Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Interview With Jenny Spain

An Interview With Jenny Spain, of Deadgirl

Deadgirl tells the story of two bored and unpopular teenagers, JT and Rickie, who skip school one day and pass the time by going to check out an abandoned mental hospital. They eventually find a naked dead girl, bound and wrapped in plastic, in a corner room of a dark corridor of the basement, only they discover she's not exactly dead. What happens from there is the real meat of the film, as JT and Rickie's relationship is tested by this discovery and their differing opinions on what to do about it.

When I first sat down to watch Deadgirl, I didn't expect to like the film. Despite zombies being one of my favorite horror genre staples, the enormous amount of bad zombie films out there has made me a bit skittish about getting my hopes up for a good one. What I got this time was a surprisingly refreshing and original take on the zombie genre. This film, like Pontypool, proves that there is still fresh territory to explore within the zombie film concept. While I freely admit that it's not a film that everyone will love, I do recommend that you guys check it out.

The dead girl in the film is played by model and actress Jenny Spain. She gives what I thought was a brave performance, spending most of the film nude and bound to a gurney. Not to mention being made up in a less than flattering light with everything from simply looking unwashed and neglected to beaten and bruised. She never speaks a word in the film, yet you often wonder what her character is thinking about the things that are going on around her.

I had the opportunity recently to interview Jenny Spain via e-mail. She was very friendly and enthused about the idea even though this blog is fairly new and I'm a very inexperienced interviewer. I am very pleased with how the interview turned out and I hope you guys enjoy it!

Heavenztrash: If I understand correctly, you started out in modeling and then got involved in acting. Had you always wanted to be an actress or is it something you discovered about yourself through your career?

Jenny Spain: Ever since I was a little girl I have always wanted to be both. I took theater and modeling when I was young. I always loved modeling because its acting and expression. You can be anything and as a model I learned expression. When I took theater I did a lot of children's plays such as Peter Rabbit. Growing up I was always exposed to entertainment. My friends did movies and worked for MTV. So I had the exposure also being behind a camera.

HT: How did you come to find out about the script for DEADGIRL and become involved with the film?

JS: A good friend of mine contacted me about DEADGIRL and put me in contact with Gadi & Marcel. I did a home audition since at the time I was was living in Michigan. I sent the video and everybody LOVED it.

HT: How did you feel about the material initially, especially given what your character has to go through? What, if any, reservations did you have about it?

JS: I read the script and instantly fell in love with it. Growing up watching horror films this was completely different and emotionally dark. I knew my role as deadgirl and knew it would be difficult. I really had to emotionally and mentally prepare myself for it.

HT: Did you have to audition for the part? If so, how was the audition conducted?

JS: I did a home audition using a video camera. Before my audition I just happened to have been watching Shawn Of The Dead so it was a hoop going from watching records being thrown at some dead chick's head to a very emotional/animalistic deadgirl.

HT: What was the hardest part of the film making experience for you? Was there ever a time that you were having second thoughts about the project?

JS: DEADGIRL is a very dark and emotional film. Knowing I would be nude and majority of my scenes included a lot of physical and emotional activity, it was very difficult. It was important for me to build a bond and comfort zone with my co stars. I knew they felt uncomfortable and I reassured them that its alright, your not doing anything wrong. We are making something special. JT (Noah Segan) was very intimidating. Women like to feel comfort and have reassurance and I knew our characters were going to be a battle. We understood each other, worked together and made it happen.

HT: Did you enjoy making a film with such heavy subject matter? Do you think that you would do it again?

JS: Honestly I did enjoy making DEADGIRL because it was such an intense movie to make and it brought everyone involved close together. We knew how extreme and how far we were going and it really became a family affair.

HT: You've asked the fans on twitter what their favorite parts of the film were, or what parts scared them the most... what was your favorite part of the film?

JS: My favorite part was were they discover the girl, its such a mystery and so much death and beauty that lies beneath. Her discovery is probably the most intense because it makes you question life itself.

HT: Have you experienced any negative reactions from family or friends about the film since it's release? You said in an interview several months ago that you watched it with your father, I can't imagine that was very comfortable.

