Crave Online interview
by Fred Topel
Screamfest 2013: Katharine Isabelle on Torment
Scream Queen Katharine Isabelle talks Ginger Snaps, Freddy vs. Jason, American Mary and her new thriller, Torment.
Last year, American Mary won major awards at Screamfest including Best Actress for Katharine Isabelle. Isabelle returned to Screamfest on screen, though not in person this year, with Torment. In Torment, Cory Morgan (Robin Dunne) takes his son Liam (Peter DaCunha) and new wife Sarah (Isabelle) to his cabin for some bonding, only to be plagued by home invaders with an agenda for breaking up the family. We did get to speak with Isabelle by phone, from the set of her next movie which she couldn’t talk about. She also couldn’t say much about See No Evil 2, in which she is starring for her Mary directors Jennifer and Sylvia Soska. So after Torment stuff I did what we do, talked about Ginger Snaps, American Mary and Freddy Vs. Jason.
CraveOnline: When a horror director casts you, at this point are you like, “I got this?”
Katharine Isabelle: I know I have a reputation for being in horror movies but I’ve been working for 27 years. I have over 100 credits and I’ve probably only done six or so horror movies, you know what I mean? It’s not the majority of what I do. However, because horror fans are so enthusiastic, they’re so passionate, you don’t get the same kind of passion for independent Canadian dramas. You don’t get conventions for independent family dramas like you do with horror movies.
I think every time I do a horror movie, they are generally quite different as far as my character and the things that are involved with it. Of course, running, screaming, looking scared, I got that down pat. [Laughs] But there’s always something different and new to me in what I’m doing.
That’s sort of what I was getting at. A lot of actors may do one or two horror movies and then refuse to do them again. You’ve come back and found different things to do in them.
Well, that’s the thing. I don’t watch a lot of horror movies because they scare me. I’m kind of a chicken but I really enjoy shooting them. They’re fun. They’re crazy. I think cathartically, they help make me a normal person. Every month or so I get to scream, freak out, bludgeon people to death, shoot people, have a complete meltdown, whatever. I go about my daily life and I’m actually quite normal. I don’t have this built up rage because I guess I release that every once in a while. They’re just fun. They’re more fun than sitting around talking in a house, which of course I enjoy every genre of film, but I do like making horror movies. They’re fun. They have an enthusiastic, passionate fan base for them.
I noticed it even goes back to an episode of “Goosebumps” for you.
Yeah, yeah, sure, of course. Fear is a very basic human emotion. It’s driven humanity to do practically everything for its entire existence. It’s very, very primal. It’s very deeply imbedded in us and I think that’s always something people are willing to explore and look at. I think it’s valuable.
There are so many scenes in Torment in the dark. How dark was it actually on set and was it hard to see the marks you had to hit?
No, it’s sort of fly by the seat of your pants and you’re working with the camera guys as a team and you’re both trying to figure it out together. There’s not always hard marks. Of course there are, but generally when there are hard marks, you pace it out. You don’t have to look for visual marks, you can pace it out generally and get a feel of the space around you and figure it out from there.
So it’s maybe not as technical as I imagined it might be?
There’s definitely lots of technically difficult things in that movie but if we fumble around and get to the wrong place, they’d just scream, “Katie, move to your right” and then we’d just keep going.
As the stepmother in Torment is that the most maternal role you’ve gotten to play?
I’ve done some of that before. That one was a little bit different in that he was a stepchild who hated me. So it was meant to feel a little awkward and out of place. She wanted to be accepted so I wasn’t given the chance to be super maternal because he hated me.
I think she tried.
Yeah, she tried.
Was some of the psychological stuff in Torment more difficult than the basic horrific stuff?
I didn’t really have a lot. Most of that stuff was involving the scenes with Robin and Peter who plays the stepson. I was basically just chased around. I think the pink pig lady talks to me once when I’m in a car and I’m way too buzzed out to even understand what she’s saying. The whole psychological game of them interacting with the family wasn’t so much me. The beginning part where she figures out that someone’s been in the house, that thought has scared me since… I think it scares everybody. It’s fucking scary. It goes back to when you’re a little kid and your parents leave you alone for an hour and you’re just convinced that a horrible monster is going to get you any second.
That’s right, the father and son have more of the psychological stuff.
Yeah, they have all that. I’m just being chased. I don’t know what’s going on. They’re not really psychologically messing with me. I’m just trying to survive.
What appealed to you most about Sarah and Torment?
I just thought some of the visuals were fun, were interesting. I’m freaked out by the idea of people in those kind of masks. I just thought it would be fun. Once I talked to [director] Jordan [Barker], these things come up and you go, “Okay, do I have time to do this? Is it shooting in a place that I like? Is it going to kill me? No. Is it going to be fun? Probably. Is it something I haven’t done exactly before? Yes.” That’s it. I like shooting horror movies. I thought it was fun, I thought it was scary, I thought it was dark, so go for it.
