One of the most prolific names in modern horror these days is the ever-awesome Tristan Risk. Having made a splash as Beatress in the Soskas Sisters’ American Mary back in 2012, Little Miss Risk has gone on to appear in genre favourites such as The Editor, House of Manson and Mania. With Frankenstein Created Bikers just one of many an upcoming feature for Risk, we caught up with this STARBURST fave to discuss her current projects, channeling her inner-Snake Plissken, the future, her thoughts on remakes, ageism in the industry, and a whole lot more.
STARBURST: Frankenstein Created Bikers has yet to make it to the UK, but we’re absolutely dying to see it. What can you tell us about that movie?
Tristan Risk: I think that a lot of people will really enjoy seeing this. It’s having its Canadian premiere in May, and it’s just starting to go round different places for screening. I think it’s going to be hitting the festival circuit pretty hard. I’m so proud of it, this is like the movies that I grew up watching, that I idolized. It’s Escape from LA, it’s Switchblade Sisters, it’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, it’s Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, it’s every Frankenstein movie, it’s so many genre hits. It’s kind of like sort of if you’re having sex and you’ve got like all kinds of things going on and you’re just like, “It’s so many sensations, I can’t even handle it!” I’ve only seen it once so far at a screening, and I need to see it ten more times because I feel there’s so many nuances that I’ve missed, that are hidden in different places all the time, because you do need to see it more than once to discover new things.
That’s certainly a great description. It also seems as if there may be a slight Troma feel to it. Is that the case?
I don’t think it’s got a direct Troma vibe but I think there’s definitely elements from that. There is a great big creature in there as well, because all good genre has a creature, all good genre has a biker gang, all good genre has some crazy chick who just blows things up, and there’s gotta be at least one eyepatch. One person in an eyepatch is the rule in genre.
So you were channeling your inner-Snake Plissken?
Absolutely! I hate to say it but Escape from LA is one of my favourite movies just because it’s so over the top. They’re just throwing everything in that. I’m pretty sure the writers might have had a little bit of, I can’t tell if it’s an affection for LA in the way that they handle a lot of characters... Just some of the characters in LA as opposed to in New York are so LA stereotypes, they’re so funny, like Bruce Campbell as the plastic surgeon just knocks my socks off every time. And Bruce Campbell is a good looking guy, but they just made him look so fucked up.
Risk as Val in Frankenstein Created Bikers
Have you got any thoughts on the talk of an Escape from New York remake?
They’re doing a remake? Really?
Yep, and the shortlist for the Snake Plissken gig, at the last count at least, was Charlie Hunnam, Jon Bernthal and Tom Hardy.
Oh, yeah, that could work, I could see that.
To us, Snake Plissken is one of those sacred roles, it is Kurt Russell…
I know. And this is the world we live in now, we get so many reboots and remakes and sequels that in order for my mind to psychologically handle it and not go crazy and be like “Stop ruining my childhood!” that I think what I just have to tell myself is it’s like in the Marvel universe where they have a series of comic books titled What If. It’s just different ways to explore alternate realities or what if this happened. So I just like to think of a lot of these remakes or sequels as really expensive “what if” versions, then I can just have the love for the version that I like but I’m not ruining someone else’s enjoyment. There’s a whole generation of people… like when most people think of The Fly they’re thinking of the Cronenberg version, when most people think of Little Shop of Horrors they’re not thinking of the black and white one, they’re thinking of the musical from the 1980s. And I love both of those movies, but nobody came along and said, “Urgh, this sucks! It’s not in black and white, it’s not the original, it’s insulting to the original director’s vision.” So I don’t wanna be that guy to somebody else.
It can certainly be said that people can get a little too precious about things, and that’s something we’re guilty of at times, particularly when one of our favourite films of all-time is John Carpenter’s The Thing, itself a remake of The Thing from Another World.
Yeah, it’s a very freeing moment as a fan to let that go, because we have a bad history in fandom and genre culture in getting really… I mean, it’s good to love what you love but don’t go around slamming other people’s work. Theoretically, I could see someone doing a really cool movie that I get involved in, then maybe at some point they do the sequel or the remake or whatever. You gotta give it a fair shake, you just can’t hate it out of the gate. As a working artist, you can’t fault other people for taking a paycheck.
On that note, the last time we talked you mentioned your hatred of Michael Bay and his butchering of people’s childhoods…
If you’re gonna do it, do it well. This is the problem; I just don’t think that he did it well. I think he substituted a lot of storylines for explosions. Then again, there’s a bunch of guys who are watching this and grow up into 20-somethings and that’s gonna be their Transformers. If you showed them the old animated one, they’d probably be like “What is this crap?!”
