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Interview: Jen and Sylvia Soska Talk See No Evil 2 (Exclusive)

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Interview: Jen and Sylvia Soska Talk See No Evil 2 (Exclusive)

Fearlessly pursuing your highest aspirations in an effort to fulfill your true desires and define your personality can be an ever-increasing daunting task. The new horror film ‘See No Evil 2,’ which is now available on VOD, Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVD, effortlessly showcases the natural filmmaking skills of co-directors Jen and Sylvia Soska, as they set out to prove their distinctive story-telling talents. The twin helmers passionately stop at nothing to incorporate their unique goals and personalities into their movies, which brilliantly allowed the series’ murderous antagonist, Jacob Goodnight, to terrifyingly indulge in his need for revenge.

‘See No Evil 2,’ which is set later on the same night of the events that occurred in its predecessor, 2006’s ‘See No Evil,’ follows morgue attendant Amy (Danielle Harris), who is forced to cancel her birthday plans after the corpses of mass murder Jacob Goodnight’s (WWE wrestler Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs) victims are brought into the morgue. She instead celebrates her birthday with her colleagues, Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) and Holden (Michael Eklund), before the three begin contending with the aftermath of the murderer’s brutal rampage. Since Amy was forced to cancel her plans to instead go to work, her friends, including her overprotective brother, Will (Greyston Holt), and Tamara (Katharine Isabelle), show up at the city morgue hoping to surprise her.

But the shock is on Amy and all of her friends when the ruthless killer unexpectedly rises from his gurney in the sub-basement level of the hospital that houses the morgue. The group’s wild party quickly turns into a terrifying slay-fest as the sadistic mass-murderer resumes his savage rampage with hooks, surgical knives and power saws.

The Soska Sisters generously took the time recently to talk about directing ‘See No Evil 2′ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the filmmakers discussed the reasons why they were drawn to co-helm the follow-up, including being fans of Jacobs’ action and stunt work in the WWE and the original movie, and how they want to make a film in every subgenre of horror; how they wanted to have a strong supporting cast of capable female characters, who Harris, Isabelle and the other actresses captivatingly brought to the screen, as the directors want to get rid of disposable women in movies; and how they rightfully want to avoid being stereotyped into repeatedly making the same types of projects throughout the rest of their careers.

ShockYa (SY): You co-directed the new horror sequel, ‘See No Evil 2,’ together. What was it about the project and script that drew you both to co-helm the film? How did you become involved in the project?

Jen Soska (JS): Well, Sylvia and I are huge wrestling fans, and we started watching back when the WWE was still the WWF. In fact, the first day we started watching it, The Undertaker was talking about his brother, Kane, just as the character was being introduced. From the moment we started watching wrestling, we were hooked; we were so in love with it. So for the opportunity to work with Lionsgate and the WWE, as well as one of our favorite wrestlers, really drew us in.

We also love horror, and have wanted to work in every subgenre inside of it. So to be able to create our version of this masked man, who’s a horror icon in a slasher film was an incredible opportunity brought to us by the studios.

Sylvia Soska (SS): During many of the meetings we took after we made ‘American Mary,’ people wanted us to recreate that movie. They wanted us to make films that starred Katie (Isabelle) again as a sexy doctor or surgeon who’s involved in torture. I was like, “We just made that movie!” So when Lionsgate and WWE gave us the opportunity to do something more, we jumped at the opportunity. It was amazing, because not everyone gets that chance to do something like this.

SY: Speaking of Kane, he reprised his role of killer Jacob Goodnight from the original film. What was your experience of working with him on the sequel?

SS: The poor dear-we fangirled over him so hard when he came into our office. I think it’s actually on the DVD extras, because our DP (Director of Photography, Mahlon Todd Williams) decided to film it. We had to calm ourselves down, because we were so excited to work with him. He’s so articulate, intelligent and hard-working. No one could have done what he did physically. He brought this element that elevated the entire project.

