Women in Horror Month: Kate Davies-Speak
Continuing my series of interviews with the actresses of Dark Temple Motion Pictures in celebration of Women In Horror Month, here is my interview with long-time collaborator Kate Davies-Speak, the 'final girl' of Escape From Cannibal Farm, The Barge People and the ill-fated Agatha Whipley and Lillian Carver of my films The House Of Violent Desire and Winterskin.
Charlie Steeds: Kate, you've been involved in a fair few horror projects, tell me about them!
Kate Davies-Speak: I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in a wide variety of horror movies over the last five years or so, which makes me so happy as it has always been a genre that I am passionate about (even as a child growing up). The most rewarding have been; Danielle in 'The Mine' (Shot 125ft underground in an unused chalk mine which was an awesome challenge), Elena in 'Beautiful People' (which was my first main role in a feature, I had the chance to work in stunning Northern Italy) Jessica in 'Escape From Cannibal Farm' (one of my most exciting characters to portray offering a huge arc and lots of challenges), Agatha in 'The House of Violent Desire' (offering me an opportunity to really try a new type of character and to work in a stunning location in the South of France) and one of my most recent roles; Kat in 'The Barge People' (working with a wonderful cast on location on a canal and on set on a retro-decorated barge) there are more but these roles really pushed me and cemented in my love for working in the horror genre.
CS: Focusing on one particular character you’ve enjoyed playing, tell us what drew you to that role and whether you found the character to be typical or unique to the horror genre.
KD-S: I loved playing Kat in 'The Barge People' as she gave me an opportunity to play the most realistic character I could manage within the extreme situation she was placed in. I loved having the chance to bring about the emotional, passionate and human aspect of the character before the horror kicked in and she was forced to respond, firstly by being a little shell-shocked and victimised and hopefully evolving more into someone who fights back, not as a hero necessarily but more than a human using whatever methods and resources she can find to escape and to protect the people that she loves. I find that Kat and Jess (whom I played in 'Escape From Cannibal Farm') were both women who rise to the challenge and surprise even themselves at what they are capable of doing in a crisis. I hope that the audience will enjoy the tougher side of both that breaks the typical 'helpless' victim often seen in horror.
CS: The horror genre has moved from taking pleasure in victimising women to focusing on women as survivors and protagonists. To what extent is that true in the roles you’ve played?
KD-S: I think that it's fine for a woman to be victimised in the film so long as all of her actions and responses are justified, it's exciting to see her in peril but very rewarding to see her face and confront her foes in a way that is believable. I personally get a kick out of portraying a woman who is broken down who then rises into a warrior or becomes a little unhinged from her experiences, I definitely got a chance to do this as Jess, I hope to maybe do a more extreme transition in future projects. I am very fond of revenge stories.
CS: Which women in horror do you find particularly inspiring?
KD-S: I have always idolised Neve Campbell in 'Scream', I loved her as an actress but also her character which she played to perfection. She was never too weak, she was relatable and we really watched her character grow throughout the four movies. I really admire and aspire to be like Shauna Macdonald who I thought was excellent in 'The
Descent' she totally nailed the protagonist/ emotional journey and bad-ass survivor role, convincing and subtly played throughout the film. Shauna has also had an amazing career in every respect but doesn't chase stardom, she just makes excellent work. I also have to mention Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dee Wallace and Sissy Spacek for their inspiring work, I adore the style of acting in the older movies, so delicate and intricate which isn't easy to do in a horror film.
CS: Its interesting you bring up those four older actresses, because it has reminded me how many great female characters there are in older horror movies. In my previous post Makenna and I discussed that women in horror are either the weak victim or the super strong badass and there's very little in between, which certainly seems the case in contemporary horror movies. But Sissy Spacek as Carrie is an incredible character, she is an icon of female empowerment, and I recall you, me and Natalie Martins enjoying watching The Fog whilst shooting The Barge People. We were all so in love with Adrienne Barbeau's character! She's not sexualised and I don't think she's simply a damsel in distress, she's the protector of the whole town in her lighthouse really. Has the genre forgotten how to write great female roles since then?
KD-S: I think this may be one of the reasons that I enjoyed the movie 'HUSH' on Netflix as it shows the lead actress playing a character that resonates with the classic horror icons mentioned. Her only real disadvantage in the film is her hearing impairment, this gives her the vulnerability that's enjoyable in a horror film but she is definitely a survivor type without being too much the victim and too much the bad-ass role, although she's attractive she's certainly not exploited in any sexual way. I think the viewer feels protective of her because she's alone, confused and at a major disadvantage to her attacker but they like her as she doesn't make silly cliche mistakes such as falling over whilst running away. The character certainly has an essence of characters such as those found in 'The Fog' and 'Halloween' this throwback may be why I found her so appealing. I don't think that all filmmakers have forgotten this type of character in their films but certainly many of the bigger studio movies may have done so. I also see this type of character within the excellent 'Eden Lake' whereby the leading lady is quick-thinking, protective, heroic but still a victim.
CS: Kelly Reilly in Eden Lake has got to be one of the best horror heroines of the past couple of decades!
KD-S: If anything iId say the best horror films are those who still write these types of roles for women.
CS: Do you have a favourite horror film heroine/survivor girl?
KD-S: I will go for Neve Campbell as Sydney Prescott as she was such a major inspiration for me to become and actress in the first place.
CS: What female roles/representation in horror would you like to see more of in the future.
KD-S: I would like to see even more of the non-sexualised, relatable and realistic leading troupe of women seen in movies like 'The Descent'.
See Kate Davies-Speak in ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM on DVD in the US/Canada NOW and on DVD in the UK from April 23rd!