If Rob Zombie is ever looking to cast the roles of Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton in a remake of Freaks, he couldn’t do better than Vancouver’s own identical-twin directing duo, Jen and Sylvia Soska. Years spent cutting their teeth on the local Vancouver film-competition circuit combined with the moderate success of the 2009 cult grindhouse flick Dead Hooker in a Trunk have finally paid off, as the Soska sisters are now on the brink of something much bigger. Their latest feature, American Mary, produced by this town’s IndustryWorks Pictures, has been picked up by Universal Pictures International for distribution in the U.K. and Germany.
The twins screened the film at the Cannes Film Festival market in June, where it sparked immediate interest. “Universal are an iconic horror pedigree,” says Sylvia, talking to the Straight from their home in North Van. “I mean, this is where Dracula, Frankenstein, and so many classics came from. We grew up watching that logo play in front of some of our favourite films.”
Starring Vancouverite Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps, Freddy vs. Jason ), American Mary tells the story of Mary Mason, a broke surgical student who drops out of school after becoming disillusioned with the establishment, only to find an unexpected clientele for her unique skill set in the lucrative, dangerous, underground world of extreme body modification. The film is a loving homage to the breed of old-school horror the girls grew up on, and it features makeup and prosthetic effects from gore guru Todd Masters (True Blood, Twilight: New Moon).
The “Twisted Twins” were introduced to genre films by their horror-loving mother, who only allowed her young daughters to watch Stephen King movies after they’d read the novels. (“She tricked us,” Sylvia says.) In the years since, their parents’ support has been unwavering, including when it came time to come up with the financing for American Mary.
“They mortgaged their house,” Sylvia says. “They’ve always believed in us and have never pushed us to be something that we’re not,” Jen adds. “We’ve been attracted to the dark side and horror since we were little, and they never acted as though it was bizarre or tried to discourage us.”
Using Vancouver as a stand-in for Seattle, the film features a cast of local actors. “It was very important to us to use Vancouver talent,” Sylvia says. “The city has this spooky quality that really plays into the horror genre and, yes, the rain is definitely a part of it!” Of course, Jen agrees: “Living in Vancouver is like living in a Tim Burton film. The forests are foreboding. Or, maybe that’s only when I walk through the cemetery at Seymour Demonstration Forest.”
The film enjoyed its world premiere on Monday (August 27) at the U.K.’s prestigious Film4 FrightFest, and it moves on to the equally auspicious Fantastic Fest (Austin, Texas) and Sitges (Spain) festivals in September and October. Jen is excited to “connect with the fans”, although locals are already accustomed to the camaraderie encouraged by the Soskas within this city’s horror-loving community. “Vancouver really is a horror town,” Sylvia says.
Catch the twins hosting the monthly Horror Nights series at the Rio Theatre, where they’ll also be on hand for the upcoming Rio Grind Film Festival in November.
“You know, even if we do a romantic comedy one day,” Jen says, “it won’t end well.”
Watch the teaser trailer for American Mary.