If you're into horror then you should be well acquainted with The Soska Sisters... aka The Twisted Twins. From Vancouver, Canada, these two audacious and deliciously depraved sisters have boldly announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with and horror fans from all over the world have embraced them as true mistresses of horror. In 2009 they made a micro-budget shocker called Dead Hooker In A Trunk, which they also starred in. That movie caught a lot of people's attention and in 2012 they followed it up with one of the most profound and artistic horror films of the decade, American Mary. Their understanding of horror, feminist sensibilities and their vision is unmistakable. With inklings of Cronenberg and McKee, they have strewn out a groundwork that is destined to see them amongst the most respected and influential names in the genre (if not cinema in general). Having lived in Vancouver myself I have taken a keen interest in The Soskas since Dead Hooker and its fair to say that I haven't seen any other film makers quite like them. Recognising their twinship as a brand, they have courageously capitalised on their niche marketing-angle and have forced a strong relationship with their fans. When getting in touch with filmmakers it is always gratifying when great films are backed up by genuinely nice people. Jen and Sylvia are two of the most approachable and spirited directors I have had the pleasure of knowing. Amongst world tours and preparing for their next project they have embraced my questions and offered some wonderfully insightful and honest answers. In high demand and being chased by the likes of Fangoria Magazine, they have still taken the time for a humble little site like this. I love these girls and I'm sure you will too.
What was your favourite film or television show as a child?
Sylvia: DESPERADO, we would watch that non-stop, over and over again. I wanted to be El, then I grew up, I still want to be El. We watched Darkwing Duck, Beetlejuice, She-Ra, Gem, X-Men - you know, the usual suspects for kids that turn out like us.
Jen: ha ha, obviously we watched all the same shows. There were some films we watched a gratuitous amount of times. PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, GHOSTBUSTERS, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, SCROOGED... oh! And LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS! If it was scary it didn't matter. Our parents talked to us about what we watched and watched with us. More parents really ought to these days.
As twins have you always been passionate about the same types of film and arts?
Sylvia: Mostly. We are very similar but vastly different. Our joke is that she's the Joss Whedon and I'm the Lars Von Trier. She likes the heart, I like seeing it get ripped out. We like a lot of the same things, sometimes for different reasons. Jen is way better with people, she always booked more jobs than I did when we were acting, like the line in TWINS, she's all the good stuff and I'm the left over shit and I'm cool with that.
Jen: We like the same stuff, but to different extremes. I LOVE Buffy. It's had a profound influence on me. Sylv also likes Buffy, but I was the one who'd think it was romantic to force dates (usually terrified ones) to take me for walks through graveyards at night. And, yes, I was holding a stake at the time. I like Lars' work. I like ANTICHRIST. Sylv LOVES it. Sylv could teach a class on the many subtleties of Lars Von Triers' films and never ending brilliance. I don't think there's anything that one of us likes that the other hates.
What are some of your guilty pleasure movies to watch?
Sylvia: ABOUT A BOY is my sad, crying movie. DREDD, I watch as a little treat to myself. I do my best Dredd impersonation and say, 'MaMa Clan', and Jen knows I'll be putting it on in like five minutes. I really like HEARTBREAKERS, it makes me think I should have saved myself the trouble and just gone into con-artistry which seems way more financially beneficial than filmmaking.
Jen: Memoirs Of A Geisha. I love that film. It's my "I'm sad" movie. The line, "none of us receives as much kindness in this life as we deserve" really moved me. I read the book and cried at the end. It was so beautifully done. Maybe the raging feminist in me couldn't take a woman living her whole life to get close to one man. I did find it incredibly romantic and I firmly believe that real romance only exists in movies. BATMAN RETURNS. I can quote everything Selina Kyle says and she is the Catwoman that every other one since her has to live up to. Anything by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but I have absolutely no regrets about devoting my time to their musical stylings and combined comedic genius.
How has the Canadian lifestyle influenced your work?
Sylvia: I wish more of Canadian lifestyle was celebrated in this country, if you look at the map, all our cities are along the US boarder and there's a big influence there. It's always been a struggle in Canada to have national cinematic identity as the country seems more content to attract foreign productions here rather than focus on our local talent. Canadians are weird and I mean this in the best of ways, there's a uniqueness to our humor, our interests, I love our genre filmmaking - we put a big focus on that in our work. We have Canadian casts and crews working on our scripts and it's something I'm extremely proud of. We wouldn't have had the same influence to start making films if Jason Eisener hadn't come along with his brilliant HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. My favorite thing about Canada is the celebration of the individual which is where I think that cool weirdness comes from and thrives.
