If WiHM has a mascot other than that delightful girl with the scythe, then surely it’s the Soska Sisters. Over the past four years, Jen and Sylvia Soska have emerged as the movement’s diplomats, cheerleaders, and heads-of-state, all rolled into one (two?) charismatic packages. With an exuberance and vivacity that just might actually be infectious (I’m still waiting on word back from the CDC), the Twisted Twins have become not just the face of WiHM but the face of the entire women in horror cause célèbre. When they haven’t been terrorizing hapless contestants on GSN’s Hellevator, the past two years have seen them acting as goodwill ambassadors for women in horror and facilitators extraordinaire, both providing a welcoming face to the movement and aiding female filmmakers from around the world in meeting, networking, and exchanging ideas. If Hannah Neurotica is the Andy Warhol of the women in horror world, then the Soskas are on their way to becoming its’ Roger Cormans—notable just as much for their own output as for the other creative minds they’ve nurtured and discovered.
And their positive impact stretches beyond just the realm of women in horror. In a lot of ways, I have to count myself among those upon whom the Soskas have had a positive impact. A story I wrote for Rue Morgue on See no Evil 2 was my first feature-length article for the magazine, and led to my being considered a capable writer of extended pieces. It was an article made possible by the sisters’ invitation to interview them at Fantastic Fest 2014, extended to me after attempts at a phone interview fell through due to scheduling conflicts. More profoundly, a side conversation between Jen and I about Hungarian swear words proved to be the profane catalyst I needed to break a years-long writer’s block, leading directly to my novel Our Lady of the Inferno. In many ways, without the Soskas, I wouldn’t be where I am right now, and for that I’m eminently grateful.
So it is that it’s always a joy to have the opportunity to speak with them. After chatting with them in January about the annual Massive Blood Drive PSA, I explained the CineDump Women in Horror Month extravaganza to them, and they were gracious enough to agree to participate. So it is without further rambling that I welcome back to CineDump the talented Twisted Twins.
Preston Fassel: Where do you get your inspiration?
Sylvia Soska: Oh wow. You know, almost everything I ever write is just for Jen’s amusement…
Jen Soska: (laughs)
SS: …and I’m so lucky that I guess there must be some part of people in their dark psyche that is similar to what would amuse Jen. Like we even make up—we’ll swap lines, everything we’re gonna write, and then we divvy up each scene what the other is going to do. And then you just kind of step a little off just so you can see what the other person is gonna do when they sit down at the laptop. Or, if I get her to laugh, I know it’s good, or if I get her to go, “Oh! What am I supposed to do after that?” Then I got her good. (laughs)
JS: I can absolutely attest to that. But in addition to that, not just film and television inspire us, but books and video games and comic books. I really feel that some of the best stories in the world are told in video games and comic books, and unfortunately it’s just not a medium that everybody enjoys. So I kind of feel like I’m Tarantino-ing it, and stealing these moments that people maybe don’t even know it’s literature or y’know video games and kind of sneaking it in there. Gamers always call me on it. They’ll say, “Oh, is that from Silent Hill?” Yeah. Totally.
SS: Yeah, it’s pretty obvious when we borrow from video games. (laughs)
PF: Where do you see the future of women in horror, with the strides that are currently being made and the strides that have been made in the past several years?
SS: I think it is definitely going to get better, but at the same time I see people opening these companies, they say it’s all female-centric, and they’re gonna get female directors, female writers, female producers, and even if they do, it’s almost like the same thing that’s going on in Hollywood. They’re just hiring their friends. Like, I don’t see too many people—OK, like, someone like Jill Sixx. I’m surprised someone just hasn’t come with a big bag of money, just dropped it down next to her, and said, “I want The Stylist as a feature film.” To me, that is a no-brainer. Oh my God. That would be so amazing. But at the same time, you don’t see those kinds of opportunities. But then again, if you look at women like Jill Sixx, they go out of their way to make those opportunities happen for them. So, I don’t think so much the structure of Hollywood is going to change that much as people are infiltrating it with their work and their unique stories, and I think they’re gonna get better at what they do and it’s going to be so undeniable.
JS: I agree with what Syl said. I also feel that there is a lot of attention on equality, whether it’s between genders or races or anything and I don’t know if things are switching over, if there are equal opportunities being presented to everyone regardless of if they’re male, female, black, white, whatever, but there is a lot of attention on it, and there is a lot of focus on it. It’s kind of how people say, you think we live in a more horrible world than we did a hundred years ago. Yes or no, we do have a lot more attention on it. Like on Twitter. Everyone walks around with a phone/video camera. I mean, the fact that we had a women’s march—and people are actually saying, “what’re women upset about?” It’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that we still live in a world where people are, “women are equal enough.” No! We’re not equal enough! We need to be absolutely equal, and hopefully that’s going to be something that changes with our generation. Our big dream for Women in Horror Month is for people to eventually come to February and be, like, “Why do we even have Women in Horror Month?” Everyone loves women! Women get equal opportunities. And we’ll be all, “Well, back in the day, women didn’t really get appreciated for what they did. Directors like Alice Guy-Blaché, they didn’t even say that she did any kind of work on any of the 700 films that she had.”
