Post originally appeared on the Geekologists Online site - October 2014
Ever since I first saw the Twisted Twins’ first feature, Dead Hooker in a Trunk, I had a feeling that they had a big future ahead of them in movies. Dead Hooker in a Trunk was a micro-budget example of guerrilla film-making at its bloodiest - a grindhouse style horror filmed for just $2500. But that raw, underground film showed a massive talent, and a real drive to be creative.
With more of a budget, the Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska, went on to write, direct and produce American Mary which wowed audiences worldwide and proved that they had the knowhow and the creativity to make a serious mark on the movie world.
Now, to promote their latest movie, See No Evil 2, a sequel to the 2006 WWE produced slasher, I was lucky enough to chat over vid-skype with two of the coolest and nicest people in horror today.
Dave: First of all, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. I know you’re busy doing some live tweeting for “ABCs of Death 2”?
Sylvia: Yeah, ABCs got released on VOD so we’re all going to do a “#DeathParty” tweet-along tonight. It’ll be fun. A lot of people are doing it from a bar…
Jen: They’re encouraging drinking and I think we have some Jack Daniels left.
Sylvia: I think we should.
Dave: That sounds fantastic. Before we talk about your new film, I wanted to touch upon your rise to fame as horror icons. Your first movie, Dead Hooker in a Trunk, is a great example of guerrilla film-making, and it’s really inspirational. It was really low budget wasn’t it?
Sylvia: It was $2500. It involved a lot of running from the cops as we weren’t technically “legally” shooting.
Jen: It was half Robert Rodriguez, and half Ed Wood. Robert Rodriguez stylistically, and Ed Wood in “we’d better go!”
Sylvia: “We’d better get in the car and drive away…”
Dave: They always say that lack of budget forces a bit more creativity and that really came through.
Jen: Absolutely, and that’s a lesson we’ve taken with all of our films, because people have said “we can pay for this” and we’re like “Woah, pay?”
Sylvia: Pay for it? We could steal that and I’ll show you how!
Jen: There are some things you have to pay for and some things you can steal gracefully.
Dave: Onto American Mary, which is gorgeous, I have to say it looks fantastic. Was that fairly low budget as well?
Sylvia: Pretty low budget, it was under a million dollars, and we shot it in fifteen days, and the nice thing was that the people that came onto the movie so believed in it that they donated their time, donated props, donate things from home, they would work for free overnight, it was amazing. So every time I see that movie I see my cast and my crew, and how much they killed themselves trying to make it that beautiful.
Dave: It really shows, it looks fantastic.
Sylvia: Thank you.
Dave: You’ve become real celebrities when it comes to the horror genre, has it surprised you, the speed of your meteoric rise to become such icons?
Jen: It always surprises me when someone says “Hey I saw Dead Hooker, or I loved American Mary”, because, we were never super-popular growing up, and all the stuff that people never liked about us, everyone loves about us now. Like the comic books, the video games, the wrestling, and that’s who we are, and people love it.
Sylvia: Nerds have inherited the earth!
Jen: We have! I’ve never met someone who was really popular in high school who ended up a halfway decent person.
Sylvia: Still, every time anyone says they’ve seen Dead Hooker or American Mary, I’m like “really? Did you like it?” And if they did I’m like “oh my god!! Thank you!”
Jen: And if anyone says can I get a photo with you, I’m like “Oh my god, yes.”
Sylvia: Like, “fuck, yeah!”
Jen: Only if you put it online.
Dave: I should really be talking to you about your new movie, See No Evil 2.
Jen: Oh, sure.
Dave: It’s a sequel to film that’s quite old now, what was it, 2006? How did that come about?
Jen: It was the first film that WWE ever made, See No Evil, and I hope that they waited this long so they could bring us on as directors. It was the most profitable film that WWE made aside from The Call, when The Call came out (2013), and I don’t know why it took so long for it to be resurrected, because it did such a good job, and I know Glenn (Jacobs), Kane, was asking to play Jacob again, and they just let it be for such a long time.