Jen: I'm not sure if it has, but they say you can't see the forest from the trees. I'm sure it's had an impact. We watch a lot of American culture, America has a way of seeping into everywhere. If I was born and raised in Orange County I shudder to think who we may have become. Vancouver might be the most beautiful place on Earth. People complain about the rain and constantly overcast weather, but I think it's beautiful. It made the tone of the X-FILES so good and it's definitely influenced our work. I think dark things are beautiful. It's like I get to live in one of Tim Burton's classic films. I do struggle for us to advance our Canadian cinematic national identity, though. I like walking the trail that David Cronenberg blazed for us.
I lived in Vancouver myself and was always trying to sneak into filming locations. Did the presence of so many productions make a difference to you?
Sylvia: They didn't let you on set? Me neither. My biggest heartbreak was when they were shooting REINDEER GAMES a block away from my high school, Ben Affleck was there and we decided to go over there and get a look at him. They were pretty mean and sent us away, they didn't even want us looking. I understand now why they did it, but it's a bummer when you don't know why you can't interrupt their day and see a movie star. I was really proud to have so many cool shows shooting in my hometown - X-FILES was huge. I worked in film from a young age, nothing exciting, but I got to go to set and it was cool. Back then, I was convinced that the only way I could work in film was as an actress, I didn't realize that one day I would be writing, directing, and producing my own films with Jen.
Jen: It glamourized the film industry for sure. Everyone and their cat was on THE X-FILES at one time or another. I wanted so badly to be on it. Never had my chance. It added a sense of seduction to the whole filmmaking thing. It held a certain magic to it. It's still there. I love seeing places they're filming. I wonder which friends are working there.
My favourite Canadian film is Lynn Stopkewich’s Kissed starring Molly Parker. There are quite a few thematic similarities with American Mary. Did this film influence you at all?
Sylvia: You've seen KISSED?! I love that film. Our Director of Photography, Brian Pearson worked on that film! He had a great quote about it and MARY - the age restriction for when he would let his daughter watch either film is 38. It had an influence on the kind of films I wanted to make. I'm so stoked that you saw that film, not enough people have.
Jen: Oh, I LOVED that film. Still do! It's so cool that Brian worked on it. I think everything we watch influences us on some level, even if we don't consciously recognize it. We try to watch something new every day. We're always learning and looking for inspiration. We love watching international and indie films.
Can you explain the title of American Mary?
Sylvia: Totally. AMERICAN MARY follows the story of an impoverished young woman who desperately seeks to be a surgeon at all costs of self, in an attempt to obtain the 'American dream'. It's an unrealistic pressure we put on ourselves and with the state of the economy, it's even more of a battle which means the sacrifices are often greater even though they still don't guarantee success as the goal is unobtainable. It follows a working woman which brings in the issues of appearance, which whether we like to admit or not, is another unrealistic expectation put on most notably women. The American ideal of beauty versus what is actually achievable, we explore these very Western real life issues that could really play out anywhere in North America, but since we are exploring the expectations from the world's dominant super-power, we made Mary American and used her life to touch on different issues of self that we are faced with today. Appearances are everything was a tagline that encompassed all those themes.
Jen: The other portion was "Mary". We wanted to give her a strong name. Mary Harron is one of our favorite directors. We got our introduction to her when we saw her defending AMERICAN PSYCHO. She was talked to outraged feminist groups and handled herself so eloquently and his such composure, intellect, and grace. It had a huge impact on us, before we even fell in love with the film. It also has to do with Mary, Mother of God, and Mary Magdalene, two very different, but powerful women. We also used "Ave Maria" as Mary's theme.
What attracted you to the world of body modification as a subject for American Mary?
Sylvia: I stumbled upon the body mod culture in a very backwards way - I saw an April Fool's prank posting featuring identical twin brothers who swapped limbs. Along with the photo diary of the procedures, there was a letter from the twins that explained that you had to be a twin to understand why they did this. It scared me. My mom taught me that fear come from having a lack of education about something, so learn about it and you won't be scared anymore. My fear turned to fascination to admiration. There is no group as misunderstood as the body mod community and very few projects that show them in an honest, positive light. That became very important to me, especially because I started with the general population's misinformation about the culture and truly embracing and understanding it enriched my life, I wanted to to the same for others.