JS: It was really a dream come true to work with one of your heroes; it was incredible. He went in as Kane fans, and left as Glenn Jacobs fans. Not only is Glenn an amazing human being, he’s also so intelligent and talented. He’s so wonderful to work with.

Not only do these WWE superstars work almost every day of the year, but on the days they’re not working, they’re doing charitable events. They’re also overseas, entertaining the troops and sick kids. They’re truly the best people in the world. (WWE) is an amazing corporation.

SY: The film features a diverse cast of horror veteran actors, including Danielle Harris and Katharine, who you previously worked with on ‘American Mary.’ What was the casting process like for the main cast?

JS: We were so fortunate. When ‘See No Evil 2? was first announced, Danielle actually got in touch with us, and told us she wanted to act in it. We’re just huge fans of hers, and have watched her since she was a little girl, when she was being chased by psychopaths and murdering people. I absolutely adore her. So as we were sitting across from her, I couldn’t believe our good fortune that she wanted to work on the movie. I’m so glad that it worked out, and we were able to collaborate. This was the first time Danielle and Katie had ever worked together, and that was super surprising.

We also wanted to have a nice lineup of strong female characters. We were also fortunate to have cast Chelan (Simmons), because she started as a little girl in ‘It,’ and she was also in ‘Tucker and Dale vs. Evil’ and ‘Final Destination 3’ as an adult.

SS: It was such a pleasure to take on the stereotypes you normally see in slasher films and turn them on their head. We wanted to reflect the modern woman.

JS: That’s also really cool. The studio hired us because they wanted us to use our feminist styles and sensibilities in the film.

SS: There’s also such a talented pool of actors in Vancouver. We held auditions to find the rest of the actors, and there were a lot of them who were already aware about.

Kaj-Erik Eriksen is another amazing former child actor. From the moment I met him, I hugged him, and I don’t hug people who are strangers off the street. But he totally has that energy that totally puts you at ease. He’s such a likable guy, and he works so hard. He’s an incredible performer.

I have to mention one of my favorite actors, Michael Eklund. We also reunited with him on our next film, ‘Vendetta.’ I call him the Canadian Daniel Day-Lewis, because there’s nothing that Michael can’t do. Much like Katie, every time we start a new movie, I ask, “What’s the role going to be for Michael Eklund?”

JS: He was only available for three days. We wrote the role of Holden for him, just so we could have him for those few days.

SY: While Kane plays the main character in the movie, many of the supporting characters are female. Is incorporating strong women into your stories an important aspect of your filmmaking?

JS: Oh yes, absolutely. We’re probably failed actresses, and I remember there were so many auditions I would go on for roles. I just wanted to work, and it wasn’t something I was excited and passionate about.

I think we’re in a day-and-age where there’s no excuse for writing disposable characters. There’s no excuse for not having a reason for what you’re doing and saying, especially for women. I can’t tolerate it every time I see a one-dimensional female character, it actually insults me. I just want to fix it and make it better. I think a lot of people have that feeling. I think you’re seeing in a lot of cinema now that the modern woman is being reflected more on the screen.

SS: I really do feel like we have that responsibility. A lot of people make films feminist, just because they have female characters, like the ‘Twilight’ series. I think there was a major missed opportunity there. Just because you have a lead character whose female, doesn’t mean that it’s empowering or feminist.

SY: The movie is the follow-up to the 2006 slasher film, ‘See No Evil.’ How familiar were you with the original movie before you signed on to direct the sequel? How did the first movie influence the way you approached making the second film?

SS: Oh yes, definitely. We’re huge nerds, and we saw it in the theater back in 2006, when it first came out. But Jen and I have more of an art house and European influence to our work. So I almost feel as though that film is almost a prequel to our movie, because it sets up a little information about Jacob Goodnight. But it’s mostly his mother whose the instigator, and she dies at the end of that film. So this movie is almost a reinvention of Jacob. He’s coming into his own and figuring things out, particularly in what he wants to do.

