When you think of women in the horror movie genre, the dominating visual is that of the victim who is fed to the film’s antagonist. But instead of constantly being victimized in the horror film industry, Canadian twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska have arrived to turn that stereotype on its head as directors instead of actors. The 31-year-olds broke into the industry with cult favorite American Mary in 2012 and were scooped up by Lionsgate and WWE films for the recently released sequel to See No Evil, which has garnered greater praise than the original. With more films on the horizon, including segments in ABCs of Death 2 and the all-female directed horror anthology XX and upcoming action flick Vendetta, the pioneering twins who love porn, Deadpool and Final Fantasy talked to Life+Times about their introduction to the slasher genre, being “different” from the other girls and why there’s no reason for foreign films to be remade in America.
L+T: Do you remember your introduction into the horror genre?
SYLVIA SOSKA: Absolutely. It’s one of the most scarring and treasured memories we have as children. We used to always attend the local video store and they had a very highly decorated horror section. So Jennifer and I would always beg my mom, “I want to watch one of these.” And every time she said “No.” And then finally when we were ten she gave in and we watched “Poltergeist” together. When bedtime came around, we were terrified. And my mom did something that actually got us into the whole horror genre. She sat us down and explained what we had actually seen. She explained the director, set, script, actors, and the prosthetic artists, and she told us that it’s all these guys’ jobs to scare people. And we were hooked! We were like, “Wait a minute, it’s a job and all the blood and guts is pretend?” And since then we haven’t been able to back down.
JENNIFER SOSKA: Yeah, I completely blame it on my mom. She also had this massive collection of every Stephen King novels. Obviously, we wanted to read them. Our first novels that we read were Pet Cemetery and Cujo. I think that also really branded the way that we do horror because Stephen King is such a sick fuck, and he’s got this really dark sense of humor.
L+T: Was there a void that you wanted to fill when you first started directing your own movies?
SS: Jennifer and I are proudly failed actresses. We used to get these super overly sexualized roles, which I don’t mind at all. I think there’s a place for sexuality in everything. But after a while, it’s just the same generic thing over and over again. And then we realized we’re not even going out for roles that we really want to do. We’re not in the movies we want. So we decided we wanted to make our own films. We started off with Dead Hooker in a Trunk. We wrote and directed, starred, we did the networking and crafting. We did everything on that movie.
JS: A huge part of our success is Robert Rodriquez because he’s one of the only directors out there that not only says, “This is how I do it;” he says, “This is how I do it,” and then, “Go do better.” We read his book Rebel Without a Crew and the book actually was just so inspirational that we did just go out and do it. A lot of people think that we just made short films before Dead Hooker in a Trunk. No, Dead Hooker in a Trunk was the first thing we ever made.
L+T: You two love comic books, video games, pro wrestling and horror films. That may be cool today as adults but did you feel awkward growing up and felt the need to conform to fit the norm?
JS: I never wanted to change, and I never had changed who I am to fit what the norm is. But when we were little it was cool that we liked video games, horror movies, comic books, or any of that stuff. But high school was really the point when we realized that we were very different from everyone else because nobody wanted that. Everyone was trying to fit into what the teenagers were supposed to be like. They’re sexually active, partying and doing drugs. I just wanted to watch X-Files every night and play Final Fantasy. All the things that people generally think, “Oh wow, you’re so cool for liking that.” Nobody liked in high school. We weren’t very popular at all.
L+T: But now you are an inspiration to teenage girls who like the same things you like and can show them that it is okay to be who you are.
SS: It’s a huge honor and I really like to try and be a role model in that way because I wish there was somebody that I was looking up to when I was younger who was doing what we’re doing right now. I didn’t have a lot of female role models growing up. All the guys that I loved were like John Carpenter, Clive Barker and Stephen King. Not that they’re not amazing role models, but I didn’t have that many like chick horror directors or chicks working in the business to look up to; especially not directors. I think girls are really encouraged to be models, actresses and singers. Nobody ever says, “You can be a director, writer, producer, owner of your own production company.” And it was never a plan of us to be great role models because we’re fraudulent beings. I mean, we like wrestling, horror and porn. We curse a lot, and we’re just kind of bat shit crazy!
L+T: American Mary flipped the script on the woman being a weeping victim. Did you go into that film with the idea that the main character should be empowering to other women?
SS: Absolutely. It was inspired by Takashi Miike’s Audition.
JS: So many times you see a female that’s villainous in the film but they always make her kind of weak and you’re not really scared of her. But what makes a female villain different from a male villain is that we’re very conniving and meticulous. Like, we’ll say we’re fine and five years later we’ll still be keying your car because we’re bat shit crazy and I wanted to have that physically represented in (how Mary deals with her victims).
L+T: An American remake of Audition is being made. How do you feel about a cult classic being Americanized?
JS: I don’t really like remakes just because it takes away an opportunity for a film with an original concept to be made. It’s like “Oh I remember watching that when I was fourteen. Cool, you guys are doing it again with some popular person.”
SS: I think remakes —like Old Boy – are absolutely needless. The film is a masterpiece, as is “Audition.” Just read the subtitles! I don’t think that “Audition” is so far international that you can’t relate to it domestically.
L+T: See No Evil 2 was your opportunity to work with a major studio on a sequel to a fairly successful movie. Do you prefer having the groundwork laid or creating from scratch?
SS: I like both for different reasons but working with Lionsgate and WWE Films was a lot easier because I had their support; I wasn’t fighting the same battles that I was when I was at a lower level like we were with Dead Hooker in a Trunk and American Mary. We’re also very much stand up directors who we would never work on a project that we’re not excited about. We jumped at the opportunity to do See No Evil 2, and reestablish Jacob Goodnight in a more iconic way. Of course, the pressure is that you do have to pay respect to the original. But I didn’t really find that as intimidating as it was empowering because you’ve got something to build on and you can see where the first one missed an opportunity, and we got to capitalize there.
L+T: What’s next for you two?
SS: We’re working on Jimmy Palmiotti and Craig Weeden’s script of Painkiller Jane. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with comic book character, but she’s the tough as nails, bisexual New York cop who gets caught by these drug dealers and they make a cocktail that gives her regenerating factor. It’s so funny because everybody’s like, “Oh, I want to see a female super hero movie. I am so ecstatic to be able to do this. Also being a huge comic book nerd, I have nerd rage when characters are improperly represented in big screen adaptations, so it’s also a very terrifying responsibility.