It’s been a long time since any horror filmmakers have emerged a voice as distinctive as Jen & Sylvia Soska’s. In just a few films, these “Twisted Twins” have already announced their presence as directors with a slick, gothic visual sensibility, fascinated by modern outsider culture – American Mary delved deep into the world of body modification – and now, in their new film See No Evil 2, an appreciation for old school slashers without a hint of cynicism or, what would be worse, irony.
And with their forthcoming foray into the world of superheroes – directing Painkiller Jane, the first solo female superhero movie in years (or, as Sylvia Soska argues, possibly ever) – we were of course eager to catch up with The Soska Sisters to learn why they were so excited to do See No Evil 2, particularly since the original isn’t very well remembered.
The Soska Sisters tell us a lot about their plans for the See No Evil and Painkiller Jane franchises, talk about their love for masturbatory cameos, and their passion for WWE.
See No Evil 2 is now available on VOD and Blu-ray, and comes recommended by CraveOnline.
CraveOnline: I wanted to follow up on something you said in our Comic-Con interview. You said that Jacob Goodnight was missing a few elements to make him an iconic horror villain. Were you referring to a mask and immortality?
Sylvia Soska: There were so many missed opportunities in the first film. Not that I don’t like it. It’s a b-schlock horror movie and for what it is, it was awesome. To me, it almost feels like a prequel to this series because it focuses so much on the mother and a little bit of the backstory that you don’t really get to experience Jacob Goodnight, really get to know him. We definitely wanted a definitive look, especially because he looked like he just came out from gardening in the first movie and that wasn’t very terrifying to me. I wanted him to have this very iconic, definitive look.
We had The Newton Brothers come on, and [now] he has his own theme song, which you see throughout. And it’s mixed with this beautiful orchestra when he starts getting his killing on. And his weapons! How does Jacob Goodnight’s murders differentiate from a Pinhead or a Freddy or a Jason? So that was a lot of fun, especially because… What Glenn Jacobs brings to the role, which no other person can, is he is huge. Literally, if he wasn’t the nicest guy on the planet he could kill us all very easily. he won’t even break a sweat.
Jen Soska: Also very much, from checking out the message boards too, as soon as we came on board the project we looked to see what people thought about the first film, because obviously we are the fan directors. We would never direct a film that we’re not actually fans of, and if we weren’t huge WWE fans I think we’d just leave [See No Evil 2] to somebody who cared more passionately about it.
Fortunately for us, there’s nobody who cares more about See No Evil and WWE than us. And the mask was something that came up again and again. People wanted to… Because he’s such a huge personality in the WWE, they needed a way to differentiate Kane, Glenn Jacobs and Jacob Goodnight, and I think the original Jacob Goodnight and Glenn Jacobs, they came together a little too closely. There was a little bit of Kane in there as well. It was so important for us to make him his own man and define him as a character.
Sylvia Soska: And that mask was pimp. It was designed by Masters Effects. They came back from American Mary and they worked on T is for Torture Porn in ABCs of Death . We wanted to have a mask that doesn’t cover his face, and we had to find something that would authentically be in a morgue. So we had this burn mask, which is actually clear, so you have this mask and it’s got some burned bits from the corpse he hacked it off from, but also you can see his performance throughout.
Speaking of his performance, you keep a bit from the previous film that got introduced at the end, where he still kills people but it seems like he’s a little conflicted about it.
Sylvia Soska: And that was one of the more interesting things because, if you think about it, it’s a story about an abused child. This is a character who was abused by his mother. He never really knew love. If he knew anything about sexuality during that sexual development of his, it was very sinful. He was tortured for it. He punished for it. So that’s the only world he really knew, and he’s a shut in. He never really knew the world. So he’s kind of tried to experience who he is while he is doing it, and then of course he’s overwrought with guilt because he does kill his mom.
Jen Soska: You see that reflected in the original one and our sequel as well. Jacob is, himself, confined. Yes, he has these traps in the environment with him but if you really look at it, Jacob is being held in the first one against his will by his mother, who’s overbearing, and it’s the only life that he’s ever known.