JS: Yes, I have had some negativity from family. I did an interview with the New York Post about taking my dad and my brother to see DEADGIRL. My mom still wont see DEADGIRL because she knows the content of the film, but she is still proud. I took dad and my brother to one of our premiers at the AFI Film Festival. I didn't tell them much about the film. I was hoping we would have separate seating but we all had to sit together. My dad was a little uncomfortable so I went and got a BIG bucket of popcorn. My dad and brother shared it and by the end of the movie the bucket was CLEAN! I reassured my dad that I had a stunt double. ;) My brother who serves in the U.S Army said "Thats my kind of movie" my dad said " Cool Jen". He is short on words but he has been a huge investor in me and my career. My dad loves the movie!

HT: Have you kept in contact with any of the other actors involved in DEADGIRL? If so, how are they enjoying the film's reception?

JS: Yes! I do keep in contact with everyone. We all became very close both Gadi and Marcel as well as spfx artist Jim Ojala. We have all developed a special bond. Especially working with Jim who did my spfx make-up. I was nervous at first, shortly we became the best of friends we goofed a lot and got into mischief. All the hours in make-up, not to mention I mooned ALOT of people! ha. Stuff they don't mention on behind the scenes. We made it fun. Not very many films go this far emotionally, mentally and physically. DEADGIRL had an impact on many of us and brought us all close together. That's rare.

HT: Are there any actors or directors that you would really love to work with in the future? Who would they be and what is it about their work that you enjoy?

JS: There are lots of actors I would love to work with. Everyone is different and has a particular style. I'm an observer, actors or not, everyone has some kind of talent to learn from. I think its important to be observant and open minded. It helps with with creativity.

HT: What can you tell us about your upcoming film Trust and your character in it? So far I've only read that it's being compared to Saw and Big Brother on some levels. (There seems to be a certain level of interest in tying reality TV in with horror I've noticed. The best effort so far being the UK zombie miniseries, Dead Set, in my opinion.)

JS: I play Elaine Tanner who is a lead character in TRUST. Can't tell you too much about my character because that would just give it away :) Both Directors Kerry Finlayson(UK) and Dominka Pyke (Poland) have won awards for previous international films. TRUST is about 12 reality TV stars at their last chance of fame and a huge wad of cash and would do anything to win. Everyone is put through tests, whether it's life or death, and nobody knows. Some turn up missing, dead, it's a battle between lovers and friends. Lots of sex, blood, its good. It's about who you can TRUST.

HT: You've mentioned a couple of non-horror film projects that you may have coming up, can you elaborate on those at all?

: I have multiple projects in the works. I have been offered many leading parts two are Sci-Fi, the others are drama/thriller. Unfortunately, I can't say the names just yet. They are all leading roles with some big names. So keep a look out! :)

HT: Is horror your favorite genre? Do you plan to work within the horror genre more in the future, or is it a stepping stone into acting for you?

JS: I grew up watching horror. My dad introduced it to me as a kid. Growing up watching horror films taught me to be fearless. There are many lessons to learn in the horror genre. Those who are not use to seeing death and blood, etc, who watch Lifetime and soaps all the time... if someone was in a real life situation and had to act quickly, who would be the first to freak out? It's common sense. So you wont see me on Lifetime. Ha! I love horror, but I'm the type of girl who loves to expand herself.

HT: From what I've seen you post on twitter, you seem to be a huge film fan like myself and those who will read this. You may even watch more movies than I do, and that's saying something! What are some of your favorite films?

JS: My ultimate favorite film is Bram Stoker's Dracula. I could watch it over and over again. It's so sexy, dark and lustful. I am not a fan of love comedies. Majority of those who watch love comedies can not divide reality and fantasy. It's a whole different world. I'm a fan of a good flick that keeps me on my toes, not something that would make me depressed, veg on ice cream, and cry over. That's just lame.

HT: Is there anything that you'd like to talk about that hasn't been mentioned in the previous interviews you've done about DEADGIRL or about yourself?

JS: I would just really like to thank you for this interview and all those who have seen DEADGIRL. We worked really hard for this and waited so long for everyone to experience it. Our DVD commentaries/behind the scenes doesn't compare to what we actually went through to make this film but it's as close as we could get. So please check out DEADGIRL you'll either love it or hate it. Thank You!

I'd like to give a HUGE Thank You to Jenny for taking the time to do this interview. I hope she'll keep us informed of her future projects and maybe grant us another interview later on down the line. You can follow Jenny Spain on twitter, where she can be found as @jennyspain. I hope you guys enjoyed it and check out DEADGIRL!

As always, Comments are welcome!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chaw (2009)

Chaw (2009) 121 Minutes. Jeong-won Shin, Director.