I guess that’s part of the whole ‘letting it go’ thing?
There’s conservative politics to worry about, there’s fuckery in the House of Commons. I do not need to be giving myself ulcers about the Ghostbusters remake. I just don’t need that.
Did you ever get round to watching that Turtles remake in the end?
I did. I watched in on a plane as I felt like, “Okay, the airline’s paid for it.” I watched it and, again it’s back to there’s more explosions than were necessary for it. But I can see what he wanted to do with it. It just weirded me out to not see the Turtles organic and live the way they were when they were animatronic puppets. I’m sure again, though, that if you show someone who grew up with CGI the old school version then they’d be asking “What is this? What am I seeing? And you like this over this? This is so much more flawless.” It’s probably like showing someone when I was that age Harryhausen stuff and going “Look at this!”, and I’d be like “But we have better technology now…”
Back to your plethora of projects, you’ve also recently worked on Harvest Lake. Where are things with that at the moment?
That’s just come out; that’s available on Blu-ray and DVD, and it’s doing the festival circuit right now. It’s got screenings all over the place. It’s been getting a lot of really good feedback lately.
With Frankenstein Created Bikers, that recently had its world premiere, right?
The world premiere was in Atlanta as part of the Atlanta Film Festival. It was their 40th anniversary and they had to open up a second theatre to screen it because they had so many people turn up to watch it. And then they added another screening on the Friday. So it opened the festival and closed it, too.
We guess the response to the film was pretty good then?
I think so. Because it was shot in Atlanta and had a lot of support locally, which was really, really awesome, but then you’ve also got everyone who came to support it and then Kickstarter. So everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign feel very strongly and are very invested in it. I’m excited to see it take over the world!
Having not seen the film or have any idea on how it ends, is it a conclusive ending or is it positioned for any further movies to follow?
Oh, I think that Jimmy has either a prequel or another sequel. It’s actually a sequel to Dead God No!, James’ first film with The Impalers and the good doctor and all the rest. So with this one, this is actually the sequel but it’s a standalone film too, so you can go in there without having seen Dear God No!... although why would you want to?! You need to go see that movie, it’s absolutely wonderful, it’s like this perfect grindhouse biker film.
And would any prequel or sequel involve yourself returning?
I hope so. I would really hope so, ‘cos she’s really awesome. She’s kind of my spirit animal now. I notice that when I start to drink, the more alcohol-infused I get, the more Val’s voice creeps out of my mouth. It used to be Beatress but now I turn into Val when I get pissed off.
Does that mean you have to carry an eyepatch around with you at all times then?
I actually have a Swarovski crystal-covered eyepatch where I do a number where I’m the tightrope walker with no depth perception. So I have this glittery eyepatch, so I’ve been wearing an eyepatch for years now. I might just start doing that. I get eye infections really easy, so this is a great solution if I get pinkeye again or conjunctivitis, I can just swap it around. The only thing is that if I get it in both eyes, I can’t walk around with like a Cyclops thing going on.
It sounds as if your Val is a little like Suzi X from Rob Zombie’s The Haunted World of El Superbeasto…
Suzi X! Yeah! She’s voiced by Sheri Moon Zombie, in fact. And I have to say, I’d seen Sheri in House of 1,000 Corpses but that was the film where I was like, “This woman would be such a fantastic voice actress in other things as well!” And I don’t know if she has done anything, but I was so struck by how good she was as that. I would love to see her voice more characters, not necessarily just Rob’s, but anything. I think she would be really, really good at it. She yells at lot like Varla from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Val is like somewhere between there and blowing things up a lot.
You’ve recently wrapped on Elias’ latest thriller, Ayla. When can we expect to see that?
We wrapped at the end of March, so that’s photography done. Now they’re going into post-production on that. Working on that was awesome. I got to have the wonderful experience of working with Nicholas in that, he played my brother… ish. You have to see the movie to get a better idea of it. Me saying my brother-ish, that’s kind of what encapsulates the whole movie. Nicholas is a great actor, and he dropped 20lbs to play this character, so he looked a little sunken, a little sallow, a little depressed. I remember seeing that and thinking “Man, that’s real dedication” as I’m eating from my bag of chips. Hopefully we’ll see it out next year. I’m learning in the film industry it takes about a year turnaround for some of these things, with post and all the rest of it. I give it about a twelve-month window there. I’m excited for that to come out as it’s so beautiful and sad and weird, and in a weird way sexy. I think there’s gonna be a lot of awkward boners when watching this.
Err, awkward how?