Sylvia: And for us, after American Mary, every studio meeting we had, despite what script of ours we brought in, they’d be like “that’s cool. But what if you do a movie starring Katherine Isabelle, and she’s like a medical slasher or a surgeon,”
Jen: “In her underwear…”
Sylvia: “Or a torturer in high heels,” and I’d be like, is this like some fucking hidden camera show? I just made that movie!
Jen: Did you see it?
Sylvia: “No, no, something different, but the same…” So eventually our agent, Chris Ridenhour calls us and says he has a script we need to read, and I’m like, “yeah, I know exactly what it’s about,” and he says to read it right away. And I didn’t, then he calls and asks did I read the script? So, Jen and I read it and we were “See No Evil 2, that’s not the sequel to See No Evil 1?” We started watching wrestling when Kane was introduced so we are huge Kane fans… and we were reading through the script going “oh my god,” and “holy shit, holy shit!” And there was this one part of the script and we both pushed back from our desks and…
Jen: “Did you get there?”
Sylvia: “Did you get there?”
Jen: “Okay, we’re doing this movie!”
Sylvia: We didn’t think that they’d hire us, because a lot of the times we get these studio interviews but that’s just because they want to put one girl on the list, and they get two of us, and they’re like “we interviewed the Soskas, I just didn’t want to hire them.”
Jen: If something is being remade in Hollywood, we’re on the list but we have no idea we’re on the list, just so they can say “well, we considered a female…”
Sylvia: So we got on the phone with them, and we totally didn’t think they were going to hire us, and we all “I love Kane so much, and I love See No Evil, and this script is going to be awesome, and no matter who you hire it’s gonna be sick, and if you hired me we’d do this, this and this… and thank you so much for even talking to me, and have a great day, can’t wait to see the movie!” It was an eighteen minute phonecall and it was like “Ffffffft, didn’t get that!”
Jen: Usually it’s the long ones you get, but the short ones…
Sylvia: And the next day they we like “Yep, you’re hired”, and we were like “Fuck! Really?”
Jen: We were like, “overnight you hired us?” Because the WWE has a very rigorous interviewing process.
Sylvia: We must have nailed it!!
Dave: Did you have to prove your wrestling knowledge before they gave you the job?
Sylvia: I think they’d like us to stop using our wrestling knowledge.
Jen: It must be so annoying.
Dave: The film hasn’t come out yet, and so I haven’t been able to see the film yet. I’ve just seen the trailer…
Jen: It’s very much like Halloween 2, we pick up right where the last one left off. And my god did I wish they didn’t kill him so horribly…
Sylvia: It’s a very self-aware homage to a lot of slasher movies. I mean, Jen and I have pretty much seen every fucking slasher movie that’s ever been made, so we were like “oh my god, we get to make our own!”
Jen: There are definitely Jason references, Mike Myers references…
Sylvia: Norman Bates…
Jen: There’s a very deliberate Alien reference in there…
Sylvia: Oh yes, that was good… And Joss Whedon!
Jen: Oh yeah, there is a Joss Whedon thing in there, and I can’t say what the thing is but once you see it you’re like “Oh, that’s like when Joss Whedon did such-and-such”…
Sylvia: Jen likes killing people in a way that you cry after…
Dave: From the trailer it looks like it has a great sense of humour to it, was that something you actively tried to put in, to keep it not so grim?
Sylvia: Definitely, because if it’s scary-scary-scary it’s flat just like that, but if you put people in a moment of levity then you can torture them so much worse. It’s amazing, and the first fifteen minutes is like a John Hughes movie. You meet all these characters, you really like them, it’s a bunch of groups that don’t really know each other and don’t really get along, and you’re like “they’re so sweet.” Then you’re like “Oh fuck! Now that I like them it’s a slasher movie.” And it just goes from there…
Jen: It’s really a “fuck yeah” movie. The only people who don’t enjoy this movie are people who come in to not enjoy this movie. It’s just playtime for horror fans, because it’s got so many “Oh no he didn’t,” moments and “Oh, fuck. Why’d she go in there?” moments…
Sylvia: …and with Katie on American Mary I always said you’re either comedically genius or accidentally hilarious, and now that she’s one of my best friends I think that she’s accidentally hilarious. We were like “we have to make you funny in this movie, because you’re so batshit crazy-funny but nobody knows that, everyone thinks you’re stoic Mary, or sultry Ginger. You are crazy Katherine Isabelle,” so it was nice to have that with Tamara.
