BY: DAKOTA DAHL
The titular “Isabelle” in Rob Heydon’s new possession-based family horror drama is a complex character. Her endless and needless suffering has left her forever confined to a wheelchair, enviously glaring at her new neighbors. You empathize with her so much, you might forget she is a murderous psychopath. That is, if she exists at all, as she could very well be a figment of the new neighbors imagination.
The immensely talented Zoe Belkin (Carrie, The Story of Luke) was tasked with depicting the decrepit dame, and we were curious about what it took to get into this kind of role. Although we’re certain she was sick of being stuck in a chair, she was kind enough to sit down and answer some of our pressing questions.
Your character has endured a lot of suffering in the movie. Did you draw on any personal experiences to help capture and convey that?
Yeah, I think as an actor you always have to draw things from your own life and your own experiences. I also kind of wanted to surround myself, immerse myself in the horror genre, so I watched a lot of movies like The Exorcist and Carrie to kind of get in that mindset as well. They’re some of my favorites, I’m a big horror fan. I love The Shining, the original, it really scared me when I was a kid. I’m a big Stephen King fan.
Your character, Isabelle, spends most of the movie with very little mobility, for reasons that are obvious when you watch the film. Did you find it difficult to convey an intimidating presence with these limitations?
It was definitely difficult to not be able to move. I didn’t really think about that before we started filming, but as soon as I got into that wheelchair, and in that thick, constricting nightgown, you’re filming in the summer so it’s really hot, and I had to wear this prosthetic hump on my back. It was pretty uncomfortable, but it definitely helped me get into character. Not being able to move, even your face, is actually really hard, especially all day.
You and the other actors actually have very little interaction with each other. Did you find this helped you get into character?
Definitely, it really did. I kind of just kept to myself, we didn’t really have that much interaction. I definitely had the most interaction with Amanda, who was great, I loved working with her. Most of our scenes were in the two houses just staring at each other. It definitely helped me get into character.
Isabelle has almost zero dialogue in the movie, yet your character conveys a lot of emotions just through body and face language. How do you pull something like that off?
I watched this film called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and it’s about this man who has a stroke and he’s not able to move, the only thing he’s able to do is blink. So, I watched this film and it’s amazing the emotion he was able to convey in the same way, not being able to move at all, or speak. That movie definitely helped me a lot, and with this character, it’s just about getting into that mindset of putting myself in her shoes and finding that emotion more in my head. If you can find the things to draw on, I find, in your head, then it conveys onto your face.
You were excessively creepy in the film, and I mean that as a compliment. How do you perfect such an evil stare?
I watched a lot of classic horror movies that I am a fan of. In the last scene, that was my kind of Norman Bates moment. I definitely wanted to have a little Norman thing at the end there, with that smile.
Any scary stories from on set?
This is actually kind of a funny story: my mom came to visit me on set, and it was lunchtime, so we were going to go into town to grab a bite to eat, and it didn’t have time to change. So, I was in that full, scary girl makeup, the whole thing, the hump and everything. So I’m like “Is it weird if I’m dressed like this, do you think anyone will notice?” and my mom was like “Don’t worry about it, let’s just go.” And not one person looked at me the entire time. It was so funny; nobody batted an eyelash.
What future projects can we look forward to seeing you in?
I have a movie called Endless coming out. I’m not sure exactly when it’s coming out, but it’s this sort of horror, sci-fi romance, and we shot that in Kelowna, BC. Then I have this movie called Hotwired in Suburbia coming out, and that’s sort of a teen drama driving movie, and that was shot in Ottawa.