December 5, 2019 Interview – The Soska Sisters
Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska, famously know as The Soska Sisters, or The Twisted Twins, are twin sisters with a blood bond that is literal, but also creatively. First making a big statement as filmmakers in 2009 with their feature Dead Hooker in a Trunk, the talented duo would also turn heads with 2012’s American Mary, 2014’s See No Evil 2, a segment in 2014’s ABCs of Death 2, and now they return with a remake of David Cronenberg 1977 classic Rabid.
A project they vowed would honor Cronenberg and the original film, their vision of Rabid – opening in select theaters, digitally and On Demand on December 13th, 2019 through Shout! Studios – is bound to draw these ladies even more attention. Bold, daring, plus crushing all gender stereotypes, Jen and Sylvia recently sat down to discuss their passion for film-making, the decision to take on a remake of Rabid, future original projects, plus so much more.
Cryptic Rock – You two ladies have been involved in film for over a decade acting, writing, producing, and directing. First tell us, what inspired you two to get involved in film like you have?
Sylvia Soska – It’s so funny because ever since we were little girls we always really liked watching Horror movies with our mother. We never really thought of it as a career path or something we could do for a living.
When we got older, I remember Mary Harron defending the artistic merit of American Psycho (1999) – they were trying to get her and the production thrown out of Toronto. I never had seen her before and I didn’t know what American Psycho was, but I thought she was so eloquent in defending the film. I just thought, “Who is this woman? Why are people trying to get this book from being made into a movie?” Afterwards, I respect what she did.
I felt like with all our interests and skills sets it always seemed like it would be a good place to go to. Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009), we didn’t think it was a Horror movie, for us it was kind of the anti-Crossroads (2002). I really disliked that people would call a certain movie a chick flick; I don’t really think that is a fair representation of the women I know.
Jen Soska – I’ve always gravitated toward storytelling. It was in every medium, television of course, but also video games and comic books. At least not in my generation, growing up young women were not encouraged to be directors, writers, producers, CEOs, or studio heads. You were more encouraged to be an actress, model, or singer – someone whose career is very reliant on other people.
For a long time Sylvia and I were actors as identical twins and the roles for that were very stereotypical. That was until we ended up making a fake trailer for our own film, Dead Hooker in a Trunk. For that we ended up writing, directing, producing, production designing, etc. We had no money, so we had no choice. It was really an eye opening experience that made me realize I have a bunch of weird skills, along with film, that never seem to be going together with acting. With directing, writing, and producing it was just magic for us. We never looked back from Dead Hooker in a Trunk.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting. It seems like the career path has worked out well. You have done a lot of films and you have broken barriers as female directors and writers. It seems like you did not see women in these roles as often 20-30 years ago, and it’s refreshing to see more of it.
Sylvia Soska – Thank you so much for saying that. It’s funny, a lot of people would say it’s just because you’re twins that you get to make these films. I always feel, “Tell me another pair of identical twin sisters that have a directing career out there that we are following in the footsteps of?” It’s very hugely uncommon, but because of what Jen and I look like, I found a lot of the criticism we got is not necessarily about our mind or art we were putting out there – it was more a physical thing.
American Mary (2012) seemed like a natural reaction to that. I thought after that people were going to understand us. I think that movie was a little bit harsher than people were anticipating at that time. It came a little pre-Me Too and it had some very vicious messages to it.
Jen Soska – Representation is so important. It’s so funny, growing up I never realized so many of my heroes were Mr. David Cronenberg, Stephen King, John Carpenter – basically all of the guys. Although there is Mary Harron, Mary Lambert, and Mary Shelley; all the sacred Marys. There wasn’t really a lot of opportunity for women, not only to be working behind the camera, but being celebrated.
Nowadays so many young filmmakers and artists come over to us and say they are following in our footsteps. It really is rewarding and makes a difference when you see somebody doing what you want to do. When I was younger there were not really many people to follow in my career path. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s the greatest feeling in the world to be encouraging the next wave of artists that way.
Cryptic Rock – That is all extremely positive to see these changes, and there have also been some really strong female directors in Horror over the years too. For example, Katherine Bigelow who did a great job with Near Dark (1987). There have been women making their mark, while unfortunately not as celebrated, they are there.