The characters are very beautiful and interesting, but I think there’s a lot of social programming that people are gonna be like “Why am I finding this arousing? This shouldn’t arouse me! Am I a sexual deviant?” To which I would reply, “Yes. Yes, you are.” But it’s all good.
We were big fans of House of Manson, which came out late last year in the UK despite being finished in 2014. How cool was it for you getting to work on that?
Oh good, I’m glad you liked it. I was really excited to be a part of something that was historical and treated the subject matter really respectably. I didn’t want to be in a film about Charles Manson if it was going to be really exploitative towards the victims and just kind of glorify him and what he did, because I think there’s likely a lot of material doing that as it is. I was really impressed with the way Brandon handled the subject matter and the characters, and he really humanized the victims, which you often forget in these things; you’re looking at crime scene photos and bodies, it’s just meat. He made a really good way of introducing these people who lost their lives because of this man’s social manipulations. I mean, even with my own character, she still has family that are alive today. I didn’t want them seeing House of Manson and going “Wow, that gave me all of the wrong feelings about the tragedy that happened to our family”. And I’m sure that’s still something very dark that haunts them, and I would never want them to think that I’m exploiting that or being insensitive to that in any way. I wanted to pay tribute to it so that Abigail wasn’t forgotten, that she had some kind of respect.
Have you had any feedback from the families at all?
No, I’ve not. I haven’t reached out and contacted them either because I figured if they wanted contact then they would approach me. And I also don’t know what they feel about the whole situation. If they just wanted to bury it and not really acknowledge it, it’s not my place to come up and be there with a shovel and be like “Okay, we’re gonna dig up all these old problems. Put on a pot of coffee, here we go.”
We guess that there’s not really many recent horror movies that are so solidly based on historical events, apart from looking at the Warrens in The Conjuring.
Yeah, Elaine is still alive, although her husband passed on. That’s kind of cool, and I think they’re doing another one based on one of their other cases. And the house I live in now actually has the same floorplan as The Conjuring, which is really interesting. I tell my upstairs neighbour that, and she was like “What’s that?”, and I just said for her to watch it. I don’t know if she’s watched it yet, but I thought it’s cool to know that she can watch a horror movie and imprint that... she might not be too enthusiastic about that, especially if I start playing the piano the same way that the piano gets played in the film or if I start hanging from the tree in the yard.
The Conjuring is just such an awesome movie; one of our favourite horrors of the past decade or more. But then James Wan tends to always knock these films out of the park…
I watched the new Fast & Furious movie when it came out. It’s not my taste in movies but we were going out with my boyfriend’s parents for his birthday, so I was like “Okay, I’ll go and watch it.” But if you watch it from the perspective of a frustrated gay romance then it’s the most beautiful story, and then the tribute to Paul Walker at the end was so good. I’m pretty sure spoiler sales and crappy Korean compact car sales spike every time one of those movies are released.
And that film took more than $1.5 billion, marking it alongside Jurassic World and The Force Awakens as one of the biggest movies of last year!
I wanna see Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle with velociraptors, I wanna see some Jedis, and I wanna see some cars go really fast. That’s all I want in life.
And obviously for a new Halloween movie… or maybe that’s just us?
We’re creative humans; we can still come up with some good kills for him, I think.
It’s a tricky one with Michael Myers, tricky as to where you take him now.
I mean, Freddy and Jason… Jason went to space and then to Hell. I think the shark has officially been jumped for those two at this point. Now I wanna see maybe Michael and Leatherface face off, let’s do that – celebrity horror mash-ups.
The whole Texas Chain Saw Massacre franchise jumped the shark a long time ago, with Texas Chain Saw 3D the final nail in the coffin for us even though there’s another entry in the series on the way soon.
We know two rules: don’t stop by the side of the road, and refuse the chilli politely. I think, especially as a woman, you get very in-tune with being aware of your surroundings and your situations. And being a horror enthusiast such as myself, I see like fifty million red flags where most people might see maybe one pale pink tissue in the wind. I’m like “Oh hell no, I am not going anywhere near that shit!”, and my friend will be all “Come on…”, and I’ll be “This has rape and murder written all over it! Let’s just avoid this situation altogether. What can go wrong at the guy’s isolated house with the hot tub? Plenty!”
Risk as Beatress in American Mary
Your work has ticked so many boxes in the field of horror, so many subgenres have been covered, but are there any other parts of horror that you’re eager to explore?
