In the original Sinister, director/co-writer Scott Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill created a new horror mythology, an ancient demon named Bughuul who steals the souls of children by compelling them to make “home movies” of themselves slaughtering their own families. The family at the center of the first film didn’t survive the story, so the sequel – written again by Derrickson and Cargill, and directed by Ciaran Foy (Citadel) – focuses on a new one: a single mother named Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) and her two twin boys (Robert and Dartanian Sloan), whose attempts to hide from Courtney’s abusive husband (Lea Coco) lead them right into Bughuul’s path.
Sossamon has a wide-ranging resume that includes horror films like One Missed Call and The Order, mainstream hits like A Knight’s Tale and 40 Days and 40 Nights, and, more recently, TV series like Wayward Pines and a new role on the upcoming season of Sleepy Hollow. Den of Geek had a chance to chat with Sossamon recently about Sinister 2, working with twins, and her dream of one day making a musical.
Den of Geek: You’ve done a few horror films. Is there something about that genre that draws you at all or is it just purely a script by script type of thing?
Shannyn Sossamon: It’s script by script for sure as far as what I commit to or what I say yes to, because they are very draining. They come to me. I don’t like them. I don’t really like watching them unless a friend recommends a film to me and they say, “It’s a scary one, but you’ve got to see it. It’s amazing. The music is amazing. The pictures are amazing, and the acting.” Then I’ll sit through one. But I’m not a passionate horror film fan.
Have you watched this?
Do you intend to watch this?
I think so, yeah. I think Ciaran wants James and me to really watch it. I think he’s very proud of it.
So what grabbed you about it?
What sold me on this one was the director and just meeting Ciaran. The thing on the page that I did respond to at first, though, to answer your question more specifically, is that I did like that it almost felt like a drama. Courtney’s storyline was very grounded in something that I could maybe work with. That was a nice start. But the meeting with Ciaran was what made me feel excited.
Even though it was a horror film and I didn’t want to do one for a while because they are draining, and I knew this would be draining, too, because my character, Courtney, is going through a lot, I was excited to work for Ciaran. Because when you trust, as an actor, you can go anywhere. And it’s fun, in a way, because you know that there’s meaning at the end of it all and that you’re telling a story that will make sense, and then hopefully moves people. And I trusted him.
Are there different levels of trust between an actor and a director? Are there situations where you feel really open to each other, and then other times where it’s more like, “We’re just doing business here. I’m doing my work and you’re doing your work, but we don’t have that kind of connection”?
Yeah. It almost feels like that more on TV. That I find more with television. It’s like everyone is just doing their work, exactly like you just said. And with movies, I don’t know. It’s just got an intimate, magical feeling to it that I really love.
Some of the most intense stuff in this film were the scenes with the ex-husband. Were those scenes very difficult to do?
Yeah, I think so. But at the same time, you go into a survival mode where you just want to take care of your kids; no one is going to hurt your kids. So they weren’t difficult in that sense, because you think that you’re doing the best you can for them. But I remember Ciaran saying in the beginning that that was the real villain for him, that…the evil starts with parents and parenting in the home.
Did it take you a while to establish a rapport with the boys?
It happened pretty quickly. I got along with them great. They’re fun and they were just having a great time. It wasn’t an intense atmosphere on set at all. It was a lot of laughing.
Is there anything different about working with twins, or in this case two triplets? Do you sense any sort of unspoken bond between them?
No. Nothing that’s interesting to say here. They just felt like really close brothers. There were, though, two other twins, these girls that were the stand-ins for them. They cut their hair really short and they were just a little bit taller. But they could work all hours, so they were there a lot. They were an interesting set of twins. They seemed like they almost could have been Siamese twins, but they weren’t. That’s how connected they were. So maybe when the boys get older they’ll have that. I’m not sure. They also look different. Maybe that has something to do with it. These girls were really identical twins.
This was shot in Illinois. Did you enjoy working out there?
I loved Chicago. Yeah, I really, really did. I can’t wait to go back. I like the feeling.
Do you ever think, “C. Robert Cargill is a really nice guy. Scott Derrickson, really nice guy, where they dredge up this stuff that they’re coming up with, especially the ways they devise to kill people?”
Sometimes. Yeah. But I believe that we all have that kind of stuff deep in our psyches and that it’s really healthy to let it out in healthy, safe ways, which is through art or in therapy. It doesn’t freak me out that they come up with this stuff. The things that have come out in my personal therapy sessions are…we all have it. So I think its better that it gets out in a healthy way. Do I think that there should be lots of dark films that kids are seeing all the time that are just full of evil? I don’t…No. It makes me uncomfortable. I think video games are becoming a bit much and stuff. But, yeah. That actually raises the question: when we are getting it out in healthy ways, what about safe ways? Are our movies totally safe? It’s healthy for the maker, like, “Great! Got that all out into a piece of art.” But you get the wrong souls watching.
I read that you make your own short films. Are you still doing it?
I haven’t made a short in a few years and I really, really miss it. I hope to in the next few years for sure. It’s a goal. I think I’m going to be more comfortable with that hat on.
Is directing a feature film something you might want to do?
I would love to do that, yeah. Yes. [laughs] I would have so much fun doing that.
Have you written any scripts?
Yeah. I wrote my first pilot episode of what I think is going to be a miniseries, though it could also be a film. It’s called How to Be a Lady. I’m now working on a feature that I know for sure is a feature called The Magic If. I’m doing it when there’s free time, because I’ve got two boys and I just signed on to Sleepy Hollow, the television show, so I have to work on that. But yeah, it’s definitely part of the plan. I just think it will be more compatible with who I am in my personality to be able to be my own boss somewhat.
How has the experience of working on Sleepy Hollow been so far?
It’s been great. Everyone is really nice. I’m excited about the character. I’ve played two very stressed out, worried mothers back to back, in Wayward Pines and Sinister, so I’m excited to go somewhere different.
Can you tell me a little bit about the character?
I’m not allowed to say much, but it is not a worried mother. [laughs] It’s more mystical and playful.
We talked a little bit about the differences between film and television. What about some of the other pros and cons of going back and forth? What do you like about TV as opposed to film or vice versa?
I love film the most. I just do. It’s like summer camp — you just disappear and you get to have fun and play pretend. It’s like the circus. You all make something special together and that’s the goal. It just feels more magical. I really love it. It is true, though, that the writing is now becoming really, really great in television. So that’s always wonderful. And you are always going to want meat to work with.
And it is nice sometimes how TV does move quickly. Sometimes you are in the mood for that. You are in the mood for like, “Ah, great. It’s getting done.” You know, you’re working in and out, in and out. That can feel nice.
You started as a dancer. Did you ever want to do a full-blown musical one day?
I would love that, yes. Yes, for sure. There’s definitely a lot of dancing elements in some of the things that I make at home and write about, for sure. So yeah, yeah.
Sinister 2 is out in theaters now.