Shooting Horror: A Conversation with Katharine Isabelle
Newlyweds Cory (Dunne) and Sarah (Isabelle) take Cory’s son Liam to the former’s country retreat for some much needed family bonding. When it appears that Liam has run away, psychological suspense switches to all out horror as Cory and Sarah are forced to confront a deadly mask-wearing family headed by Mr Mouse who have been hiding in the abode all along with special plans for Liam…
A genre-twisting psychological horror, TORMENT will have you at the edge of your seat while Mr Mouse welcomes you to his family with its alternative, twisted values.
With Torment released today on DVD, The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali had the pleasure of speaking to Personal favourite Katharine Isabelle. In our interview Katharine tells Marc what attracts her to the horror genre, how she got started in the film industry and what is on the horizon for her…
You’re somewhat of a scream queen at the moment, what is about the horror genre that keeps you coming back to it?
Katharine Isabelle: It’s kind of an odd thing because I’m not really a horror movie fan necessarily; they’re kind of scary and I sort of avoid them [laughs]. Shooting them is an entirely different matter though; they’re really fun to shoot and they’re really an adventure. I’ve said once or twice before that I’m not going to do any more horror movies but then something like American Mary comes along where I go like, I guess it’s going to be classified as a horror movie but to me it’s not a horror movie. I don’t necessarily have a favourite genre to work in, I like interesting characters; I like strong independent female characters who are multi-dimensional and layered like a normal human is. Oddly enough, I have found a few of the best ones in the horror genre like Mary and Ginger Snaps. So, it’s not necessarily that I keep getting drawn back to horror, it’s that I go wherever the best character is and the most interesting possibility for adventure lays. The horror genre just seems to keep popping them out in my direction.
Well you’re fantastic at them so keep making them…
Well you are. Going back a bit one of my first interactions with you was The Ginger Snaps series, which was absolutely fantastic, then obviously I saw you in Insomnia with Robin Williams and Al Pacinio and now you’re in Hannibal as well. You’re very talented and always just a pleasure to watch.
So in terms of Torment, what drew you to it?
It’s always a combination of do you like the script? Do you like the character? Do you like the people you’re going to be working with? Like Robin Dunne is great and Jordan Barker, the Director, was great. Do you feel like getting stuck with these people, running out of time and money like you do on low-budget independent films. Do you feel like going on this adventure? And I almost always do. The script and the characters are always very important but equally as important are the people you’re going to be stuck out in a freezing cold forest with having this experience. I think all those things came together for me with Torment. You know it wasn’t something I had done before as far as the character and the home invasion-y type film, I thought it would be fun and it was it was a really good time. It is an entertaining and fun film to watch; you know it is not only intense and dramatic but the sort of the thrill of it all, stays with you throughout the film and that’s all you really hope to do at the end of the day.
What else is on the horizon for you?
I’m currently shooting the third season of Hannibal with NBC. I just finished a movie that is sort of a sex-comedy called How to plan an Orgy in a Small Town that Jeremy Lalonde directed which is really really funny – It also stars Jewel Staite from Firefly and Serenity. I’ve got a movie called 88 coming out early next year that stars Christopher Lloyd and myself. It’s about a girl who witnesses a traumatic event and goes into sort of a fugue state, suffers from dissociative-amnesia and goes on a revenge kick. Christopher Lloyd plays the bad guy and it’s really cool. Then I’m heading to Ireland at sometime next year to do a sort-of post-apocalyptic movie called Origami. But currently right now, I’m laying on the couch with my dog [laughs].
So if we go back to the beginning what actually drew you into this career? Was there a defining moment for you?
Well it’s a family business, my parents are both below the lines filmies. I grew up around set, with teamsters and grips, that was kind of where my family was. I grew up to learning math with Jujube with teamsters. You know it was the family business and I think when you grow up in a family business you either run the other way or you see that there is nothing else for you.
