Sunday, May 26, 2013

Jovanka Vuckovic and the Twisted Twins Talk Sex, Scalpels, and Gender Politics

In horror films, women are often seen and not heard. While the genre has long had a place for strong female characters that best the Bad Guy as the film’s “final girl,” they are rarely depicted as powerful killers, with a voice that screams evil. That genre convention is turned on its ear in American Mary, the sophomore feature from Jen and Sylvia Soska (Dead Hooker in a Trunk), twin female filmmakers with a penchant for horror. American Mary is a provocative feminist body horror film that stars Ginger Snaps’ Katharine Isabelle as a disenfranchised medical student who begins performing illegal operations for the body modification community and eventually escalates to exacting sadistic surgical revenge on those who have wronged her. The film will screen at 25 Cineplex Odeon theatres across Canada on May 30th, courtesy Anchor Bay Canada and Raven Banner Films, with my short film The Captured Bird opening for it. In fact, I’ll be hosting the Yonge and Dundas Cineplex screening in Toronto next Thursday!

I recently sat down with The Twisted Twins, who have become my blood sisters for life, for a little girl talk between horror filmmakers.

ovanka: What was the genesis of American Mary?

ylvia: The script for AMERICAN MARY wasn’t something we were planning on or had even imagined. We were still trying to get the first film, DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, out, and really taking hard knocks from all angles. We were incredibly poor, we couldn’t afford rent or food, we were meeting monsters in the industry, we had no idea if this risk was going to pay off, we had family in and out of the hospital for extended periods of time, and were really at a crossroads at our life. Eli Roth had become a good friend and mentor of ours. We were talking back and forth and he asked about what other scripts we had – at the time we had nothing – but I couldn’t admit it, so I listed off a bunch of ideas that I knew Jen and I could write in two weeks with a self-imposed gun to our head. He picked the ‘one about the medical student.’ We put everything we were going through unconsciously into the film in analogies and characters we knew. It’s something I hadn’t experienced before, taking real life situations that you can’t control and putting it into a script and now you could have that control and ability to analyze it from a safe distance. I found myself feeling more self conscious as I realized how honest it was, but it was something we had to do.

Even with the script done, it was a struggle to get the film made because it was so different. It was a hard sell because it was difficult to compare it to anything. We shot a fake trailer which cost more than our first film to show the look, the tone, and the idea behind the prosthetics and character designs with a first reveal of Ruby RealGirl. We used that as a selling tool, but it was still a hard sell. On our 28th birthday, our parents changed that. They told us that they were going to mortgage the house to be the first investors in the film. That’s how the film got made. Cool, talented people knew we would have a tight schedule and a modest budget, but they cared about the film and wanted to make it great. Everyone made sacrifices to make the film happen. We had a fifteen day schedule, a modest budget, and the team worked their asses off in front of and behind the camera to make the film that you see. It’s a huge responsibility to us to make sure that those efforts were not wasted, that we work our asses off to make the film as successful as we can for those people.

en: Body modification had been something that had long fascinated us, but we had never thought we’d ultimately come to make a film that focuses so heavily on it. We’ve always felt like outsiders. We were teased and bullied pretty relentlessly in school. Still, we found ourselves sticking up for anyone else that was being bullied and hanging out with people that most people would exclude. We can’t stand it when people are made to feel like outcasts or wrongly judged and there aren’t many groups as misunderstood as the body mod community. It upset us. You’d think that we all learn to not judge people by their appearances in grade school, but that’s just not the case. I find it bizarre that cosmetic surgery is fully accepted whereas the body mod community are regarded as “freaks”. The main difference I see between the two groups is that one is trying to fit into the accepted ideal of beauty, largely the North American ideal whereas those in the body mod community are appealing to their own ideal of beauty and self.



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