The first horror film I saw was The Omen, aged six. I remember it vividly and am still scarred from it, literally. My older sister, close in age at eight but far more refined than I, was watching it as she finished a knitting project. In lieu of scissors she was using a long ass carving knife to cut her wool and my six year old curious hands picked it up from the sofa absent mindedly. At the point where Damien’s mother is watering the plant on the top floor I grew nervous in anticipation of the inevitable. I needed something to clutch on to and didn’t realise I was sawing through my jeans just above my right knee with the big ‘ole blade until I felt a rush of blood. It didn’t need stitches, a light cut, but my Mum wanted to know where I got it from, “Did you run into the sharp edged cabinet?” “Yes!” I blurted, relieved to have been handed a cover for my clandestine horror-watching and unconscious self harm. I could have been in the clear except, well, perhaps it’s true that horrors turn a child, for I couldn’t resist getting my sister into trouble. As I left my Mum’s room I turned a glinting eye back at her, “Oh, and maybe you should tell Tilly not to use a knife for her knitting.”
What a treacherous little cow I was for a minute!
I haven’t seen the film since but I can remember it almost scene by scene. Anything with Gregory Peck has my vote but the conflict of the parents’ feelings about their child was what really scared me. I loved it! It’s a good example of what a true horror is to me. I still have a scarred thigh.
It’s funny because I would never have described myself as someone attracted to horror. As a teen I never watched them. I saw some terrible film called The Imp – or something like that – when I was twelve and not only did I know it was crap but it still scared me witless! So I used to think horror was silly and irrelevant plus too scary to watch! Of course, that’s ridiculous. Now I’m realising some of my favourite, most affecting films have actually been horrors. Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining are films that affected me strongly growing up and whose directors I admire greatly. I think great character, story and humanity attract me, so if a film can deliver that and make me think and feel then I’m a fan. Essentially, what I’m attracted to in my work is playing with other artists to create a story that makes people feel like they’re not alone.
What achievement are you most proud of?
The relationships I’ve held on to over my life. They are the most important things to me. As far as work is concerned, probably teaching young offenders in jail through The Unusual Suspects, a charity where we go in and teach the lads, as a group, how to write a play and then perform it. Having adults focus time and energy on these guys, where they are encouraged to be creative and inquisitive, and achieve something as a group through individual patience and camaraderie, creates some fantastic results. There’s nothing that makes you prouder, nor happier, than being a part of someone’s growth.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m on my last day on Love Eternal (I’m writing this in Luxembourg), which is a film based on a Kei Oishi novel. Irish writer/director Brendan Muldowney (Savage) adapted it to such an extent as to really make it his own. I hear the original book is more graphic and horror oriented. The script’s still got that Oishi genius and darkness but it’s not a horror any more. It’s a drama about love and loss, an outsider’s struggle for connection and grief’s pall. I call it a dark romance or a love story for loners. My character, Naomi, is grieving but always appears upbeat so it’s an intense role. I’ve very much enjoyed working with the Irish/Luxembourgeoise crew.
Lucky [McKee], of course. The old school guys like Hitchcock, and more recently I was impressed by Let the Right One In. I’m a big fan of the Japanese film Battle Royale which I think is astonishing. I never imagined I would enjoy watching such subject matter so much but the elegance and humour is palpable. The acting is grrrreat too! It’s one of my favourite films of the last few years.
Do you prefer gore or psychological horror?
Psychological definitely but sometimes gore is cathartic.
How important is it to unsettle a viewer?
One should feel like you’re going on a journey of some sort and I don’t think it’s horror unless you’re unsettled, right?
How do you evoke fear?
As an actress it’s not my job to think about such things. That’s down to the filmmaker but as a character, for instance, as The Woman, if that’s what I want to achieve then I have to weigh up who I’m dealing with and decide the best way. I had a lot of fun playing with scaring Zach Rand, as he played Brian in the film. Off-screen I treated him like an equal as an actor and as a minor, a kid, but when we were together in character it was no holes barred and the results were great to watch. I shit him up good and proper! He was a good sport about it.
What scares you?
Malice and cruelty.
Why should people watch your films?
Because they want to. Some are good for a laugh, others will make you think but they are never my films. If they are good it is through collaboration.
How far is too far when it comes to horror cinema?
I don’t dig torture porn.
Anything is possible. There is a lot to be learnt from the old school masters, as I see from Lucky’s work. Europe, Korea and Japan kick some ass. I’d like to see the Brits and the Americans live up to our possibilities. The genre reaches a wide audience, we could achieve some great art if we push ourselves and think less market and more expressively. Audiences are way smarter and more curious than the studios give them credit for.
Recommend a film.
The Woman and Love Eternal of course. Battle Royal, May, and Festival (not a horror but a great Scottish indie).