The sins that people inadvertently commit in their youth can become the main source of tension between family members, which can lead them to become estranged and unable to resolve their differences. But as they mature and face even more challenging conflicts, relatives may choose to overcome their problems, as they need unconditional support. That’s certainly the case with the mother and daughter lead characters in the new supernatural horror film, ‘Don’t Knock Twice.’ The thriller focuses on Katee Sackhoff and Lucy Boynton’s characters, who have just reunited as a parent and child after spending years apart, as they have both realized that in order to solve their problems, they’re stronger together than on their own.
The drama was written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler, and directed by Caradog James. IFC Midnight has released the horror film in select theaters and on VOD and HD Digital platforms this weekend.
‘Don’t Knock Twice’ follows follows teen Chloe (Boynton) and her boyfriend, Danny (Jordan Bolge), who decide to knock on the door of a an abandoned house. A local legend states that a witch haunts the house, after the woman who used to live there committed suicide. The myth that surrounds the house soon proves to be true, as Chloe and Danny are quickly targeted by the witch. After Danny then mysteriously disappears, Chloe, who has been living in the foster care system for years, decides to track down her biological mother, Jess (Sackhoff), and ask her for help.
Jess was forced to give up custody of her daughter when Chloe was younger, due to Jess’ inability to care for Chloe as a child. After struggle with substance abuse as a young mother, Jess is now a successful sculptor who’s married to a lawyer, Ben (Javier Botet), and has the financial and emotional means to care for Chloe again. While Jane is initially apprehensive about her daughter’s tale of being hunted by the ghost, Jess will do whatever it takes to finally prove that she can protect her child from harm.
Sackhoff generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘Don’t Knock Twice’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was drawn to play Jess in the supernatural horror film, as she not only enjoys the emotional and physical scares that drive genre projects, but she also appreciated how Jess is determined to repair her relationship with her daughter. She also mentioned how she valued working with James as a director, as he had a clear vision on how he wanted to bring Jess and Chloe’s strained relationship to the screen.
The Saturn Award-winning actress initially discussed what she found so appealing about the character of Jess, as well as the overall screenplay, and what convinced her to take on the role. “The script was sent to me, and I read it as a horror film the first time I looked at it. It was a very quick read.
“I then read it a second time, and instead read it as the mother-daughter relationship, which was something I was drawn to,” Sackhoff explained. “At the heart of the story is that relationship. It also focuses on the mistakes this woman made when she was very young. She was old enough to know better, but was still very young,” the performer mentioned with a laugh.
Jess “then spent the next 15 years trying to rectify those decisions and mistakes. I can relate to that struggle of making a mistake, and then trying to right it,” .Sackhoff admitted. “I think everyone can understand that struggle.”
When the actress then spoke with Caradog, she “realized that was the primary focus of his story. He really wanted to focus on the mother-daughter relationship. So that’s when I really decided to sign on” to the movie.
“There’s a difference between this mother-daughter relationships and the typical connection. This is a woman who’s child was taken away from her when she was very young, so they don’t have a relationship,” Sackhoff disclosed. “This isn’t a normal acting piece where you wanted to work on the familiarity, because these two don’t have it. So it was better for us to play it as strangers.”
Since Jess and Chloe’s relationship was strained, Sackhoff revealed that she and Boynton didn’t rehearse together. “We both had individual time with Caradog, but we also hung out a little bit together.” The two actresses didn’t have too much time to spend together, however, because they had such hectic schedules while making ‘Don’t Knock Twice.’ The lead performer divulged that she and her co-star only “saw each other twice outside of work over the month” they were filming. Sackhoff felt that not having much socialization with Boynton made it easier for them to “not be as comfortable and familiar with each other, since we didn’t have a relationship, and didn’t know of each other before the project.”
In addition to collaborating with Boynton on the supernatural film, Sackhoff also worked with James on developing the character of Jess and the overall story. “Caradog had a very clear vision of what he was trying to create the entire time. From an actor’s perspective, it was about making sure that you adequately understand what’s going on in someone’s brain, so that you can make it a reality,” she explained. “We had to communicate that with each other, and try to find what he’s looking for. So for the most part, it was just about really listening to him, and understanding what he was trying to create.”
The actress added that as far as her character of Jess, “the only thing that (Caradog) truly focused on was having her be vulnerable. He actually would have preferred for her to be even more vulnerable. But that was the main thing for him-he wanted her to feel like the shell of herself.”
Since she is so vulnerable, Jess is initially apprehensive of her daughter’s story about being targeted by the witch, as she hopes to healthily rebuild their relationship. Sackhoff described the process of initially showing Jess as being suspicious of Chloe’s story, before realizing she’s right about being targeted. “I think Jess doesn’t truly believe Chloe at first. But I think that she does see that her child, who she truly loves, is struggling with something,” the performer noted.
“I think Jess’ perspective during most of the film is that Chloe is struggling with a mental illness. Jess is worried that she potentially created this in her child, due to the circumstances in which she raised her and then lost her,” Sackhoff further revealed. “I think that for the majority of the film, that’s what she’s thinking. She’s there to help her daughter combat any struggles she’s having, emotionally and mentally.”
Jess does fell some regret over losing custody of Chloe when she was a child, Sackhoff also revealed. “A parent’s worst fear is that their child is in pain, and they can’t fix it. She has so much guilt over what happened when she was younger, in the sense that she didn’t give up her child, but her child was taken away from her, because of the choices she was making,” the performer explained. “She was a child who was trying to raise a child.”