When he wakes up in See No Evil 2 he’s trapped again, so obviously he’s going to wake up in a bit of a pissed off mood and this is the first time you’ve seen Jacob acting out without his mother being overbearing, and forcing him into doing things. So he is really psychologically trying to figure himself out, and you do see him being conflicted in this film, and you do get to touch lightly on his psyche, but absolutely there is so much further that we can get into in the sequels.
Sylvia Soska: Yeah, there was a definite temptation to explain everything but we were like, we don’t want to reveal everything. We don’t want to reveal why this is happening or everything. He’s understanding it. He’s putting the pieces together, and we want to leave these elements because we really want to do [See No Evil] 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Because it picks up the day after the first movie. This should be like the craziest week ever, this psychopath just ripping through this city.
I know you don’t want to give everything away, but do you have an explanation in mind for why, I guess, God really likes Jacob Goodnight and doesn’t want him to die?
Jen Soska: Yes, absolutely. There is a reason, and we do… by the end of the film, if you watch the film and you pick up on all the subtle little hints in there…
Sylvia Soska: There’s little pieces of it. What we are doing now is somewhere putting together the third one and the fourth one, and getting those ideas together. Because there is a whole mythos to it, and we’ve watched so many slasher films we wanted to have that whole thing there.
“‘Oh, those must be the crazy chicks responsible for this.'”
You guys got your cameo out of the way really fast in this one. Was that always the plan, to show up as as couple of corpses?
Jen Soska: Well we really like surprising people, so we always want to do something different in everything, I don’t think that anybody really expected to see us there.
Sylvia Soska: It’s so masturbatory. Like, “Oh my god, everybody stop what you’re doing, the directors are having a cameo.” [But] we couldn’t pay anybody to torture themselves like that. We had no money. In American Mary we wanted to have this nice moment where you really kind of define what body modification is, and then we wanted to pull back because we had such an amazing cast on this. We wanted to just get it out of the way. Plus, it’s a nice introduction to people who don’t really know who Jennifer and I are, but they’re a WWE fan. You see that in the credits and you go, “Oh, those must be the crazy chicks responsible for this.”
Does that preclude you doing cameos in the sequels, then?
Jen Soska: Absolutely not. We’re shameless. I really love to see director cameos in films. Mostly because of Alfred Hitchcock, the way he kind of snuck himself into films. If we get to the point where I see a cameo of ourselves in one of our films and it feels overly indulgent, we’ll just stop doing them. But as long as people like seeing us in there and as long as it’s kind of an easter egg, it’s kind of putting our little stamp on there… so I really do enjoy doing it. And also you’ll see us always cameoing in our friends’ movies too. We cameo in Ricky Gates’s Suburban Gothic, we cameo in Steve Kostanski’s segment in ABCs of Death 2. We’re shameless cameo-ers.
Sylvia Soska: Yeah, we just got out of Zach Lipovski’s Dead Rising, and we’re covered in bruises from zombie-ing.
That’s cool. Did you get to kill anyone in that?
Sylvia Soska: Dude, if you played the game you are going to go nuts over the movie. They are going so over the top in staying with the gore and camerawork and everything. It’s so much fun.
One thing I love about your films is that you don’t just do a straight-up horror movie. You can interpret it that way if you want, but you always manage to fit little subversive things in there. I noticed that even before Jacob Goodnight starts killing people you managed to allude to necrophilia and incest, and I thought that was just great.
Sylvia Soska: [Laughs.]
Jen Soska: Oh, thank you so much. Also we very likely joked at a storyline from the WWE that was I believe the most controversial storyline, in which Triple H put on a Kane mask and he got into the coffin with, oh, I forgot her name…
Sylvia Soska: Katie Vick.
Jen Soska: Katie Vick, yeah. And that was one of the most groan-inspiring scenes on WWE. Like, you can’t do necrophilia with a… Oh god, it was just terrible. Kane is the divas’ favorite demon, and there is a venomous, vicious fan following of women who love him so much, so we had to get Katie on top of him, get him kissed. He’s a sex symbol. He’s just sexy.
Sylvia Soska: It’s always nice to turn off the expectations to something you wouldn’t normally see in there and just make it weird. “Weird” is somewhere Jennifer and I feel very comfortable, creatively.
