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Exclusive: Mackenzie Gray Explains “Schadenfreude” in RABID

To my fellow entertainment journalists and bloggers, take this advice: Don’t let the ink dry on your “Best Horror Movies of 2019” lists until you’ve seen Rabid, the remake of David Cronenberg’s seminal body horror classic remade by Jen and Sylvia Soska (aka The Twisted Twins). It’s not only the first (and so far only) remake of a Cronenberg movie, it’s a gruesome and engaging romp that will leave moviegoers rapt and devastated.

Rabid arrives in US theaters and VOD this Friday, December 13th. Give the trailer a spin at the top of the article and peep the synopsis below.

Horribly disfigured after a freak accident, doctors perform a radical medical procedure on an aspiring young fashion designer. But when the bandages come off, the side effects soon cause her to develop an insatiable appetite for human blood.


On Monday, we shared an interview with the incomparable, multi-talented Tristan Risk, who explained what makes Rabid truly Canadian, and promising one of her three roles will lead to sleepless nights for many! Yesterday, we continue our Week of Rabid with an interview with Ted Atherton. Atherton plays Dr. William Burroughs (a nod to the American Beat Poet of the same name–and Cronenberg’s adaptation of Naked Lunch).


Today, we’re talking to Mackenzie Gray who plays thorny and flamboyant fashion designer Gunter. Give our conversation a read below.

Mackenzie Gray - Exclusive: Mackenzie Gray Explains "Schadenfreude" in RABID

Dread Central: First of all, I think people are going to love Gunter. Your character, when we first meet him, is so intimidating, so mean, but by the end of Rabid, we love you! What was it like playing this over the top character and who were your influences?

Mackenzie Gray: Well definitely [German fashion designer and artist) Karl Lagerfeld was one; I used his tone of voice, his phrasing, and we did actually put some of Karl’s actually statements into Gunter. He’s a guy who absorbs fashion and makes it his own in his own way, so you have loads of guys dressed like sluts and they do these beautiful clothes. So we came up with the scarves and scar on his face, the clothing, the big shoes; we came up with a look to make him his own design.

The Soskas were totally open to anything I came up with. So when I said, “I think he should have had a facelift but he keeps his scar, whereas Rose hides her scar”, the gals loved that. He loves his scar, wears it like a badge and she hides hers. Right away you’ve got a duality there.

DC: Gunter created a line of clothes called Schadenfreude. I think most of our readers are probably familiar with the term, but can you briefly talk about what it means and how it works for both the clothing line and the themes of Rabid?

MG: Well, Schadenfreude is one of those beautiful German words, to take the place of a lot of words, and basically it means laughing at other people’s misfortune. When you find other people’s downfall or misfortune funny and have a chance to ridicule them and enjoy that, it’s called Schadenfreude. Schadenfreude right now, if you think about Donald Trump and the things happening in his life, there’s a lot of humor in it, a lot of people laughing at it, calling him ridiculous because they don’t like him. So there’s Schadenfreude present in American pop culture and talk shows right now.

Schadenfreude, in the case of Gunter, he’s laughing at fashion, laughing at people’s conformity and that everybody who thinks they are doing something new, starting a new trend, blue suits with bad shoes and stuff, it’s not original at all once everybody is doing it. It’s laughable because they think they’re being original and hip when in fact they’re not and so the idea for me with Schadenfreude was who’s laughing at who. It’s on the billboards; he’s ripping up fashion and doing different stuff and eventually, he does rip up Rose’s dress and shreds it. So he’s tearing up fashion and he’s laughing at the conformity of fashion. That’s how I took it, anyway.


DC: What makes working with Jen and Sylvia Soska so special?

MG: I think they’re original; I think they’re a hit. They’re smart, I think they’re driven… It’s not been easy for female directors and they don’t listen to that bullshit; they go, “Who cares, we’re doing it and we’re making it!” and I really love that energy. Working for them was a treat; it was absolutely fantastic. They run a happy, courteous set; a thoughtful set. There’s no yelling and shouting at anybody; they are open to suggestions and get excited by it. You say, “Hey, can I try this?” and they say, “Yeah, yeah!” and get excited by it.

When I was studying to train as a director, I was given a great piece of advice which was, always take responsibility for inspiring people. Because I was getting a little uptight about people saying, “Oh, can we try this, can we try that?” like they were trying to run away with my vision. And the mentor that I had, a great director named Ken Gas, he said that to me, “Always take responsibility for inspiring people”. If you take their idea it’s yours; you chose it and if you don’t at least they’ve been heard and are still part of the process, and the Soskas live by that. They completely try to inspire you and get you to create and rarely say no; they say, “Yes, let’s try it!” and that’s a beautiful freedom. I love them for that, and it was also a lot of fun; they’re fun gals!

The Soskas have huge respect for David Cronenberg, not just a Canadian and horror icon but as a great director. He has never let anyone remake any of his films so there’s great respect that they had, every day it was, “How can we keep this film our own but respect David every stage of the way?” And I think they really, really did that and the whole crew and cast were on that same page. Playing Gunter, playing an over the top character, you can go too far but I tried to ground him in a sense, in his own purvey and his own arrogance, that’s he’s aware of. So all of those things allow you to heighten a performance were there but a lot of it was because of their respect for Cronenberg.

I will finish by saying it was also a crew that was all women: Objective photography, our first and second camera, key grips; there was a huge female presence on the set and they didn’t just do that to make a point. There was a really different energy on set because of that presence and I really loved that presence. It was a delight, even when we were under pressure, the day was running away, it was a totally different energy and I really love that they create that and they do that, and that is something worth noting for anyone who sees the film.

RABID poster - Exclusive: Mackenzie Gray Explains "Schadenfreude" in RABID

Are you excited to check out Rabid this weekend? What do you think of our exclusive interview with Mackenzie Gray? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.

Written by Josh Millican

Josh Millican is the Editor in Chief at Dread Central.

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