The horror community has showered them with hosannas, but here’s an award the Soska twins never saw coming. On Wednesday (April 30), the writing-directing team behind cult-horror sensation American Mary will be honoured in the artistic-innovation category of the 25th annual Women in Film and Television Vancouver Spotlight Awards.
“It’s really nice, especially because horror is kind of like the black sheep of the film industry. It’s almost on a par with pornography,” remarks Jen, calling the Straight from the twins’ office in Vancouver. “To be recognized for a genre that’s so often looked down upon—it’s a huge honour to have that kind of acceptance from our peers.”
By any measure, it’s also a wholly appropriate tribute to the Soskas’ achievements. After premiering at the London FrightFest film festival in 2012, American Mary became one of the most talked-about genre movies in years, reigniting the feminist discourse that’s always buzzing away somewhere in the background of horror and fantasy cinema. Sylvia notes, contrary to what most of us might think, “The audience that goes to horror movies is predominantly female. There’s about a 60-40 percent split.”
We should also consider the heightened critical engagement of writers like Jovanka Vuckovic (former editor of Rue Morgue magazine) or ex-Vancouverite Kier-La Janisse (author of House of Psychotic Women)—both of whom mop the bloody floor with their male counterparts. Says Sylvia: “I think it’s a part of the responsibility of women that work in horror that they feel like they have to educate people because there is such friction against that.”
The work is apparently far from over. Jen makes no bones about the “butting of heads” with “very small men” that went on behind the scenes of the Soskas’ two indie films (Dead Hooker in a Trunk, their first, was released in 2009). “There was a lot of sweetie and honey, and my God, the sexual harassment we put up with. Making American Mary? It was absolutely disgusting, the crap we went through.”
More encouraging is their experience on their first studio film, See No Evil 2. Both of the Soskas rave about WWE Studios exec Michael Luisi, who earned his bones as a 12-year veteran at Miramax. “Here’s a company that everyone assumes is so testosterone-driven, and they hired us after seeing American Mary because, they said, ‘We want our female audience to have films they can relate to,’ ” says Sylvia, who describes the film as “an art-house version of a classic slasher”.
Also in the pipeline is the Soskas’ contribution to The ABCs of Death 2, which—sorry, we can’t give anything away—sounds completely disgusting, offensive, and insane. “As vulgar as it is, it’s actually a really clever satire on sexism in the horror industry, particularly in these horror anthologies where the female characters only show up to show their tits,” promises Jen. She also guarantees male nudity. “We always sneak male nudity into our films,” she explains with a vicious chuckle. “Especially mutilated male nudity.”
Consider it a tribute to some very small men.
Also among this year’s nine WIFTV award winners are filmmaker Nimisha Mukerji (artistic achievement award), "Bruised" writer-director Jennifer Campbell (image award), and Whistler Film Festival founder Shauna Hardy Mishaw (woman of the year). The awards gala takes place at Performance Works.