Sylvia Soska: [Laughs.] Thank you!
You’re welcome. Speaking of Katherine Isabelle, is it possible she’s having too much fun in this movie, or did you have to modulate that somewhat? She’s fantastic in this.
Jen Soska: [Laughs.] It’s rare for Katie to get to be a funny character. This character was actually written just for Katie. It was a teenaged guy originally in the script. You know, after Ginger Snaps happened, we saw Katie playing this pissed off, I don’t give a shit, super-sultry teenaged girl for the longest time. And now with American Mary, you see her as Margot as well in “Hannibal.” And that’s amazing but there’s so many different sides to Katie. She’s a very chameleon-esque actress and we wanted to give her something different and fun to do.
And she’s also… this is a 1980’s-inspired slasher, but it’s also a very self-aware film. When she hides and says, “This is a terrible hiding spot!” I mean, that’s the audience saying, “Who hides there?!”
Sylvia Soska: When they’re running down the hallway and she says, “Don’t you have the keys?!” and he says, “Not for this area!” And it’s like, fuck, isn’t that always how it goes in these kinds of things? The worst shit.
“I’m not working for Marvel. It has to be an R-rated character.”
I assume you guys know that Katharine Isabelle would make an exceptional Painkiller Jane, right?
Jen Soska: Oh, absolutely. I am so excited about Painkiller Jane. I can’t actually tell you who is reading it right now but it’s one those things where it’s so important to find the right Jane, and Jane is going to be, like the script, right off the pages of the comic book. Tough as nails. The kind of woman that if you nudge [her] in a bar, you’re not trying to pick this one up. You’re going to buy her a new beer and go, “Oh my god, please don’t punch me in the face.”
How is that going? Are you dramatically rewriting the script since last we heard about it, or is it moving along apace?
Jen Soska: The script came [to us] perfect. It was written by Jimmy Palmiotti and his writing partner, Craig Weeden, and Jimmy is a phenomenal. He’s the co-creator of Painkiller Jane, so reading a script that’s by the creator, that’s exactly what he wants, is already a perfect script. I’ve never read a script that’s like, “Yeah, I could shoot it tomorrow. It’s already there.”
Sylvia Soska: It’s all like The Heat on crack. The dirtiest language and crudest comedy and hardcore violence, and yet at the same time, it somehow has heart. I think [once] you’ve seen it, a whole village will be built around Jane, and that’s why it’s so important to find her. This isn’t even planned as a standalone film. We’re planning at least two more of these.
Are you thinking of this as a potentially R-rated movie, or will this have to be PG-13 to reach the right crowd?
Jen Soska: I’m not working for Marvel. It has to be an R-rated character. I would love to see Marvel do Marvel MAX movies, where you do The Punisher for kids and then you do The Punisher as The Punisher. Because when you come to a character like Jane, she drinks, she fights, she fucks, she talks like you and I talk, and that’s an important part of her character. That’s why we’d be really disappointed if that ended up being a PG or a PG-13 film because if you look at the character… Kids are reading this kind of content. I mean, when I was a kid I was reading The Punisher. I was reading all this kind of stuff. I think people discredit kids and what they’re capable of tolerating. So Jane has to be true to the character and it’s got to be an R. We can’t tone it down or we’d tone Jane out of the entire script.
Sylvia Soska: And this is the third shot. There’s a Made-for-TV movie, there’s a TV series, and they kept watering her down, watering her down, watering her down. Jen and I are not going to let that happen, and Jimmy Palmiotti – who is also one of the producers – he’s not going to let that happen. The producers of this movie they’re all… There are some scenes in this movie, there’s no way they’re not going to slap us with an R. Once you see it, it’s going to just be batshit crazy. I’m so excited about it because there are so few female superheroes that are leading movies. It would be obvious [to] put Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in something, and you’re still not doing that. And then you get this bi-sexual, badass, dirty language, doesn’t give a fuck cop as the first female-starring [superhero] movie? And I don’t really include Elektra and Catwoman. I don’t think those are real movies. It’s just exciting to see that girl fucking kick ass, and if that makes money, then all those all those other girls, hopefully, will get there chances to be starring [in their own] movies too.