Jen: The film is very much an analogy for our own ventures in the film industry. We started out acting and modelling and as you can imagine we came up against so very unsavory characters. I heard the stories, I thought I saw it all. Then when we made DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, we saw a whole new ugly side to this business where as much as we struggled to be seen as equal to our male counter parts, our gender and usually our age became the object of discrimination with many monster producers and execs. We found that the people you're meant to respect and hold in high regard are often the real monsters and the outsiders, the indie brats and the horror community which can appear to look a little different or seem intense are in fact the sweetest, most generous and honest people you'll ever meet. That's largely where our theme, "appearances are everything" came from.
Has the body-mod crowd embraced the film?
Sylvia: At the end of the day, body modification is a life choice that hasn't been represented properly in film much. It was important to us to have perspective from someone who is not only in the community but does the procedures as a flesh artist himself. Through our good friend, Amelia Smart, we were introduced to Russ Foxx who was that man and kept us in reality in the fantastical aspects of the film. He was so good to us and we kept asking him all these questions and he'd be very cool in getting our 'internet schooling' on the subject right. One of his favorite lines with us was 'You read that on the internet, so it must be true.' When we premiered the film at Fright Fest, I looked out at the audience and saw so many members of the body mod community there. It was what I was hoping for.
After the screening, Roni - who is person who brought body mod to Poland when tattoos and piercings are still taboo - was introduced to me. I was so excited/nervous to her what she thought of the film. She dug it. She's even done an American Mary-themed shoot in Bizarre. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity to share this community that I love and have people in body mod like what we did. Thank God for the internet, we talk to people around the world that are in the scene and have seen the film. I'm very happy that we didn't fuck up.
Jen: Very well. It was our intention to give an honest and objective look into the world of body modification that wasn't just out of context close up images of genital modifications. There's so much negativity falsely associated with the body mod community. They're beautiful and honest and brave people. I say brave because to step away from the norm and embrace your own ideal or self expression and beauty gets a very negative reaction. It's like there's only one accepted form of what society sees as beautiful and that's just bullshit to me. I'm so happy that we've at very least opened a dialogue about body modification. We intentionally didn't use it for shock value, but rather to further the themes of "appearances are everything". What many people regard as monsters are in fact very human. Most monsters hide away what they are under the guise of normality.
You and Astron-6 are taking the world by storm, it would seem. Australia has certainly embraced you. Is genre alive and well in Canada?
Sylvia: You know, there are brilliant genre filmmakers in Canada - most famously David Cronenberg - and I am such a big fan of Jason Eisener, Astron 6, and Jovanka Vuckovic's work. They are a real representation of the talent we have in Canada, not these sad family dramas that seem to be the only ones that get any support. For whatever reason, genre filmmaking has always been such a battle in Canada. I'm hoping the success of these filmmakers internationally will get it some more support at home. I would like to see a stronger cinematic national identity that embraces genre films here and more of a focus on celebrating Canadian made and Canadian talent-filled productions. The dream is to open our own studio where we self-finance our projects and consistently have projects with our teams coming out, eventually getting to the point where we can finance other artists works that we'd like to see get made.
By the by, we fucking adore Australia. Monster Pictures has been with us since our first film and they truly fight for their filmmakers. I loved getting to come to Australia, we're secretly plotting how to go back again.
Jen: It's thriving! We have some phenomenal talent up here and we are just in love with Astron-6. What they do and the way they do it is just unheard of. They're really changing the world with what they do. It's a basic human right to watch and own MANBORG.
You have promoted yourselves with a distinctive image and the horror fans are lapping it up. Is your public persona far removed from your own private lives?
Sylvia: Ha ha, we're a lot more bubbly than we appear in some of the images of us online. We're weird, we always have had a very strong interest in fashion and our lives revolved around horror, gaming, and comics. We never thought we would fit into anything because of our oddness. On set and at home, we're in high heels in our varga-inspired makeup. We didn't just like the characters we grew up loving, we wanted to be them. I guess it's very much our version of what a superhero would wear, just less spandex. It's nice that people are digging it - growing up we got teased like crazy.
Jen: The funny thing is that it isn't a shtick. People are surprised when they see us and we dress and act just like we do online or in interviews. We embrace who we are. I spent too much time in highschool wanting to be accepted until I realized that some people in this life are just going to hate you for no good reason and fuck them. It's a very important lesson. I dress and act and do what I do for me. Life is a show and we are in show business. I think the "show" quality has been severely lacking. We're trying to rectify that.