Dave: So, you’ve got Jacob Goodnight rising from the dead, he’s got his mask. It’s obvious that you love your slasher films, so what’s your favourite slasher film?
Jen: I think I would have to say Halloween.
Jen: Have you ever watched Halloween on mute, it’s not that… without the “do-do-do-do” (John Carpenter music)… it’s just not as exciting, and that’s why we gave Jacob his own theme music in this…
Sylvia: The Newton Brothers gave Jacob his own theme song, and other characters their own theme songs so it’s really cool. It kinda gets underneath your skin… My favourite slasher is High Tension (released in the UK as Switchblade Romance)… because it’s so romantic! It’s so romantic! “I wish someone would murder my whole family for me!” *hugs Jen* Not you!
Jen: Why would you say that?
Sylvia: I’m just a terrible human being.
Dave: Is there any rivalry between you? How do you share the duties?
Jen: We divide and conquer. We kind of have a hive mind, two bodies, one mind. If you asked us a question on set, we’ll almost say word for word the same answer. And if not, we’ll go aside and say *whisper whisper* “Okay, this is how it’s going to be…”
Sylvia: Even though we have the same interests and the same likes, we do it in a very different way. For example, Antichrist. You (Jen) like it because… she doesn’t like it as much as me, I think it’s perfect…
Jen: I like it because… I like the relationship between him and her…
Sylvia: Yeah, I like it because it’s a perfect movie… the phantom shots, how gorgeous it is…
Jen: You are Lars Von Trier and I’m Joss Whedon, and they have no business working together.
Sylvia: And somehow, if they were identical twins they would be forced to.
Jen: Absolutely. She’s so darkly creative, and the things that she can pull out of her mind should have her institutionalised… she has such deliberate, amazing vision. And I’m… er… also there.
Sylvia: Jen is the heart of us, she’s the heart of the production, she’s the heart of every film that we do. She has such a beautiful outlook on the world, and she puts that light in everything. I’m the angry artist that Jen has to go and talk to the producers and be like “Sorry, Sylvia’s just… this camera movement is really important to her… don’t talk to her for the next…”
Jen: I have on more than one occasion said that if you’re working with such a capable, in depth artist… if you’re doing something and she thinks you’re hurting the film this is how she’s going to react!
Sylvia: You make me sound bad!
Jen: No! You’re an artist, you’re truly an artist. Same thing can be said about David Fincher.
Sylvia: I guess. I think David Russell is more what you’re thinking…
Jen: You don’t have time to yell at people like that. We have very limited schedules.
Dave: Talking of schedules, you’re working with WWE again for Vendetta?
Sylvia: Yes, we just finished Vendetta. We’re going into the nice post-production parts of it. It’s starring Dean Cain, Paul “Big Show” Wight, and Michael Eklund and if you told me two weeks before we went to camera that Dean Cain is the baddest motherfucker I’ll ever work with I possibly would have laughed right in your face. But, the man is amazing!
Jen: You’ve never seen Dean Cain like this… or The Big Show, because he does comedy so well he gets stuck doing comedic roles. This film is really our Punisher film - you’ve got Dean Cain as Frank Castle, and The Big Show who’s the perfect Kingpin.
Sylvia: Yeah, I don’t know whey he isn’t already the Kingpin, he’s the only person who should play him.
Jen: He’s so evil in this. He’s so nice, but he’s so evil.
Sylvia: I think because we got to do a little more action sequences… Like, we’ve always done stunt work, every movie we’ve had has had stunt work… and then to be able to kill so many people in an action movie. Horror movies are smaller…
Jen: You have to care about everyone that you kill. In an action movie it’s like “I don’t know his name… dead, dead, dead…"
Sylvia: The last fifteen minutes, just count the bodycount that Dean Cain gets, it’s ridiculous. His Mason is so scary and so dark, and so dead on the inside.