Chaw is a South Korean horror/dark comedy film about a man-eating boar terrorizing the small Korean village of Sammaeri. According to IMDB, it's only the second film from director Jeong-won Shin. I was unfamiliar with all of the cast except Yu-mi Jeong, whom I'd seen previously in A Bittersweet Life. What drew me to watch the film was the concept. Killer boar terrorizes village. Yep, I'm sold. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. I love old school monster movies. Unless Syfy makes it.

The film credits open with some rather disturbing and realistic looking footage of hunters trapping and killing animals in a series of quick flashes. I don't know if the footage is real or not, it certainly looks like it is. Once that bit of unpleasantness is out of the way (I'm not a fan of real animal violence AT ALL) the film starts with a man going to take a leak at the edge of a hill before tripping and falling face first into a dug open grave. He climbs out of the hole, clearly disturbed by this turn of events and is promptly attacked and drug away by the boar, who we don't see at this point. A classic beginning to a film that is essentially a Jaws knock-off. I mean that in a good way. I love Jaws, and I tend to enjoy Jaws knock-offs. And this one doesn't take itself too seriously.

From that point, we meet the typical cast of characters. The village chief, the retired hunter, the detective sent to investigate the killings, the new cop in town, and the big game hunter brought in to solve the problem. We are also treated to some strange villagers like an apparently insane woman who insists on being called “mother” and laughs maniacally at everyone, and an odd street urchin looking child who may or may not be her son. These characters have good development and interact well with each other.

One of the things that works in this movie, strangely enough, is it's humor. I'm kind of a hard sell for horror comedy. For years I resented Return of the Living Dead for making zombies funny. (Don't worry, I got over it. But, for the record, I like my zombies to be slow, hungry, mindless hordes.) But in this case the comedy and horror elements actually compliment each other pretty well. For some reason Tremors comes to mind, not in story, but in how the horror and comedy work within the story. Some of the humor in the film appears unintentional. For example, in one scene, a group of hunters comes to the village to help track down the boar. These hunters are supposed to be from Finland, yet speak English with VERY American accents. There is some physical humor in it as well. People are always falling down in this movie. Come to think of it, boars are always falling down in this movie too.

Visually the film is nice to look at. The forest is very pretty and I like the set design. There are a few action scenes where I didn't care for the filming style that the director chose to use, but that's a personal preference. The special effects in it are pretty solid, all things considered. The gore and blood effects are pretty typical of what I've seen out from Korean cinema. The boar sometimes looks a bit odd and not very menacing, but when they are showing it running through the forest and so on, the effects are good. It's usually the close up face and mouth shots where it looks computer generated. Bear in mind that I'm particularly picky about my CGI and am a big fan of practical effects, so I am probably making more of this than I should.

Interestingly, about 70% of Chaw was filmed in California near San Francisco, despite being a Korean production. Much of the film takes place in rural areas and it was much easier to secure permission to film in the California woods than it was to film in Korea. Many of the computer generated effects were also done here in the United States. From what I've been able to find out online, the effects crew spent two years developing the boar in the film.

Snakes feature prominently in two scenes of the film, in one instance it was a computer generated one that looked rather weak. I think they would have us believe it was a Mamushi Viper that you were seeing although it looked more like a variety of rat snake to me. The other one, which was presented in the story as being a venomous snake looked like it may be a Cooks Tree Boa or something in the smaller tree boa family. I realize this probably doesn't matter to anybody but me. I have been around reptiles most of my life, and find it really annoying when a film tries to show me one snake and tell me it's another one. At least the film makers in this case used a less common snake for their “deadly snake” than a lot of films do. I've lost count of the number of films where some deadly snake that kills you in seconds is portrayed by a corn snake or boa constrictor. Even the cover of Anaconda 3 (which I've never seen and have no desire to) has a bunch of ball pythons on the cover and the main snake being featured is a Burmese Python with something looking like a computer generated rat head tacked onto it. Completely ridiculous, but I digress...

This film can't help but draw comparisons to Jaws, as I mentioned above, and the Australian film Razorback, which it's particularly reminiscent of in the final act. I've also heard of an American film called Pig Hunt, which I've not seen, and have heard this compared to as well. From what I can tell, they are very different films though, and the only real comparison to be found in it is that both involve killer pigs.

Chaw is a very fun film and I highly recommend that you guys give it a watch if you get a chance. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. So many really bad monster movies come out, it's always a good thing when one like this comes along, in my opinion.

As always, comments are welcome!

(I finally got a chance to write a new review! Thanks for the patience everyone!)