You recently visited Australia. Was it a culture shock for you?
Sylvia: Yes. I should have educated myself more on it other than Crocodile Hunter and CROCODILE DUNDEE. We started in Melbourne during the races. Everyone was dressed so fancy with those cute little hats, we thought there was like a million weddings going on at once. And it was winter and the weather was so hot and beautiful. The Monster folks, Neil, Ben, Zak, and Grant, were so kind to be stuck with us during our time there. We got to explore the country, meet so many people, and we were addicted to the real life horror stories of the country. I didn't know about the serial killers - it was so fascinating. No predatory animals and every bird was a fucking parrot. And the language, calling bikers 'bikies', so adorable, and sketchy situations is 'dodgy'. It's a magical place. I desperately want to go back.
Jen: It was hot. And kangaroos weren't just all over the place. I loved it! I LOVE Monster Pictures. They were so good to us. And the fans were cool as hell. Your minimum wage is much higher than ours. When I first say a burger for thirty bucks I asked if it was also going to have sex with me.
What was the highlight of your trip?
Sylvia: Actually meeting the people that have made this possible, the team at Monster and the people who have been watching the films. Seeing all those Aussie DEAD HOOKERS was amazing! We got to sit in the theatre and experience MARY with them for the first time - all the laughs, gasps, and walks outs. It was such an unreal special experience. I still can't believe how lucky I am to have this opportunity. Like how is this my life?
Jen: The people. No matter where we go, it's the people. Because of Monster Pictures giving DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK such an amazing release in both the UK and Australia, the fans were all fans back from DEAD HOOKER. I ask someone here if they've seen it and then either shrug or bullshit that they have. In Australia they all brought their copies for us to sign. When we asked audiences if they'd heard of it, they broke of in ravenous cheers. I cannot tell you how much that meant to us.
Do you enjoy Aussie cinema and if so, what are some of your favourite movies?
Sylvia: I really love WOLF CREEK and I'm very stoked about the sequel. Mick Taylor is a real personality in Australia. I got this cool bobblehead of him from Greg and every time we went through customs, they were all like - Do you know who that is? He's a really bad guy. And then they'd laugh knowingly. Of course, knowing about WOLF CREEK and traveling through foreign to us Australia, makes everything so much more terrifying. I think the statistic is that thirty thousand people go missing in the bush every year and 10% of those people are never found. Scary shit.
Jen: Same! WOLF CREEK is awesome! I really dig your real life serial killer stories. It's funny that those stories haven't really reached North America. Your serial killers make ours look like pussy cats.
Amongst other people you met and spent time with Greg McLean. What did you discuss?
Sylvia: Greg is a really cool guy, I'm so glad that he had time to meet us as he was just about to getting shooting on WOLF CREEK 2. His office is amazing with props and prosthetics from his films and this giant collection of comic books and action figures. He even has the Captain America comic where Cap punches Hitler. We have lots of similar interests, we're graphic novel nerds and love horror. We asked him a lot about the real horror in Australia that he drew inspiration on his films from. He's such a smart guy. We shared filmmaking stories - we have the same entertainment lawyer, Joel Vanderkloot - who is the best guy on the fucking planet, so we had to talk about how much we love him. I really love my lawyer - he's always fighting for us, I'm grateful to have him. That was actually how I was first introduced to Greg and his work by talking to Joel.
Jen: Greg is so cool! We hadn't seen WOLF CREEK at the time that we met him, but he was so sweet to give us each a copy, and ROGUE. We chatted about filmmaking, serial killers (again), comic books, and our lawyer that we all share and adore, Joel Vanderkloot. It was pretty much a love fest. I'm very excited for WOLF CREEK 2.
With a string of short films and two features under your belt, what’s next for the Soskas?
Sylvia: We were just announced as part of the ABCS OF DEATH 2, so we're really stoked about that. There's a couple projects that we're involved with that are coming up, as well as our third film which is a real monster. It's an original monster movie that we're teaming with Masters FX to bring something really unique to the table. The tagline is: There's a monster inside all of us, sometimes it gets out.
Jen: The monster movie is called BOB. It's going to heavily favor practical over CGI. It's a very right now story and it's a real passion project of ours. We've begun a lot of design and story boards for it. It's going to really kick the horror genre in the ass!