Comics] and VENDETTA is our version of a Punisher story. Dean Cain is like Frank Castle, and Big Show is like our Kingpin.
SYLVIA: I’m really hoping we get to make VENDETTA 2. It would have to be the last people standing against the mother of one of their victims, like a crime lord or something. I don’t want to spoil anything for readers who haven’t seen it but we do have an idea for VENDETTA 2. We talked a lot about it on the set because we just had so much fun watching people punching and murdering the shit out of each other. We need to see if we can top our body count!
FANGORIA: The films you’ve done for WWE have been largely set in only previous few locations. Does that afford you more freedom to play around when confined to largely one setting?
JEN: With SEE NO EVIL 2, in our hearts, we were making HALLOWEEN II. So instead of going into the hospital, we threw [Jacob Goodnight] into the morgue. We’re such ‘80s brats that the slasher we made with SEE NO EVIL 2 had to be a homage to ‘80s slasher films, while VENDETTA is like our homage to late-’80s/early-’90s action films. I think, for VENDETTA, the script was ripped-off/inspired by a Punisher comic where Frank Castle wanted to get a guy but couldn’t because he was behind bars so he gets himself arrested to finish the job.
SYLVIA: The interesting thing about SEE NO EVIL 2 and VENDETTA is that it’s the same exact location. We shot at Riverview, which is a partially-closed insane asylum where only the criminally insane remain. It’s becoming like a Church for us, but a lot of crews won’t shoot there because it’s notoriously haunted.
Sometimes, when you’re working there, you’ll hear voices, and I remember one time my Assistant Director came out of nowhere. I was like, “Dude! Aren’t you supposed to be shooting?” And he was like, “Why were you calling me?” Apparently, he had heard our voices calling him away from the crew and the building he was shooting in, and I was like, “I’m not sure if you’re messing with me but I never separate from people in locations like this, especially when ghosts are involved.
JEN: When you pick up VENDETTA on Blu-ray, like I know everyone in the world will, there is a featurette on the haunted location that we were filming in. We’ve filmed in there twice and we’ve seen some shit in there. I can’t spoil it here in this interview, but the ghost experience that I had on VENDETTA, which was admittedly pretty cool, was unreal. You know you’re in a scary place when you can get scared in broad daylight.
FANGORIA: Considering this is your second collaboration with the WWE, are you exploring any new projects with the studio at the moment?
SYLVIA: I would kill do something more with them. What people don’t know is that Jen and I are born and bred WWE fans, and we started watching right around the time Kane was introduced so since we have been working with them, we go to all of their shows, we go backstage and we get to know the Superstars and Divas. And for the past few months, we keep getting messages from fans to do a horror movie with Bray Wyatt and we’ve actually talked to him about doing one.
I’d love to do a Bray Wyatt movie, and we’ve also become good friends with Summer Rae and Paige, who is just all rock-n-roll. We’re kind of hoping they’ll let us take all the Superstars we want to work with and let us make our own EXPENDABLES-type of thing or a PULP FICTION kind of thing. I think the fans would like to see them completely out of that world and play versatile, edgy, badass characters. I’d really like to pump things up a bit and really shock people with what they could pull off.
JEN: Yes, I am such a WWE fangirl and I have yet to meet the Undertaker, so until that happens, I’m going to keep working with them. I’m going to have to put it in my contract, and goddamn SUMMERSLAM isn’t fucking happening in LA, which is where I am right now, and Undertaker is going to be there fighting Brock Lesnar. I wish I was there so I could break into the parking lot and bust Brock Lesnar’s kneecaps, but also, I want to see the Undertaker so very badly. But HELL IN A CELL is happening in October in L.A. at the Staples Centers and we’re going then, so we’re hoping Undertaker will be there.
Another WWE Superstar that we’d love to work with is Mark Henry. He’s a brilliant comedic actor and is such a sweet guy.
SYLVIA: I actually hope WWE can get the rights to POLICE ACADEMY, because we were talking to a few superstars including Glenn Jacobs and they all love the series. Glenn especially loves Hightower and we were like, “Dude! If we remade it, you could be Hightower! We could do that!”
JEN: That’s where we’re going to exploit the WWE: when we do POLICE ACADEMY with all WWE Superstars. I wish we were joking but we’re totally not.
SYLVIA: But the characters would murder people, and that’s the difference in our POLICE ACADEMY. There’d be a lot of blood spraying everywhere.
JEN: That’s good! That’s our pitch!