JS: It was very important to us to pay the proper tribute to the original film. When you’re working on a sequel, who have to look at what worked for the first movie, as well as some of the missed opportunities, which we capitalized on. We also redesigned the way Jacob looked, and also gave him theme music. We also gave him an array of weapons, which offered him a variety of ways to kill people.

This film was very much inspired by the 1980s, and is a love letter to the slasher films of that decade. You can really tell that with the tone, cinematography, lighting and score that we used throughout.

SY: You wrote and directed several of your previous films together, including ‘American Mary.’ How did only helming ‘See No Evil 2’ compare and contrast to penning and directing your earlier projects? Do you take a different approach to the way you make your films when you only direct them?

SS: Well, the writers, Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby, had an excellent script. They’re very much in our sensibilities, particularly with the kind of kills we like. It was a very collaborative process, and they gave us a great jumping off point. Then we started pushing each other, and started asking each other, “What if we do this?”

Then when Glenn and Danielle signed on to the film, they also had a collaborative input into their characters. Danielle is so utterly fascinating, we were like, let’s put more Danielle into this Amy role she’s playing. So I don’t think I could ever get a script and think, “Oh, that’s good enough for me.” Jen and I are just born collaborators, and are always used to working as a team.

JS: We don’t have any tunnel vision with our work; we obsess over it. I’m so thankful to the WWE for allowing us to be so creatively involved in the movie. When you’re watching the film, you’re definitely going to see a lot of our sensibilities. There are lines and jokes in the film that will make audiences think, “Oh, that’s so the Soska sisters!”

SY: Speaking of collaborating on the film, were you able to have any rehearsal time with the actors, or discuss their characters’ backstories and relationships, before you began shooting the movie?

SS: It was absolutely wonderful. The first 15 minutes is like a John Hughes movie. You meet these people and fall in love with them, and form a connection with them. You legitimately start to like them, and you’re put into a false sense of security. As soon as you love them, you’re reminded that it’s a slasher film. (laughs) You’re also reminded that things are going to go to a very dark place.

I think I had a much easier time than our cast did, as they were literally running for their lives. There’s not one of them who didn’t go all for it. Poor Kaj smashed his hand, fell on his shoulder and twisted his ankle, and he was still going. Danielle is a true amazon. If I were actually being chased by a masked man, I would go hide behind her. I don’t think there’s anything that woman can’t handle.

JS: To be able to collaborate with horror icons and royalty like Danielle is a dream come true. She’s also a filmmaker herself, and grew up doing this. She was so collaborative to work with, and we’d say, “Okay Danielle, here’s the scene, so let’s talk about it. What are you feeling, and how’s this dialogue for you?” She’d go into a room and say, “Girls, I can go out there. As we were watching, you knew I could have gone out there.” So thank you, Danielle.

SY: What was the process of creating the action sequences for ‘See No Evil 2?’ Did the actors perform their own stunts for the film?

SS: Jen and I have a different relationship with the actors. I like to send them out there and torture them. They were good to good, and very excited to do their own stunts. I think we only had two stunt performers who came in as doubles, because there were things that actually risked killing them. For some reason, if you have a few more days to shoot with somebody, you can’t risk killing your cast. (laughs) They were utterly phenomenal, and so good together.

JS: If I could just slightly touch on Glenn’s physical ability, there’s no stuntman who’s made of the same proportions that he is; he’s such a massive guy. (Performing stunts) is what he does professionally for a living (in the WWE). He’s an incredibly talented performer and an incredible athlete. So that’s one of the things that came into the script. We thought, he’s an incredibly powerful guy, so let’s really show off how strong he is. The stunts Glenn did on his own in the film looked great, because he’s just so used to it from his job in the WWE.

The other actors really got into it, too, when they were running around, and their characters were fighting for their lives. When the actors perform their stunts, it really gets the adrenaline pumping, and it keeps them more in the moment.

SS: It was such a blessing to have Glenn, because he does these stunts every day. So it’s so safe for him, because he knew the precautions he had to take. He knows his own strength, and how to take a guy and throw him across the room, and have that person be safe enough for them to do the take six or seven more times.