Sylvia Soska – Absolutely. Someone like Mary Lambert, a lot of people don’t even realize that not only did she do Pet Sematary (1989) and Pet Sematary II (1992), but she also directed some of the most iconic Madonna videos that really created her image. Afterwards, people would say, “I’m looking for a woman director for A, B, or C – why don’t you hire Mary Lambert or Rachel Talalay?” You have these women who already know how to do this and have it on their resume. At the same time, you have this weird “Where are these female artists?” kind of a question. They are right there, they’ve already been doing the work.
Cryptic Rock – No question. Let us hope things continue to shift to a better balance in filmmaking. You have done some really cool movies through the years including American Mary, See No Evil 2 (2014), and a segment in the ABCs of Death II (2014). Now you are returning with a re-imaging of 1977’s Rabid. What inspired you to do this film?
Jen Soska – Actually, they approached us. If it was up to us, I definitely would have re-made Rabid. Traditionally I would say we are not fans of remakes: being real fans of Horror, I often feel remakes are manipulations of the Horror fan. I feel like they are just cashing in on the title and they’re not really paying tribute or respect to the original creator or the original creation. Once we heard they were remaking Rabid and they approached us, we had to have it. We absolutely had to have it because we wanted it to be in as good of hands as possible. We love Mr. Cronenberg and we really wanted the film to be a celebration, not only of the original, but of all of his work.
Sylvia Soska – We made sure to hire a cast and crew that has worked with David; we had his sound, his photo department, we had his actors. It was really interesting because everybody there wasn’t there because they like remakes, they were there because they had worked with David or David was a huge part of why they are in the position they are today. It was just like a big celebration of everything David Cronenberg has done; we tried to make sure there is a little nod everywhere. The weirdest thing we realized is even though David Cronenberg is a genius and everybody should know his work, there are some people that are unfamiliar. I didn’t want for the first time someone hears about David Cronenberg for it to be a subpar remake that doesn’t have anything to do with the original creator.
Jen Soska – I believe the two golden rules when making a remake are add something new of value, and the second rule is the rule from Scream (1996) – don’t fuck with the original.
Cryptic Rock – You did a fine job with this remake – it’s enjoyable and it’s bizarre.
Jen Soska – Yay! I take that as a high compliment. If it’s not bizzare it’s not Cronenberg.
Cryptic Rock – Most certainly. There are some stylistic qualities in Rabid which are reminiscent of 2016’s The Neon Demon. Was that something you had in mind?
Sylvia Soska – No, but when I saw The Neon Demon come out we were still in production for this film. We knew we would be in a fashion world at the same time, so I was watching the colors they were doing. I know Jennifer and I are very inspired by Dario Argento. It’s kind of interesting to see people are figuring out there are these fields of beauty that worship gorgeousness, but there is a little bit more ugliness going on behind the curtains.
Jen Soska – The fashion world is ripe as a Horror movie or landscape. It’s misunderstood often by people not involved in it that it’s very sweet, delicate femininity, as if that’s a bad thing. It’s incredibly cutthroat though – even the most beautiful people are torn to shreds thinking they are hideous. Again, it’s just another example of the class system. Do you really need that kind of fashion? I know it’s moving, working art, but if you think about the kind of good the amount of money a piece of Couture design could do – a hospital, a month’s rent, groceries, medicine.
Cryptic Rock – Very valid points. With Rabid you work with actors and actresses from the original film, but also others as well. You worked with C.M. Punk (Phil Brooks) who plays the misogynistic jerk Billy. What was it like working with him?
Sylvia Soska – It was such an honor to finally work with Phil. He supported us with Dead Hooker in a Trunk and American Mary – he literally gave those DVDs out to the other wrestlers working for the WWE. When we finally ended up working for the company making two movies, I said, “Why are we not working together?”
As soon as we got the script for Rabid, he was one of the first calls I made. I said, “Phil, we are remaking a Cronenberg movie, would you be in it?” Originally, I wanted him to play Brad, but for whatever reason we were only allowed to have an American actor for so long. What we ended up doing was having him play Billy.
