By: Mariam Bastani
By now all of us in the horror world know that the Soska’s Sisters are in the midst of filming their interpretation of David Cronenberg’s Rabid. About a month ago, Rue Morgue was invited to a nearby filming location to catch a glimpse of some of the action. Accompanied by Rue Morgue’s Communications Manager Jamie Berardi and Editorial Assistant Maddi McGillvray, we followed the directions to a hospital that, on its own, has horror star quality. In an unassuming place, hardly visible upon approach, we had a Hill House moment while dusk was moving in. Soon after, we hooked up with a very friendly woman, Jessica, from the production company and entered into a service hallway leading to the recognizably institutional walls present in every hospital. Since the filming was in the evening and late into the night, we had arrived at “lunch time” and were offered a meal. As we were accepting and about to enter the catering area, there they were, the Soska sisters.
Jessica introduced us to Jen and Sylvia, and what followed was the warmest welcome including hugs and smiles. The two pale, gothy twins spun me into a flashback to The Craft with Nancy saying, “We are the weirdos, mister.” Weirdos meeting weirdos, it was as if we have been pals for years and we just came for a visit. It surprised me. I don’t really know what I expected and in retrospect makes me realize that I wasn’t sure if they were going to be nice, but more on that later… Their welcome made us feel at home and the sisters said they would see us in a moment as they had to take care of some things. They told us to go in and enjoy our meal. We grabbed some great food, sat down with one of the producers and talked horror, food and dogs – we were among our people.
While the crew was still on break, we were given a guided tour of the main filming sets within the hospital, filled with descriptions of scenes we would be seeing in the movie. I was genuinely surprised at how open the producer was. Soon the crew was off break and the set was buzzing. Jen and Sylvia appeared, again giving us hugs and asked us if we wanted coffee. They insisted that we get a drink and whisked us away to the coffee bar they had on set. After that, it was a whirlwind.
Twin sisters and creative partners, you can hardly find a picture of one without the other, but they are definitely individuals. Jen is more composed, Sylvia is the more animated, but both, are other-worldly. I am not one to be swept away. I do not put a lot of value on celebrity. I don’t believe hype. None of that matters, because there is something mesmerizing about the Soska sisters. I know they are two very talented people, but as a pair they are like one cult leader. You want to listen, you are transfixed, but it is a giving energy. They went on to share intimate stories, personal photos and details about Rabid, but also about some of their other projects. They even told us a story about another director, a man, “offering advice” on how to direct Rabid. Let’s think about that… a man telling a woman about body horror. Anyone else see how stupid that sounds? While I am not generally a fan of remakes, two women’s reinterpretation of a female body centred horror film is just that, a reinterpretation not a remake, but through a genuinely intimate lens. This story doesn’t surprise me, but it is nevertheless annoying to hear that a man has tried to undermine a woman, and in this case, two.
In a strange way, this moment reminded me of my mom. She struggled her whole life with people treating her like she wasn’t intelligent because of her bubbly and friendly demeanour, not to mention her heavy accent. Also because she was a petite, good looking woman, much like the Soska’s. The sisters have been very successful and, still, they have to deal with haters and creeps questioning their work. For marginalized people, visibility puts all of us at risk. Some of us much more than others and for many, there is no choice. We are all navigating varying degrees of this and if we are good people, we are listening and recognizing others and how our own positions may help them navigate this world – or at least not make it more difficult. The visibility of the Soska sisters is one that takes up space in a male dominated genre. The Soska’s have a lot going for them and my impression is that they are aware of their privileges, but like all women, they are not oblivious to how men treat them and it is relevant in horror because most (visible) people in the film industry, especially in horror, are men. As much as they know this, they do not play. While they were sweet to everyone one set, there was no question that they are the fucking bosses in that place.
Before we left, the cast and crew were poised to film the next scene and the sisters told us to come on set. The scene was a gory one and they walked us through what was about to happen. Understandably, we could not snap pics without permission, but I made my one photo request, which you see at the bottom of this article. After a moment to pose, someone made a comment to Jen about how strong she looked and she replied, “Hey, we practice this shit.”
The sisters are fully aware of the game and somehow they have managed to figure out what parts of the game they want to play and what they will not compromise. They are the ones who define their own success. Sure, recognition is nice and having access in areas of movie making and the business is necessary and wanted, but they are talented and they want more.
Horror has always been problematic for women, PoC and queer folks, but it is also one of the few genres that marginalized people can portray their desires, interpret their trauma, work through their fears, exact vengeance and beyond, because there are no rules. That is why even though it’s a problematic genre, I love horror. Saying that, the Soska’s do not represent me or my worldview. I appreciate their work and support them, but I do not expect them to speak for me and I am certain they would never claim to. They represent their twisted, lovable, and frighteningly talented selves, resulting in some great films – that is why I enjoy their work. So much of who we are is categorized by dominant culture and these categories often have devastating effects – even death. There is not really a “women’s horror” genre and other categories like, “black horror” did not originate from black people creating horror or account for any intersectionality, so we are here to change all of that. Having the people like the Soska sisters on the scene that are encouraging others and excited about more voices in horror is exactly what we need, we need more of our narratives out there. The more women and underrepped horror filmmakers we have relentlessly creating and breaking through, the more choices we will have to work with people we truly want to collaborate with.
I realize now that my being surprised at how welcoming the Soska Sisters are isn’t based on any real information, it is because they are women with power. As sisters (not cis-ters), we are constantly told that once one of us has power we turn on our community, we could not have possibly gotten where we are because we work hard or our talent, we are undeserving, we have sold out – this extends to many other communities we are part of. There are gatekeepers always telling us that for one woman to succeed, one woman must lose and that is just not the case. We just saw the continuation of this message when Jason Blum stated that there were no women directors in horror (also, with his “clarification”). Gatekeepers would like us to believe we are all alone out here, that there are limited resources for us and that we must compete for them. The way we do that is to tear each other down – not me, not Rue Morgue and not the Soska Sisters. While the mechanics of the Hollywood system keeps grinding away and doors stayed closed to women and underrepresented people in horror, we are here building something new.