The actress and the horror film’s director also spoke about how Jess wants to take care of her daughter, but doesn’t know the best approach she should take, despite the fact that she has changed since she last had custody of Chloe. “The main conclusion that Caradog came to was that this woman had been working for almost 15 years to get her child back. So she’s not going to give up,” Sackhoff noted.
“There may be a tiny moment where she hears outside voices in her head that are telling her that she can give up if she wants to. So in that sense, it becomes an option. But I don’t that Jess ever fully thinks or believes that she’ll ever up on Chloe,” she added.
Doing her own stunts, and creating the physicality for Jess, was also something that the performer embraced while she filmed ‘Don’t Knock Twice.’ While Boynton performed the majority of the stunts in the drama, Sackhoff was eager to work on that aspect of her character, as she “wanted to make everything look real. (Jess) is a mom who wanted to save her kid.”
In addition to work on Jess’ physicality, Sackhoff also worked with James on Jess’ look, particularly through her costumes and make-up. “My hair was cut a lot. Since she’s an artist, Caradog wanted her to have a hairstyle that was more of a choice, rather than my long blond hair.
“As far as the make-up was concerned, I didn’t believe that she would wear make-up at all. So for most of the film, I don’t have much on at all. The crew lit my scenes in such a way that while I was watching the film, I realized that Jess also represents a witch, in a sense, to Chloe. They lit me in a way that was quite ugly, and I think that served the film very well,” the actress divulged.
Sackhoff also discussed the experience of shooting the horror thriller independently. While making indie films, “Your days are usually harder, as there’s a lot more in them. You shoot faster, and you don’t necessarily have the luxuries you would have on bigger films. It always makes me laugh when I talk to my boyfriend (her ‘Riddick’ co-star, actor Karl Urban) and he’s making a movie, and they shoot three pages a day, and that’s a lot for them. On TV, we shoot 11 pages, and on indie films, we shot 12 pages a day,” the performer noted with a laugh. “You’re cramming a lot in with very little money.”
One of the reasons why Sackhoff trusted James while they shot ‘Don’t Knock Twice’ was that she watched his previous film, the 2013 sci-fi action drama, ‘The Machine,’ which was also shot independently. “It was a great movie. I figured if they could make that movie with no money, then they can pretty much make any movie with no money,” she stated as she praised the filmmaker’s work. “One of the main things with indie films is that you have to trust your director. You don’t have the time or luxury to slow down.”
‘Don’t Knock Twice’ is set in several distinct locations, including the mansion Jess shares with her husband, as well as the abandoned house where the witch supposedly resides. Being an independent film, the supernatural drama was shot in real locations. “The movie was shot in Wales. We shot most of the film in a town that’s out in the middle of nowhere. It took us about an hour to get to the big house” that Jess and Ben live in.
“For me, being on location makes life, and work, a lot easier. If I’m at home, or when I shoot ‘Longmire’ in Santa Fe, I bring my life there. You have life responsibilities to take care of, even while you’re working. So responsibilities come with the work,” Sackhoff explained.
“But when you’re on location, you just have to take care of yourself and your job. So in that sense, it makes work easier. But you also have to combat missing home. But as an actor, I’m used to that,” the actress added.
Further speaking of working on such series as ‘Longmire’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ Sackhoff also noted that “I find television and film to be completely different. The thing I like least about working on films is how slow they move. Even indie films move slow, compared to TV. So I find myself bored on (movie) sets a lot, and I try to find ways to move the ship up,” she divulged with a laugh. “So one of the things I’ve had to learn about film is that you do spend a lot of time waiting around, and on television, you don’t; television moves incredibly fast,” the performer admitted.
“I also find that with film, you give it everything you’ve got, and then you leave it on the floor. You shoot for a month to three months, for the most part, and you don’t play that character again, unless it’s a franchise,” Sackhoff also explained.
But with most of her television roles, the actress acknowledged that she’s “been lucky enough that they’ve run for more than five years. So it’s a slower burn, and you have more time to get to know the character.”
With ‘Don’t Knock Twice’ now playing in theaters and on VOD and HD Digital, Sackhoff feels that the VOD platform is beneficial for independent films. “As a culture, we’re so over saturated with entertainment choices. A lot of times, going to see a film in the theater isn’t economically feasible. If you want to bring your whole family to see a movie, it can be over $100. It’s gotten to place where going to the theater is a luxury, instead of the norm, for the majority of people,” she pointed out.
“So what VOD provides is the ability to sit in your own home and watch a movie with your own snacks. You can also pause the movie to do other things. My mom hates going to the theater; it’s not something that she enjoys. She loves watching films, but she doesn’t like the theater experience. So VOD provides an alternate way for people like her to watch movies. Having the film be released on both platforms always people to decide how they can watch it,” the performer also noted.
As an actress, Sackhoff finds starring in roles in such genre projects as ‘Don’t Knock Twice,’ ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ ‘Riddick’ and ‘Oculus’ appealing, and she plans on doing more of them in the future. “For the most part, I like to pick roles in projects that my dad and I would like to watch. My dad gave me my love of film. So I’m drawn to genre movies, because that’s what we like to watch,” she revealed.
“From an actor’s perspective, genre roles aren’t boring,” Sackhoff added with a laugh. “When you do genre projects, it’s like you’re an athlete. I was an athlete before I became an actor. So for me, the physicality that goes into a lot of genre piece is what attracts me to it.”
Watch the official trailer for ‘Don’t Knock Twice’ below.