Here's a little more from the official press kit for the upcoming horror film The House of the Devil. Director Ti West talks about actor Jocelin Donahue; Jocelin Donahue discusses her role as Sam; and Greta Gerwig tells us about her role as Sam's best friend Megan.
Director Ti West did audition relative newcomer Jocelin Donahue for the lead role of Sam, calling her back three times after he initially spotted her in a big casting session. Although she had worked in one horror film, JT Petty’s THE BURROWERS, West knew her role in THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL would be much more demanding, both physically and psychologically. West got a vote of confidence in Donahue from Petty, then made the decision.Sam is a pretty college sophomore, so desperate to earn some cash for a deposit on an apartment that she accepts a babysitting job even after she finds out there is no baby. Mr. and Mrs. Ulman are the older couple who lure Sam out to their creeky Victorian mansion deep in the woods, just in time for a total lunar eclipse. Megan is Sam’s best friend, who gives her a ride out to the house, and reluctantly leaves her there despite suspecting that something is amiss. Victor at first seems like just a creepy guy lurking around the house, but quickly makes it clear that Sam will end this night in a bloody fight for her life....
“Jocelin’s great,” West tells a visitor close to the end of the shoot. “[To help her prepare] I made her an 80s mix tape, asked her to watch commercials from the 80s on YouTube. She’s been a trouper, because we’ve really beaten the sh@! out of her. It’s been very good: she’s held her own.”
Donahue talks about a performance she was surprised West asked her to look at to prepare for Sam: that which Ralph Maccio gave in THE KARATE KID.
“They are a lot alike,” says Donahue. “They are both sort of kicking around life, kind of spacey, kind of overwhelmed,” she says. “So that movie really covered the realism of the character. Ti also asked me to look at some horror classics: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, ROSEMARY’S BABY. Not that he wanted this movie to be derivative, but he is clearly referencing some of those elements.
“What I love about Sam is that she’s so normal, and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to her,” Donahue continues. “Ti’s writing makes the ‘real life’ side of the story seem authentic, so that when the terror happens it’s really scary. I was attracted to a role of a girl who is responsible, trying to get her life together. It’s a great horror script, but it’s also a good story about friendship, coming of age, and it’s set in the 80s, so that brings in a whole other element which is really interesting to me.”
When asked if she thinks Donahue could become a horror movie “scream queen,” Woronov quickly recalls that she felt “offended” when she was included in a book titled Scream Queen and that “I hope for much more for Jocelin, because she’s a really good actress. She’s worth much more than being locked into scream queen territory. But horror movies are all the rage these days so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”
Donahue’s best friend Megan is played by Greta Gerwig, who also came to THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL right off a horror project – well, BAGHEAD, a movie that spoofs the “group of horny friends alone in the woods” horror genre. THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is also the first movie Gerwig has made strictly as an actress and not as a collaborator on the script, which has a distinct influence on how Gerwig sees her character.
“For my character, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is a genre film, but it’s not a horror film, it’s a buddy comedy, and I just happen to walk into a horror film. Most of my interaction with Sam could be straight from a John Hughes movie.
“I wanted to do something like this,” Gerwig continues, “because I hadn’t made a movie purely as an actress and I’d known Ti since we were at SXSW together in 2006, so it was an easy decision. Ti showed me a cut of CABIN FEVER 2 in his apartment to give me a sense of his work. Making this movie was the safest possible place to take this step, and it’s worked out. Ti really wanted me to avoid overplaying, and so with every first take I let the campy physical comedienne in me out. Then he reigns me in.”
“I think this movie has plenty of comedy in it,” West says later, “but my sense of humor is very dry. I don’t like in-you-face camp, but there are little things in THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL that are meant to be funny, like the scene where Greta eats some petrified candy out of a dish in a stranger’s living room.”
West also mentions that he was able to hire many of the talented people he worked with on CABIN FEVER 2 for THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, namely cinematographer Elliot Rockett and special effects makeup artist Ozzy Alvarez.
“Ozzy and team are amazing,” West offers. “They really understand how I want to use the gore, as graphic crime scene violence that furthers the story as opposed to the kind of gratuitous stuff that gets people cheering in some splatter films. I’ve never understood that.”
The House of the Devil is directed by Ti West and stars Jocelin Donahue (JT Petty’s forthcoming THE BURROWERS), Greta Gerwig, Tom Noonan (SNOW ANGELS, MANHUNTER), Mary Woronov (EATING RAOUL, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS), AJ Bowen (THE SIGNAL) and Dee Wallace (E.T., Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN).
The movie has already come out on VOD and hits limited theaters this coming Friday, October 30th.
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