FANGORIA: You were originally slated to work on the anthology XX but alas, the project didn’t work out for you both. Can you tell us what happened regarding your participation in that project?
SYLVIA: I wish we were still involved in XX, but unfortunately, we couldn’t be included because we ended up with so much work that scheduling became a problem. It breaks my heart, though, because Mary Harron is the reason I became a director so I was really excited for the opportunity to work alongside her. But she has said that when she’s in New York, she’s going to take me to lunch and I’m going to try to get us an 8 p.m. reservation at Dorsia since it’s a real place there. I’m just hoping that doesn’t weird her out to the point where she never speaks to me again.
All we need is one Friday Night dinner with her so that we can get all of our AMERICAN PSYCHO out, then she can blacklist us and never see us again. I’m sad that we couldn’t make XX happen with our schedules but we promise that we’ll be the first people in line to see the movie when it comes out. Jen Lynch, who is a fucking icon, as well as Karyn Kusama and Jovanka Vuckovic, have been so supportive of us, and I know enough of the behind-the-scenes of XX to tell you it’s going to be badass.
Unfortunately, so many anthologies have gotten a bad rap for excluding female directors, for whatever reason, though we can’t say that about THE ABCs OF DEATH, which featured us in the second one. We were so honored when our segment got banned in Germany. [laughs] But we would love to do XX2 or XXX, or even something like ABCs 3; that’d be phenomenal.
FANGORIA: You guys are working with Blumhouse on HELLEVATOR, which must be different because Blumhouse is not known for TV work, let alone a game show. How has that experience been going for you, especially considering you’ve worked with WWE for so long?
SYLVIA: It’s been really interesting, but if you remember, WWE and Blumhouse worked together on OCULUS. Not to mention that we’re foaming-at-the-mouth fangirls of Jason Blum and everything he’s done; we even took a picture of his parking spot and were freaking out.
We can’t tell you anything too revealing about HELLEVATOR but when Blumhouse, Game Show Network and Matador got into business together, they’ve created something like you’ve never seen before. I remember reading the very first script and losing my shit because I couldn’t believe what they were going to pull off. It’s going to be must-see TV so if you don’t have the Game Show Network, I highly recommend you get it.
JEN: Blumhouse did not come to TV to play around, so if you’re worried about what they’re going to do on television, they are chokeslamming the competition. HELLEVATOR is going to be a show people are going to be talking about. I wish I could talk about it more but trust me, it’s going to sell itself.
SYLVIA: We are really hoping that our good behavior on the show impresses Blumhouse enough that they’ll let us work on one of their films. When we walked into their offices, they have a wall that says “Our Directors” featuring a picture of every director they’ve ever worked with on-set and you see all the talent there like Scott Derrickson and James Wan. Blumhouse really gets it and they really support their filmmakers, so we’d love to be in their filmmaking family.
FANGORIA: Do you both have anything else coming up aside from HELLEVATOR?
SYLVIA: We just saw our final imprint of our first Marvel Comics collaboration for NIGHT NURSE, which hits shelves September 9th as a part of SECRET WAR JOURNALS #5. It’s pure badassdom. It’s fucking killer, and Marvel is a great company to work with. The fact that Jen and I got to work with them was amazing; they were so supportive and creative. The whole process blew my mind. I recommend that everybody go out and buy every copy of that issue so they’ll hire us again. I hope we get the opportunity to tackle a few more of their characters.
JEN: We’re also in pre-production on our new feature, PLASTIC, written by Frank Strausser. We can’t talk too much about it but it’s our first film to shoot in Los Angeles and it’s about a plastic surgeon who gets himself in trouble with the Hollywood elite.
We also have a comic book coming out next year with our favorite DEADPOOL writer Daniel Way called KILL-CRAZY NYMPHOS ATTACK. We ran a Kickstarter earlier this year to support it because it’s a clever satire with social commentary but it’s also completely uncensored so it’s super upsetting and offensive to everyone, so no one feels left out.
We need to do a video game! It’s the only thing we haven’t done yet and it’s the one thing I’d like to do more than anything! I’d love to do a SILENT HILL game or something like that.
SYLVIA: Jen, it didn’t work out with Guillermo [del Toro]! What makes you think we’re next in line for SILENT HILL? We’re the fucking Soska Sisters!
JEN: Yeah, if Guillermo can’t make it with Konami then we have no chance in hell. But we’d love to make a survival horror game.
VENDETTA is now on DVD/Blu-ray from Lionsgate.