Exclusive: Jen and Sylvia Soska on American Mary, The ABCs of Death 2, and More
This week American Mary, the Soska Sisters’ stunning follow-up to Dead Hooker in a Trunk, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of XLrator Media; and to mark the occasion, we recently chatted with the Twisted Twins about their latest release, what’s next, and much more.
Check out the highlights of our exclusive interview with the Soskas below, and look for American Mary on Blu-ray and DVD everywhere now!
Dread Central: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat today, ladies- you did a fantastic job on the film and created an incredible character for Katharine [Isabelle]. What was it in your minds that made her perfect to play Mary?
Jen Soska: Well, as a rule, we never ever write for a particular actor; we usually have types in mind, but when we’re trying to create characters, we try and put as much of that out of our minds as we can. But we totally broke that rule with Katie because we’ve been watching her for so long and thought it was time she had the opportunity to play a role like this.
Sylvia Soska: Yeah, Jen and I have been fans of her work ever since Ginger Snaps, and we’ve seen every single one of her films since then; Katie is brilliant in everything, but I think we were both frustrated as fans because here is an exceptionally gifted actress who isn’t being offered the ‘grown-up’ or complicated roles I know she can handle. We’re still in this phase in Hollywood where we are getting caricatures of various types of women rather than real women characters, which is really sad to see.
And to us, Katie is the thinking person’s Scream Queen; sure she’s beautiful and has all of the physical attributes working to her advantage, but she also has this intelligence to her that almost supersedes her beauty and her years. It might sound a little strange, but everything that happens in American Mary was something that I personally wanted to see Katie do as an actress and I knew that if we could get her for the movie that she would absolutely kill at it; I think we’re both even bigger fans after working with her on American Mary, which is kind of hard to imagine, but it’s totally true.
Dread Central: When I interviewed Katharine, she mentioned how a lot of Mary’s story also parallels the struggles you both have overcome in the industry over the last few years. How much of what we’re seeing is art imitating life then?
Sylvia Soska: Well, back when we were writing American Mary, we were still in the process of selling Dead Hooker so we were pretty much broke at the time. We couldn’t even afford to eat, let alone afford to make another movie, so we spent a lot of time thinking about our experiences, venturing into the film industry with a lot of naivety at the time. We met a lot of great and supportive people, but we also met a lot of real monsters through the years that made us wonder a lot about whether or not the sacrifices we had been making would ever amount to anything.
Jen Soska: I would say that as we both grew up with the hopes of becoming actresses and filmmakers, we’ve seen some really sleazy things through the years, and we’re still really young, you know? (laughs) But to find out that there are people still today who only view women as sexual objects or think of us as inferior was something that surprised us both and of course made us realize that regardless of how far women have come, it’s just a sad actuality of this business. The people you think you can trust or who maybe seem ‘reputable’ often turned out to be anything but that, and so we came to realize that often times it’s the people who seem normal and respectable on the outside that are hiding their true intentions, and most of the time they’re not good intentions at all. And since that’s something that could easily translate well into the medical world, we thought it would make for some interesting allegories to set this story in the world of a medical student who was quickly learning how the people who you trust and expect to be supportive of you can often be the cruelest.
Dread Central: Katharine also mentioned that she saw Mary as an unredeemable character- was that something both of you were conscientious of while writing the script? Is it harder to pull off creating a protagonist who ultimately becomes an antagonist in some ways by the conclusion of American Mary?
Sylvia Soska: I think one of my favorite quotes was by Clive Barker, who was discussing the character of Pinhead; here’s a character who’s unredeemable, in both of his lifetimes, and yet there are still fans that exist for him worldwide. Why? Because you connected with him, for better or for worse, and giving the audience ways to connect with Mary was always important to both of us.
Jen Soska: To keep Mary a believable character, she was never going to be this ‘hero’- she was going to make a lot of crappy decisions and she had to live with those. In some ways she chose her own ending, but at the same time she also had some truly terrible things happen to her that ended up pushing her towards those decisions so it was a balance in some ways. Ultimately, though, Mary accepted responsibility, which I think was the biggest part of keeping her character authentic throughout the story. She knows she’s been screwed over, but she’s not going to play a victim either so she owns all her decisions, which I think in many ways is incredibly powerful.
Sylvia Soska: I think the best horror films out there are the ones made with a philosophy in mind; you don’t have to agree with that philosophy, but I think a film, horror or otherwise, is always more effective when it has something to say. A lot of films over the last few years have let style dictate their substance – they’re missing that human element that engages audiences – and so it was very important to us that, no matter what decision Mary was making in the film, the viewers still were behind her either way.
Dread Central: It was recently announced that you would be directing a segment in The ABCs of Death 2 so congratulations on that! How incredible is it for you both to be part of the next anthology and keeping some great company as well in regard to the other filmmakers already co-announced?
Jen Soska: It’s so awesome- you really could not ask for better producers than the team working on ABCs of Death. We’re so excited.
Sylvia Soska: I loved the first so much so when they called us to ask us to be a part of the second one, I think we were screaming so loud that our neighbors definitely hated us that day. It’s such a huge honor, and to be in the same class as these other incredible filmmakers almost feels like a dream. We have a few ideas on what we’d like to do, but we’re still working all of that out. It’s going to be a lot of fun though- I can’t wait to get started, and I cannot wait to see how it all turns out in the end.
Written and directed by the Soska Sisters, American Mary stars Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Clay St. Thomas, John Emmet Tracy, and Twan Holliday.
For more on the film, visit the official Twisted Twins Productions website, like American Mary on Facebook, and on Twitter follow American Mary (@_American_Mary) and the Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska (@twisted_twins).
This metaphor for the Soskas’ own journey through the independent film industry follows medical student Mary Mason as she becomes increasingly broke and disenchanted. The allure of easy money sends Mary into the twilight world of body modification and underground surgeries where obsessed flesh artists will pay anything and go through any pain to get their unusual procedures done. But Mary soon finds that her new “profession” leaves more marks on her own psyche than on her freakish clientele.
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