How soon did Jennifer and Sylvia Soska call you for See No Evil 2?
Katharine Isabelle: Pretty soon.
They had to be vague at first but they told me they wanted all their favorite cast members back.
Yeah, we’ve promised to always work together on everything from now on.
How different a character to Mary do you get to play?
Something I always wanted to ask about Ginger Snaps is did you have to wear mouthpiece for most of that movie for the teeth?
Yeah, a dentist made me a set of fangs but it gave me a lisp so I had to ADR most of the movie.
That was my next question. So you did have to redub your lines.
Yeah, because there would be lines like, “Ask Sam, he’s the expert” and I’d be like, “Why don’t you athk Tham, he’th the ekthpert.” It’s really not scary when you have a giant lisp and sound like Sylvester the Cat.
Were you happy you got to do two sequels to Ginger Snaps?
Yeah, they were fun. I’m generally not a fan of sequels but they were definitely fun to shoot and I always like to work with Emily Perkins. She’s awesome.
How much do girls come up to you and talk about that movie and say how much it impacted them?
A lot. Lots of people do. Not just girls. Girls, guys, everybody. It’s amazing that 15 years later people are still, and kids that weren’t even born when it was made. I guess it really struck a chord with people. Emily and I really liked it when we read it and when we were making it, but this was before werewolves or vampires were the popular thing. We were doing this weird Canadian independent movie about menstruation and werewolves.
It was dark and funny, we thought it was cool but Emily and I also think we’re both totally weird. So we were like, “I don’t know, maybe no one’s going to watch this. Maybe they’ll hate it and we’ll never work again.” We thought it was good, but when you’re making something like that, you’re just like, “I don’t know. Maybe we’re the only ones.” Thankfully people really got got on board.
It’s definitely lasted the test of time and I think that’s one of the perks of practical effects and no CGI. If we’d been using 1999 CGI, it would’ve looked like absolute crap and no one would have ever watched it past two years later. Because it’s all really well done special effects, practical effects, Paul Jones did the first film, it looks really good and you can still watch it. It still looks up to date. It doesn’t look totally dated.
Since it’s that time of year, what are some of your favorite horror movies?
I don’t watch horror movies. I like classic horror movies, like I like Jaws and Apocalypse Now is my favorite movie and it’s fairly horrific although it would not be characterized as a horror movie per se. I really don’t watch them. I’m scared. I’m already scarred for life by being in horror movies. I can’t walk through an underground parkade with high heels on. The click click clacking, by the time I get to the door, I’m in full blown panic. I’m out camping in the woods and I hear a twig snap, I’m like, “Fuck it, going back. I want no part of it.” So I don’t need to be any more traumatized by horror movies than I already am.
Since a lot of people have seen American Mary by now, and we can put a SPOILER WARNING just in case, I did want to ask you about the ending of that movie. Do you consider it a happy ending for Mary?
Yes. I don’t think there was any other way that it could’ve ended. She was her own masterpiece. She was vindicated in the end by what happened to her. I think she was satisfied with that. She’d gone down such a path and she really wasn’t a bad person to begin with. I think it needed to go that way.
How good did you get at suturing for that movie?
I was definitely taught briefly. I think people think there’s a lot more actual gore and surgery in that movie than there really is. If you actually watch it, there’s really not that much. Suturing a turkey at the very beginning was part me and part someone else. That was kind of all I did. There was really not a whole lot of suturing that I had to do.
Now, if I’m at a party and someone gets too drunk and hurts themselves, I convince them that I’m a nurse and I know what to do. If it’s only a superficial subdermal laceration, they’ll be fine if they just stop screaming. I’m pretty sure I could stitch someone’s hand back up if they stayed still long enough. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Was the milkshake scene Mary’s most vulnerable moment?
Yeah, of course. It’s the only moment she actually smiles during the movie. It’s the only moment that you see her have a real genuine relationship with anybody, with Lance. Everything else is fake and superficial.
If you’re scared of horror movies and it sounds intense even to do them, was Freddy Vs. Jason as intense, or was that just a fun wild romp?
That was really fun. We had a good group and Robert Englund is so sweet. I actually watched my first Freddy movie in the trailer on set for that.
Which one, the first one?
Yeah, the first one. My brother had been traumatized for life when he was a child by Freddy movies, and I somehow managed to avoid them, so it wasn’t like a lifelong holy shit thing. It was just like, “This is really fun. Okay, this is going to be awesome.”
Read the original interview here.