Regular horror con attendees have their own “A” list celebrities, ones the average theatergoer has probably never heard of. These include folks like Kane Hodder, Felissa Rose, and Tom Atkins – guests who treat their fans like friends. Us horror fans are nothing if not loyal and, in return, make multiple trips to their tables, support their external projects, or even dedicate vlogs and blogs to them such as this one. Amongst those hallowed individuals are the Soska sisters, Jen and Sylvia. These twin film-makers from Canada have a reputation for ramping up the excitement level at every show they attend while leaving with a legion of devoted followers. Somehow I’d never met them, but the 2019 Days of the Dead in Chicago gave me an opportunity to rectify this. On the morning of the convention’s second day, the two would kick off the day’s celebrity panels with a special Q&A. Needless to say, my friends Jason Schoolcraft, Ron & Angela Urban, and I made sure to take advantage of our VIP passes and get ourselves a front-row seat.
The first-morning panel at any convention is not unlike that first cup of coffee of the day – you’re there but only half awake. Continuing with that metaphor, the Soska sisters were a double shot of espresso, leaping on stage while dancing to the Spice Girls. By the time they settled into their seats, the audience wasn’t just awake, they were downright exuberant. The next hour went like this…
Should you see David Cronenberg’s Rabid before seeing the Soska Sisters version?
Soska Sisters: You can definitely go in blind. We also made a sequel to the movie See No Evil (2006) called See No Evil 2 (2014) and you definitely don’t have to spend the 72 minutes watching the first one before seeing ours unless you’re a completionist. If you haven’t seen the original Rabid, nothing will be ruined for you though there are a lot of Easter eggs you’ll end up missing. However, if you have seen the first one we haven’t skipped a beat. We had cast and crew members from the original working on ours so whenever we’d hit a snag and say, ‘David would never have this problem!” there was always someone there to reassure us and say, “Oh yes, he did.” We’d be like, “Wow! What did David do?” and they said he didn’t get upset; just said, “Today’s today and tomorrow is tomorrow.”
Meeting David Cronenberg
Soska Sisters: We went out for coffee with him and eventually we started talking about his movie Dead Ringers (1988). You haven’t lived until you hear David Cronenberg say in a loud voice in the middle of a cafe’ – “No American actors are comfortable enough with women’s bodies to play a gynecologist!” And we’re like, ‘Oh my god he just said ‘gynecologist’ and everyone is looking at us!” He’s usually so soft-spoken so it was awesome.
Insights on Rabid (2019)
Soska Sisters: The government of Canada paid for this which is the first time they trusted us with their money. After Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) they said ‘No more genre films!’ but we broke that wall. We promise two SPFX you’ve never seen before. Steve Kostanski who co-wrote and directed The Void (2016) was our creature designer. So the last two creatures, “the smoking man” and one I won’t say but you won’t miss the homage at the end.
The biggest challenge
Soska Sisters: Everything! No David Cronenberg film should ever be remade unless you want the Cronenberg curse. You have to love his work to really do something like this. It could very easily have been made into a film about rabid dogs but its a story about transhumanism and we tell you all about that in our film in an easy to digest way. Despite the challenges the film had, the cast and crew the cast and crew were utterly amazing. There are sea creatures that are like vampire fish called lampreys which are an invasive species to Canada and illegal in our country. One of our props people got a liaison from the United States to bring a few in so we could use them in our film. Everything in this movie is Canadian, even the concept of transhumanism came from a Canadian philosopher. We had a twenty-four-day production schedule and got it all done in nineteen. How did we make a movie in nineteen days? There are two of us!
Maybe one of the biggest issues we had with filming Rabid was dealing with the growing pains of the Metoo movement. The same issues persist in the industry, particularly with the high-level individuals who have all the wealth. They still are under the assumption that they can buy their way out of trouble so we had a lot of struggles saying, “Hey, we don’t use this kind of language on set anymore.” And they would be like, “Oh, we’re just joking” and then we would say again, “Hey, we don’t use this kind of language on set anymore.” We went on to explain to the Canadian Government what things have been like for us as filmmakers for the last thirteen years and they asked what we would suggest being done about it. One of our solutions was for mandatory sensitivity training before production. As a team-building exercise, we don’t speak to each other the same way we did in the ’90s. The second thing is having intimacy coordinators. I don’t know if you know how they film sex scenes but it’s one big free for all. Having a stunt choreographer eliminates people grabbing you wherever they want and then being, “Well you signed up for this!” when you complain. We plan on speaking a lot about this in the future and we’re confident that Canada is going to lead the way.
David Cronenberg’s cooperation
Soska Sisters: David had just lost his wife prior to production and he’d actually met her during the filming of the original. There was tremendous pressure to get him on board. The last thing we wanted was to make a shitty remake. Everyone involved with this movie loved David and wanted that to show in the movie. I don’t think there’s ever been a remake that was as loving towards its original as this one. The main criticism we get is that its “too Cronenberg.” Well, you were never going to like it if you didn’t like Cronenberg anyway so the hell with you. Basically, this movie is Legally Blonde (2001) meets Spider-Man 2 (2004). Go back and watch them afterward and you’ll see.
Working with C.M. Punk
Soska Sisters: He was the first person we hired. He was originally supposed to play the main love interest, Brad, but they wouldn’t let us have an American for that long. When we told him he had to be pushed back in the credits he was like, “Man…pushback from the Canadian government.” He was so amazing because he talked up our movie while promoting his other movie Girl on the Third Floor (2019) so by the time we got to marketing our film everyone was like, “Oh, yeah! We just talked to Phil about that!” We have a thing with only wanting to work with nice people and he’s one of the best.
Moderator tells the sisters that of all the thirty-two Days of the Dead shows he’s been a part of, they are the most fan-friendly and appreciative.
Soska Sisters: People think we’re giving more to our fans but that’s not even “sort of” true. We grew up without having much hugging in our family and this is a very cold and alienating job we picked. We love people and never get to talk to people so when we see the fans and they hug us and tell us about their lives it really means everything to us. We feel so lucky to have that support and to be here. We keep every letter and every gift we receive. We have big books full of our letters we like to go through whenever we hate our lives and what we’re doing. After reading them we’re like, “No, THIS is why we do what we do.” We’ve been on the convention circuit for a while now and seeing the kids grow up and say, “You’re my best friend!” and we’re like, “We are your best friend!” We like to hug and are good at reading who is receptive to that and who isn’t. One day we hugged a young man and his mom had a weird reaction to it. And she came up to us and said he’s autistic and hasn’t allowed anyone to hug him since he was very young. And after that, he hugged his mom and started hugging everyone. It was such a beautiful experience. I don’t know if you know this but we’re supposed to get four hugs a day for survival, eight to maintain, and twelve for growth. So hugs are so important as a non-sexual, loving embrace. Rabid was such a rough experience that this show has really been detoxifying.