It’s funny, because he also played a horrible human being in Girl on the Third Floor (2019). It couldn’t be further from the guy that Phil actually is. I guess he’s got this kind of Bruce Campbell quality to him: he can play this guy who’s completely immoral, you hate him, but there is something charismatic that you still kind of want to watch what he is doing. I regret that I didn’t work with him longer. I’m actually writing a script with Jen that I want to work with him entirely where he would be the star. He’s just the whole package and so sweet.
Jen Soska – I always take such offense when people say wrestlers can’t act: wrestlers are the greatest actors in the world. C.M. Punk literally is the best. He is so genuine, talented, and down to earth. He is so physically capable too. I’m holding out in some dream doing “Evil Dead: The Musical The Movie” with C.M. Punk starring as Ash. He is such a lovable asshole: he can be so terrible but still charming.
Cryptic Rock – It seemed to all work out well. So what are some other projects coming up in 2020?
Sylvia Soska – When Rabid was finished we were lucky enough to meet David Cronenberg, he introduced us to his producers Martin Katz and Karen Wookey. They actually came on to to be our producers of the next project we do. There is a part in Rabid where Gunter, played by Mackenzie Gray, is talking to Rose and he says, “Next time it’s going to be your collection.” That was kind of a in-joke for me and Jen that next time we make a movie we’re going to get to do an original, because we haven’t been able to do an original since American Mary. It looks like we are in production for an original script of ours, we are hoping to shoot next spring. It’s an original monster movie that is very dear to our hearts. Then we have two other projects including a TV series that is so wild and high concept that we are so excited to be able to bring our own branding to.
Jen Soska – Also, Women in Horror Month is every February, so we’re gearing up for that as well. For the past 11 years we’ve been having Women in Horror recognition month. It is a feminist thing which is about equality and letting people know about the females that have been there and the male allies we have. Every year Sylvia and I do a massive blood drive, which is a worldwide encouragement to donate blood. We find young and veteran filmmakers from across the globe to make their own service announcements or short films to encourage people to donate blood. The greatest thing about these blood drives is there is no censorship: any NC-17 quality is highly encouraged because all we want is good people to watch them.
Cryptic Rock – That is fantastic – everyone will have to check out more details. It will also be exciting to see you make a new original movie too.
Sylvia Soska – I think American Mary was so weird, they were kind of scared for a long time. They they let us do this movie. I think it gave us the blessing to make one more weird movie.
Jen Soska – I think fans are really going to love this. I think it is for anyone who liked American Mary but also loved Rabid. We can’t make a film without putting our voice in there somewhere; I am really looking forward to it. There is going to be a lot of practical effects as well.
Cryptic Rock – Awesome! Last question. What are some of your favorite Horror movies?
Jen Soska – Obviously, American Psycho. Dead Ringers (1988). Although I don’t consider it a Horror movie, I consider it a really sad Drama. Also Altered States (1980), but I kind of remember it in repressed memory because it’s really fucked up. Also Pontypool (2008) which is an under appreciated Canadian Horror film.
Sylvia Soska – I love Suicide Club (2001), it’s one of my favorites. I love I Saw The Devil (2010), Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman (2012); I love really weird kind of stuff. I love The Human Centipede (2009) – if you can make it through all three, good luck to you! Everybody talks about The Human Centipede – that piece of art touched everybody whether they were supposed to know about it or not.
Cryptic Rock – Very eclectic selections! What about older films, any favorites?
Jen Soska – Anything by Argento – the original Suspiria (1977) is just absolutely magnificent. We took a lot of our lighting cue from Argento. Also anything Vincent Price. Back in the day he did some very weird shit.
Sylvia Soska – Of course, you have to say Lucio Fulci. Wes Craven’s earlier films are masterfully done. Freaks (1932) is absolutely fantastic if you haven’t seen it. The Hammer films are also absolutely fantastic. Norman J. Warren is a fantastic British filmmaker. I just saw one of his films called Inseminoid (1981), if you like aliens and exploitation films, you have never seen a movie like this before. It was fantastically done.