JS: We had an incredible stunt coordinator, Kimani Ray Smith, who came onto the project and made sure everything was so safe and organized. The fights in the film, not that I’m going to spoil that there are fights…

SS: …There are fights in the film! (laughs)

JS: There are some pretty epic fights in the film. (laughs) They’re so beautiful, it’s like watching a symphony.

SY: ‘See No Evil 2’ is (currently available) on Video on Demand. Are you both personally fans of watching movies On Demand. Do you think the platform is beneficial to independent and smaller films overall?

SS: I think it’s a very cool way to get films into your home immediately, but we would love to go see every film in the theater. We were really excited that the film had its world premiere at Screamfest. But we can’t always get to the theater to see a movie, and sometimes I have to wait weeks to go. So there’s a great opportunity with VOD that lets you think, I’ve got two hours-what do I want to see? It’s there On Demand, so I can watch it.

JS: I think cinema has evolved and changed a lot, and we want it to be more interactive and easily available. It’s so rare now that people go out to the theaters, and you’re seeing platforms like Netflix having a real resurgence right now. Netflix has exclusive programming, and all these other things that are keeping people home to watch films and television shows at their convenience.

SY: Like you mentioned earlier, you’re also co-directing the upcoming action film, ‘Vendetta,’ which is currently finishing its post-production, and is set to be released next year. How did you both decide to make the transition into the action genre, after previously working on so many horror films?

SS: It was so exciting, as we’ve always had stunts in everything we’ve done. I have to say, killing people and doing stunts on screen are two of our favorite things. I have to give props to Michael Luisi, who’s the head of WWE Studios. He believed in us when he had this project. He said, “Girls, I think this project would be perfect for you. It’s this hard-core, tough-as-nails prison revenge film, starring Paul Wight, Dean Cain and Michael Eklund.

If you told me two weeks before we went to camera that Dean Cain is the baddest mother-f*cker I’ll ever work with, I probably would have laughed at you. We’re all so used to seeing him in these wholesome, ‘Superman’-type roles, in which he’s so charming. But he went to such a dark, scary and insane place. Watching him rip people apart was amazing. He had at least one coordinated stunt fight a day, and his physicality was amazing. Twenty minutes of the movie just shows him ass-kicking and committing murder. If I wasn’t working on these movies, I would be in the front line, wanting to see them.

JS: Being identical twins and failed actresses, we’re no strangers to typecasting. We’re already fighting typecasts in our careers. After (writing and directing the 2009 horror film) ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk,’ people thought we only make grindhouse, independent films. After ‘American Mary,’ everyone just wanted surgical body horror from us.

But the WWE has seen something in us, and we’re grateful for the opportunities they have given us. Nobody else would have given us an action film; everyone would say, “Oh, they’re horror filmmakers.” I can’t even get in the room to direct a superhero movie, which is insane, because I love comic books and video games.

I don’t see Sylv and I just locking ourselves into one genre, but I do absolutely love horror. But does that mean I don’t want to do a Christmas movie, a raunchy comedy or even a kids movie, even? No, it doesn’t-I absolutely love cinema and filmmaking. So I don’t think there’s a genre that we wouldn’t try. But I have to say, we love making action movies. They’re a lot like making horror movies, except you don’t have to be as emotionally connected to your victims, and you can kill a lot more people.

Interview: Jen and Sylvia Soska Talk See No Evil 2 (Exclusive)

Written by: Karen Benardello

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As a life-long fan of entertainment, particularly films, television and music, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic. While still attending college, Karen began writing for Shockya during the summer of 2007, when she began writing horror movie reviews. Since she began writing for Shockya, Karen has been promoted to the position of Senior Movies & Television Editor. Some of her duties in the position include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, producing posts on celebrity news and contributing reviews on albums and concerts. Some of her highlights include attending such festivals and conventions as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, the Boston Film Festival and New York Comic-Con.

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