Jen: And his name’s Mason… hint, hint…
Sylvia: Mason like (American) Mary Mason… ha ha… I think, we have a type… but it’s so cool to see him do it, because you know him as Superman, or you see him as these much more wholesome characters, so when you see him playing this… it’s just darker and more exciting.
Dave: So when it comes to action movies, I’ve heard rumours of Painkiller Jane…
Sylvia: Yeah, we’re just looking for our Jane right now. That’s just the missing piece. We don’t want some little waif girl to show up and be like “oh” and she punches and all the stunt guys have to fall down like she’s tough. No, we want a chick with a six-pack, big muscles and a fucking fuck-you attitude, that if you were to spill her beer in a bar you’d buy her a keg as an apology with a “please don’t kick my ass, Miss Jane.”
Jen: She’s not the girl someone’s sending drinks over to in a bar, she’s the girl that they’re like “fuck, I hope I don’t piss that girl off”.
Sylvia: It’s so nice to have this opportunity, because we’re such big comic book fans, and to be entrusted with Jimmy Palmiotti’s and Craig Weeden’s script.
Jen: Which is amazing. It’s like, the best script we’ve ever read.
Sylvia: It’s literally Jane off the page, and that’s the thing… there have been two other versions of her - the made for TV movie, and the TV series, but they always watered her down. This is not watered down, this is so fucking hardcore. It’s a hard R, the sexuality, the violence, the crude as shit fucking humour, and yet it still manages to have heart in it. It’s a beautiful piece.
Jen: She’s a very real character, and a lot of us say fuck sometimes, and a lot of us fuck up sometimes, and we find our way in the end. And the challenge, which isn’t going to be that huge a challenge, is to keep it true to the source material, which was lacking before. And that happens a lot with comic book movies, and with videogame movies… oh, that’s even worse.
Sylvia: Can you imagine a bad Catwoman movie? And then there is a terrible one! How do you fuck up Selena Kyle that much?
Jen: And then they say that nobody wants to see a female superhero… no, no, no. Let’s not put that evil on the Catwoman movie, that just was not a very good film.
Sylvia: I didn’t see a Catwoman movie, they haven’t made one yet. They should, they just haven’t done it yet. They haven’t made an Elektra movie either in my opinion.
Jen: No, they haven’t.
Dave: So you’re seeing this as proving that a strong female character lead is possible, especially in a comic adaptation. Are you going to be showing this to Marvel, like “it worked for James Gunn”. After all, he came from Troma, could this be like your audition piece?
Jen: Absolutely, I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret that we really want the Deadpool movie.
Sylvia: I think Tim Miller has that…
Jen: Tim Miller may go disappearing for a while…
Sylvia: I will fight him for that movie. I will fight him. I will fight him bloody. But I think everyone who does these comic book movies should be comic book fans themselves. It’s a beautiful example with Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn loves comic books. So you watch the movie and you’re like, “This guy loves comic books”.
Jen: And Joss Whedon with the Avengers. I remember them asking “Hey Joss, so you going to read some Avengers comics?” and he was like “Again? I’ve already read all of them. What am I supposed to do, relearn what I already know?”
Dave: I think that’s all of my questions, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me! I’m really looking forward to seeing See No Evil 2, it comes out on the 21st of October 2014 doesn’t it?
Jen: 21st on DVD and Bluray, and on the 17th, I believe, it’s VOD.
Dave: I shall definitely be watching, thank you again for talking to me, it’s been brilliant.
Jen: It’s our pleasure, I look forward to talking in the future.
Sylvia: And thanks for watching our movies!
Postscript - The video Skype chat I had with the amazing Soskas was recorded in its entirety and I uploaded it you Youtube a while ago with their permission. If you want to see the full interview, give it a watch, though you will see me completely geek out like a smitten-kitten.