SS: And it’s funny because I remember similar questions back at the very first Women in Horror Month, and now it’s eight years—I don’t know. Maybe I’m a little impatient. I thought it would go faster than it has, but I’m really grateful for the event, because it put a spotlight on so many other talented women around the world. So it’s the least I can do to celebrate them and get their names out there as much as I can.
PF: What changes have you seen over the course of your own careers?
JS: They definitely will see a woman, even if there’s a lot of meetings, just because there’s so much pressure of, “how many women directors did you talk to? Did you just talk to all your guy director buddies that get the jobs over and over again?” At least women are getting in there. I know that for just about every horror remake you can think of, we’ve been in for a meeting. ‘Cause, y’know, there’s two women. That totally hits the quota.
SS: I have seen it change significantly just because of the spotlight on it. For example, Dead Hooker in a Trunk. We sent that movie everywhere. We wasted so much money on festival fees, and nobody would show it. And then Women in Horror Month happened, the first one, and we had two screening. One in the UK and one in Texas. And that gave us an audience, and that changed it so much for us. I know that there’s a lot of women filmmakers involved with Women in Horror Month, some people that are newer to what they’re doing, some who have been doing it for a number of years, and it’s always a good way for people to be like, “Oh, I didn’t know she was doing that! That’s so cool!” For example, Isabel Peppard, she’s an Australian filmmaker who specializes in prosthetics. She makes stop motion puppets for her films. Those are amazing! If it wasn’t for Women in Horror Month, I wouldn’t ever know she existed.
JS: I also see a lot more embracing of WiHM. The first year especially, and the next year after, there was a lot of critiquing: “Why do women need this? It’s also Black History Month!” It doesn’t make it NOT Black History Month. There’s only twelve months. You have to pick one, right? We thought February would be the easiest. It’s romantic, and that’s associated with ladies. And it’s only 28 days! You can’t get mad at us for claiming 28 days!
SS: “They” can get mad at anything.
JS: Yeah, they can. (laughs)
PF: Where do you see yourselves in the future?
SS: We spent a big portion of last year staying in Los Angeles and just going for meeting after meeting after meeting. Something that I usually don’t do, something that we did when we were first starting out. But we wanted to make sure that we had a good opportunity and a good foundation for the next year. Jennifer and I have been working very hard to go into television. I love filmmaking but at the same time, with television series, you get to stay with your characters longer, you get to go through your stories longer, and that’s something that’s a little bit more interesting to us at this point. There’s a few things that are absolutely fucking HUGE that we have set up, and if even one of them turns out, this is probably gonna be the best year we’ve ever had. But at the same time, I’m cautiously optimistic because I’ve been attached to some pretty big movies.
SS: And then it didn’t’ work out for me… but they did use my name to publicize it for a while. It was one of those kind of things were you live and you learn. But I’m really excited about the next thing that we do. Jen and I have learned a lot in these last few years, and I’m really excited for what our product is like when we’re like this.
JS: I would love to be running a studio in the future, maybe one that exists, maybe one of our own making. But I think given our independent risk, Syl and I have an eye for talent and that passion that an independent filmmaker has. We can kinda look and know which ones are serious and which ones have led such lives to really keep going. Because filmmaking is not 100% fun all the time. I think if we had something like the Blumhouse model, we could find these independent artists and go, “Hey, here’s a million, here’s a half-million dollars. Go make your film. I’ll keep an eye on it, make sure nothing catches fire, gets too terribly ruined. We’ll be there to help guide you.” And we support our filmmaker, we allow them to make their vision, which so rarely happens for young filmmakers. And we believe most young filmmakers get hired by studios just to get bullied around by them… so I’d like to adjust that model a little bit, take young and hungry artists, support them, and see what they can actually make. That’s my ten year dream.
PF: What was your favorite movie of the last year?
JS: The Witch.
JS: The Witch was awesome. The Witch reminds me I want to be living more deliciously.
SS: I really liked The Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I thought it was adorable. But I guess I’m oddly sensitive.
JS: A great director. He was the director of What we Do in the Shadows!
SS: I love him! I can’t say his name, but I love him.
JS: Tie-ka Wah-tee-tee?
SS: Could be.
JS: “Could be.” (laughs)