GORE IN THE STORE
IN CONVERSATION WITH THE SOSKA SISTERS
RABID, the latest film from the irrepressible Soska sisters, had its world premiere at the Arrow Video FrightFest in August. The film hits the shelves of your local video store on Monday 7th October, so we are taking the opportunity to republish a conversation they had with Paul Risker that was originally published in the 2019 festival programme.
Seven years on from the World Premiere of AMERICAN MARY, directors Jen and Sylvia Soska made their long awaited return to the “Woodstock of Gore.” At twentieth anniversary edition of the festival they presented the World Premiere of RABID, the remake of David Cronenberg’s classic body horror. “When we came to FrightFest so many years ago, we were still building ourselves up” says Sylvia. “FrightFest greatly assisted in that build by giving us a foundation with an audience, and such brilliant support that we were able to keep creating films for many years afterwards.” Jen adds, “That was the happiest experience of our careers and I always wanted the world premiere of our RABID to be here. It's a dream come true – returning here feels like coming home.”
When they walked up on stage to present AMERICAN MARY, the sisters conveyed an abundance of confidence with a decisive voice. From then to now, the film making pair have grown through their experiences, yet in what may seem unexpected ways. “For many years, I felt like a gear in a machine that I had very little control over. Experience gives you the wisdom of knowing that even one gear has the power to change how the machine functions” explains Sylvia. Meanwhile, Jen speaks about gaining confidence to speak her mind, “especially when others disagree.” She also sees there to be a need for a constructive form of artistic provocation, which their brand of film making conforms to. “I find our work has always been provocative with strong messages, but now more than ever it's vital to be making art that provokes critical thought.” She adds, “I’m more fearless now, which is funny to say given we're known for not backing down and speaking our minds.” For Jen, RABID represents a place in which she is more content, having confronted and dealt with the challenges that have beset them both. “I'm much happier now as a filmmaker. I've been through many struggles, but I feel like we've come out on top and not allowed the cruelty of others to infect or change us. I do protect my cast and crew like a mama bear these days. The industry is evolving to make things safer and more respectful, and we're huge advocates for that positive change.”
RABID began with uncertainty and an unexpected question. “It's funny” remarks Sylvia, “We had a lot of negative experiences working in the film industry these past few years, and it got to me, to the point that I didn't know what was going to be next. Then we got this random email asking us to remake RABID.” She continues, “When the producers explained that they missed the mark on what Cronenberg is and could we tell them, the job interview ended with, ‘How about you two handle the creative and we handle the financing?’ It was too brilliant an opportunity to pass up.”
The reason why this was such a tantalising prospect is the immeasurable influence of the Canadian auteur. “We wouldn't be the filmmakers we are today without his work existing to inspire and expand our ideas of cinematic storytelling” says Sylvia. “He remade THE FLY ten years into his career; it took us longer to remake one of his, but it felt appropriate.”
The decision to remake the 70s classic, by a filmmaker Jen describes as “Canada's greatest treasure” was not taken lightly. “I couldn't imagine someone remaking a Cronenberg film that doesn't have both an understanding and appreciation of his art. While we are not largely fans of remakes, we wanted to make sure this one was handled with love and respect. The process had us reading every word he's ever written and listening to every interview we could find. We paid homage not only to the original, but all of David's work. We hired cast and crew that had worked with David before and we even altered our directing style to fit his. "What Would David Do?" was often uttered on set.” At the same time as honouring the original, the intent was to also differ from Cronenberg’s choices. “It's a very clear divide and male gaze vs female gaze. The story itself is very similar, although in the original Rose is not so much the main focus. She has no last name, she has no career, her identity is very much the girlfriend of her boyfriend, Hart.” Jen also warns that there is a lack of subtlety in their subversion. “If you've seen the original then there are many Easter Eggs, but I will say we intentionally broke Cronenberg's rules in a few places that won't be subtle.”
Reflecting on the experience of remaking RABID, Sylvia offers, “Creating AMERICAN MARY was very challenging and RABID had its own challenges. After that it's an oasis having a venue like FrightFest to give you the World Premiere that introduces the film to everyone. You forget the challenges and start to re-experience the film through the audience who is experiencing it for the first time.” Jen adds, “It was the privilege of a lifetime to pay tribute to our hero like this. We made this film for an audience of one (David), but if you love him like we do, this is bound to be a crowd pleaser.” And it was.
RABID is released on Blu-Ray & DVD on 7 October 2019 by 101 Films.