Film was the only thing I was ever going to do because that’s where I were I’m most comfortable that’s where I am the most happiness; I’m not really sure what to do with my life other than it. If I’m not on the couch with my dog I’m working. That is my life. My parents never pushed me into it; they didn’t want me to do it. Someone talked them into letting me audition for a movie, it was a big-budget wedding movie with Isabella Rossellini and Ted Danson, it was called Cousins. It was this huge-budget movie with mansions and dresses, I was like six thinking I could totally do this forever and not have to go to school [laughs]. You know I liked it and it was where I was happiest so my parents continued to let me do it not really having any foresight myself. Cut to 15-years later and you’re being dragged through the forest with a rope around your ankle, it’s cold and miserable and not for much money but it’s the adventure, it’s the life. I’m a travelling gypsy adventurer and that’s what I do and that’s where my world is.
I’m this side of the film industry but I find it fascinating. We’re actually doing the press for a horror film that’s coming out soon called The Tombs: Rise of the Damned and I’ll been doing set visits. It’s being shot in the London Tombs, which are creepy, and I won’t lie, I was fine for the majority but there was one bit near the end of the tour that made me scream.
It gets to you after a while. I’ve been to some places where I go oh yeah well there is where I reach the end.
It was the part of the tour where a guy comes at you with a chain saw and I couldn’t handle it so I just screamed and ducked…
Yeah, maybe I do these horror films just to put myself through these events so if it happens, you know if I have to do hand-to-hand combat with somebody and kill them, I could deal with it somehow. It’s funny you know, when I do it the end project, the end result is rarely in my mind. I’m a working actor. I just want to work, it doesn’t really matter what I’m doing and sometimes that work takes me abandoned mental institutions where I force Selena Gomez to escort me to the haunted bathroom to stand and listen to me pee because my sanity has been overly affected by being in and around these situations so much that I let my imagination get the absolute best of me.
So I know that you said that your not genre specific per say but is there any sort of genres that you do want tackle at some point?
I mean I love period pieces. I love the costumes, I love the hair and I love the detail that goes into that. I love westerns, I love horses, I love riding, and I love all of that. There’s no specific character or historical figure that I want to play. I want to continue to work on interesting projects with multi-dimensional strong independent female characters; whether that’s in a horror, a western, a romantic-comedy or a period piece, whatever that is, it doesn’t matter to me. I want to have cool adventures making good films with interesting people and whatever form that takes, I’m good with it. I tend to avoid sci-fi, spaceships are not my thing so I tend to avoid them.
So would you gravitate to something like Alien if it wasn’t set on a space ship?
You see the thing is I love that movie. As far as horror movies go I love Alien; so yeah I can say that but watch next month a script may come my way and it’s on a space ship and it’s the coolest thing and I’m desperate to do it. It all depends on the individual project and to generalise a genre, I can’t really say that.
I just saw a film that is being touted as a creature-feature but it is so much more than that, it’s called The Pyramid.
Right, like if someone said to me there’s this really great body-modification horror movie I would be like I’m absolutely not watching that, but if someone showed me American Mary I’d be like this is an amazing, beautiful film. So I think that the title and label can sometimes be a bit general and misleading. My mother could never watch a body-modification horror movie, she faints at the sight of blood, but she’s loves American Mary, she’s seen it so many times.
That’s interesting because one of the iconic images of you from that is you drenched in blood on the poster…
Well, there are two scenes that she can’t watch. Apart from a few short images, it’s more psychological. You know it’s not like Saw in that respect.
No, it’s absolutely not. I have a bit of an issue with slasher films because they are all the same formula, so when a horror film like American Mary is being marketed as a horror film, it’s more of a psychological thriller as you said.
It pops up every once in while as a body-mod or torture porn film, I’m like it’s not even remotely close at all.
No it’s not but when you’ve got a string of films, which are basically the same thing, it does hinder the genre. It’s not good for anyone but the industry these days is obsessed with labelling things but I’m sure in your Dad’s day as well they were obsessed with labelling it.
Well it comes out of Hollywood too. If you come to pitch an original idea they want to know that it is Mad Max meets Jurassic Park meets Love Actually, you knw what I mean? You can’t just go in there with an original idea they need you to compare it to three other movies otherwise they don’t get it; which leads to a culture of regurgitating over and over again.
In terms of Hannibal, you said that you were filming the third season, how is your character going to progress?
There’s not a lot that I can say but Margo gains a love interest and the story line develops further with her brother. I only get the scripts I’m in so I’m in the dark as much as anyone else.
TORMENT IS OUT NOW ON DVD COURTESY OF ALTITUDE FILMS DISTRIBUTION