As Women in Horror month rolls along, Cryptic Rock Magazine is proud to once again put the spotlight on a pair of Canadian filmmakers who have become one of the more recognizable names among the new generation in the genre. From their humble beginnings as young actors, to their growth as writers, producers, and directors, their love of Horror shines through in all their work. We are speaking, of course, about Vancouver’s own Jen and Sylvia Soska – The Soska Sisters.
Not familiar with them? Well, The Soska Sisters’ story is one of perseverance. Starting out as actresses, taking small roles for twins, they grew unsatisfied and wanted a way to channel more of their considerable creative energy than what those roles allowed. They found the opportunity with their final project at film school, which turned out to be 2009’s Dead Hooker in a Trunk. Jen and Sylvia, working with no money, had many responsibilities on the film, and handled the writing, producing, designs, as well as directing. A project infused with what would become their trademark black satire, they obtained invaluable experience throughout the project. Gaining recognition after the project was distributed via IFC. since then, in the sister’s own words… they have never looked back.
Moving forward, their next project was probably their most widely known feature – 2012’s American Mary. Having honed their skills in various aspects of filmmaking, the Soska sister’s talents are really on full display in this film. The effects are all practical, plus they worked with members of the body modification subculture to maximize the somewhat surprising level of violence in the film. Additionally, they recruited Actress and fellow Vancouver native Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps 2000, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed 2004) to star as the titular Mary.
Combining a feminist narrative, the inherent fear of medical procedures, as well the mental health effects of pressures of appearance, American Mary ended up being well-received in the Horror community and making many top ten lists of that year. In fact, Isabelle’s strong performance combined with a unique and deftly-handled brutality make it one of the more memorable Indie Horror films of the 2010s.
From here The Soskas would keep moving forward and teamed up with Danielle Harris (Halloween 4: The Revenge of Michael Myers 1988, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead 1991) and reunited with Isabelle once again for 2014’s See No Evil 2. Lower key than American Mary, it still showcased the sisters’ passion and ability for classic Slashers, and honestly was an overall improvement over 2006’s See No Evil.
Already donning an impressive resume at this point in history, one of the biggest testaments to these ladies’ success is when they were tapped to direct the remake of the great David Cronenberg’s 1977 Body Horror, Rabid. Called on in 2016 to take on the project, Jen and Sylvia were keenly aware of the pitfalls of remakes, but that awareness ensured they would pay proper respect to the original while leaving their own mark. Not an easy thing to do, they served as both writers/directors, and when their version of Rabid hit the public in 2019 it was extremely well done.
So, what does this all say? Well, it says that the Soska sisters bring a whole lot to the world of Horror… and this is beyond their talents as directors, it is also much needed female representation in all roles of the art form. At the turn of the century, it was still quite unusual to have women in the major production roles of Horror, and they were most often relegated to on-screen parts of various quality, not often great. However, Jen and Sylvia Soska are creators who have built their brand from the ground up.
As more and more of the world of art becomes self-reliant, the Soska Sisters are a wonderful example of the passion and determination other young women will look to when faced with similar hardships at the beginning of their careers. In fact, years from now, the Soskas will be seen as filmmakers who were instrumental in breaking barriers for women in Horror. But they still have a long career ahead of them, with many more years of work we will be eagerly anticipating. So do yourself a favor and check out their work if you haven’t already, because the world of Horror is better off because of The Soska Sisters.