Yes! I would love to do a cryptozoology film, I would love to do a haunted house film, I would like to do an exorcism film. I still think that there’s a lot of things. I’ve gotten really fortunate in that I’ve got to try a lot of different styles of films and subgenres, but there’s still so much that I’m excited to try and get an opportunity involved with. I think also, the older I get I feel very comfortable in prosthetic make-up, so I’m hoping to eventually transition into doing almost more mask-and-suit work. I know there’s quite a few men in the industry who do it, but I don’t know if there’s quite as many women who do it, and with a background as a dancer then I think I could bring something interesting to it as well. Just because, as we get older as women, sometimes we’re not getting cast in the right roles. I watched something recently where the lead dude was in his mid-50s and his love interest is 25 or 28. I was like “Come on, you’re dealing with daddy issues!” Why couldn’t she have been 40-something? That means that guys in real-life are “Oh no, I’m 55. I should be dating a 20-year-old”. Yeah, you tell me how that works out for you, dude.
From the perspective of a female in the industry, do you think that there’s started to be a shift away from the ageist mentality in film recently or is it just as bad as ever?
Oh, I think they’re fully stuck in their ways. At least in mainstream media, very stuck in their ways. I don’t see a lot of change coming from that direction because it’s the status quo and it’s what’s been working for them so far, so why would they screw with that? But you see in independent films, you see more authentic casting in characters, which I like. I watched recently We’re Still Here, and I enjoyed it for the fact that it was a group of mature adults – and by mature, I mean past 30 and being portrayed as older people who have adult children. So you’ve got these four actors in a haunted house situation, which we don’t see very often; often it’s younger people, it’s teens, we don’t often see older people unless it’s one character who might get offed or have a heart attack or be the benevolent spiritualist witch or healer kind of character, kind of like what we saw in the original Poltergeist or Elaine Warren in The Conjuring. That’s kind of where those rules are for those women. So it’s interesting to see in independents, and I really like We’re Still Here for that.
Who were you favourite scream queens of yesteryear then?
I like a lot of the ‘80s scream queens. Brinke Stevens is a big one for me. Not only did she keep her body natural at a time when it was popular to alter your appearance in terms of boob jobs and stuff… Not to hate on the women who do get breast surgery, but for someone who also grew up with small breasts, you see all the scream queens with the fake boobs and I’m like “Oh, I don’t look like that.” Then I saw Brinke Stevens and was “Oh, I look more like that and can identify with that. That’s cool!” Then to also find out that she’s a marine biologist on top of that, in addition to being a scream queen, it was so cool. These women who do writing or have something else going on as well as the scream queen stuff, I like that. I think it’s easier to stand out when you’re not into the whole conformity thing. Like I don’t feel comfortable in Los Angeles. I don’t feel like I belong there. I find that a lot of people are very superficial in that particular place in the industry. I find that people tend to be more authentic when you embrace your flaws as well. I mean, I’m sure I have… I belch a lot, I smoke pot like a chimney, and I eat a lot of really delicious, healthy natural foods that make my body have really interesting sounds and smells. Nobody’s perfect in this, and I think that when you just embrace whatever flaws or strengths you have that are unique to you, that’s when you actually become more iconic in your own right, standing and doing your own thing rather than trying to conform to the cookie cutter. A lot of people look at my boyfriend because he is a body modification enthusiast and he is transitioning to being a human dragon right now. He’s got 3D horns implanted in his head, his eyes are tattooed, he’s got pointed ears, his tongue is split and he just got it tattooed, and he’s got a very large body tattoo that’s eventually going to cover all of his body including his face. He’s just like “This is me. This is who I am.” You’ve never met someone who’s more open, honest and authentic because he’s like “This is who I am. I’m just putting this out there and wearing this on my sleeve” versus someone who wears a suit, works 40 hours a week and then maybe jerks off to child porn. They’re the bad kind of deviants, the kind of deviants we don’t like. They were all actually done, his mods, by Russ Foxx, who was the flesh artist consultant on American Mary.
On the topic of American Mary, you’ve talked before about your love of the Beatress character. Now with you as Val in Frankenstein Created Bikers, which is your favourite role you’ve played in anything to date so far?
Oh shit! I think definitely Val and Beatress. All my characters are like little different parts of me, but Val and Beatress are very much… I don’t know if they’ve always been there or they’ve developed into larger parts of my personality, but they’re definitely there now. I kind of feel like they are me and I’m them a little bit, so I feel very close to both of those characters. I really enjoy a lot of different, strange weirdos that I get to play and I think that they are all part of a kaleidoscope of my personality in all of its weirdness. I’m basically wearing my neurosis on screen for everyone to see.
It may be a silly question, but is it still as enjoyable to you as it was when you got started?
Yeah, it is. The honeymoon ain’t over yet.
Frankenstein Created Bikers will hopefully be available in the UK soon, but in the meantime you can keep up to date with all of Tristan’s work by following her on Twitter.SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW OR ON TWITTER @STARBURST_MAG
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