Call it what you will: thriller, horror, or just a plain ole, jump-out-at-you scary movie. I got the chance to talk to Stephanie Hodos, who will soon be seen in the horror-thriller Unnatural, part of the series 8 Films to Die For. Read on to hear more about Stephanie, the film, and the wonders of production.
What can you tell us about Unnatural?
It’s a creature, horror film. It takes place in Alaska, it’s all shot on location. I think it’s really relevant to current events, like climate change and what’s going on in the world today. It’s not your typical horror film; I think it’s probably the first movie about a polar bear. I mean, besides like an animated polar bear or documentary, I really don’t think there’s any movies about crazy polar bears, so I think that’ll make it stand out.
What was it like being in a horror movie?
It was a lot of fun! There was definitely some stunts. It was a lot of fun and different. It was cool, the bear was an animatronic bear, that was really interesting in terms of working with the actor who was in the bear suit. It was like, there were two puppeteers that controlled the bear’s facials. There was an actor who was probably about 6’4″ who was in there, so that was really interesting to navigate. (Laughs). But overall I had a really great time. It was different, I guess, being in Alaska because there aren’t scenes on a soundstage or doing gory blood, there’s a little bit of that but not too much. It was more psychological, more of a thriller and bringing that to life.
How did you like filming Alaska?
I loved it, it was great. It was nice to have fresh air. It was definitely cold, but luckily everything there is heated, like inside, like all the restaurants and the hotels. Everything’s heated, so despite being cold when you’re outside, you’re fine inside. The darkness gets to you in the winter. That is one thing, you only get four hours of sunlight. So I found if I was just able to get 30 minutes of sun on the days that we weren’t filming or shooting late, that I’d actually feel like I’d been out for the day as opposed to being cooped up in the dark for the day, if that makes sense?
Yeah, it was definitely a cool experience. People were really friendly in town. We got to know everybody and we worked with a lot of locals in terms of some of the people who were on the crew, in terms of PA, there were locals from Anchorage and Fairbanks.
I could not imagine having that little sunlight. That would completely do me in!
Yeah, you know it’s really interesting. I was thinking the same thing because I’ve been up there in the summer when it’s all light. It can be 9 o’clock at night and you’re sitting in a restaurant and they’re like “okay, we’re closing” and you look outside and it looks like a ghost town because nobody’s out. It feels like it’s only dusk?.And you think “but it’s only 6 o’clock, where is everybody?” And really it’s 9 and everybody’s getting ready to go home and it’s the complete opposite in the dark. It’s funny, everyone I talk to from there say they try to everything done in those four hours, because they figure once the sun’s down that’s it for the day. It’s really interesting, people are cool and the bus runs and everyone gets around!
You mentioned that the bear was animatronic and there was someone else inside. Were there any special effects used, aside from that?
No, we didn’t really use any CGI too much. It’s mostly just the bear. I’m trying to think if I can think of anything. Nothing crazy, no secret CGI. Maybe one or two scenes at the end, but that’s about it. It’s all real, it’s all everything we shot, it’s all in the movie. There’s no fake snow. It’s not plastic, that’s not a good white to use. But everything we did was there, everything’s on location in Alaska, except for one scene, a reshoot we did in L.A.
Could you describe your character, DeLana?
DeLana is an aspiring filmmaker, she loves being on set, loves soaking in all the knowledge that she can. She starts working for this guy, Brooking. They have a love-hate relationship. She likes the work he does but she doesn’t really like him as a person. She hates that she can’t really help because they’re out there all the time, he has to be the head honcho. She struggles with that, but she stays because she’s using the job as a way to make a name for herself in the industry. And then she has a heart, which you’ll see in the film, and at some point it leads to her demise. Her caring about people.
Did you get to take home any souvenirs from the set, maybe like a baby polar bear or something?
No, I didn’t really bring anything home, maybe a vest? I have these really cool winter boots that I did bring back with me. I found them on clearance, they were $50 bucks. But they’re rated at 50 below, they go up to 100 below. So I have those? I got to bring those home. One cool thing is I did get to see some moose! That was cool. The word got around that we had some moose on set. One of the PAs had brought some fresh moose grease that he had made, and moose jerky. So it got around that I like moose. Later on I got a chunk of moose meat and shipped it home and made chili with it. I’m not sure that’s really a souvenir from shooting, but something like that. (Laughs).
I guess the boots are kind of a souvenir? I can wear them again. They look really clunky so I look like I’m the equivalent of Rob Zombie, those big gothic-y black boots but they’re kind of more sporty looking. You’d never wear them in real life unless you were going to a cold place. The funny part is, if you’re a local up there and you see somebody in those boots, you know they’re not a local because locals are too good for those boots. (Laughs). Those are the touristy boots. Unless you’re going to be out for five hours at a time, you can walk out in jeans and regular boots. They kind of label you as a tourist. But they’re comfy, I will say that.
How did you prepare for your role and for the movie?
I’ve been to Alaska before but I wasn’t completely sure of what to expect in terms of winter, because I’ve never experienced anything like that. I kind of knew where I was going, I’d seen some of the locations. I made a point of looking at the weather and looking at clothing-wise, like what people wore in that weather. I’m going to give a shout-out to Melissa Davalos, for helping me rehearse and run lines. Really being my right-hand man in terms of rehearsing. She was wonderful. I tried to throw a little bit of me in there, just because I kind of like to mix creative with business, in general. I also did a lot of reading up on Carhartt and weather and how what people wear, what the weather really feels like just to get a feel of what it was going to be like.
Unnatural is part of the series 8 Films to Die For. Have you been able to screen the others?
I have not, unfortunately. I’ve heard many good things but I’ve not been able to see them. I’ve only heard good things.
Since our site is called “Talk Nerdy With Us,” I was wondering if there’s anything that makes you nerdy or anything that you like to nerd out over?
Oh there’s so many things I could tell you. Gosh, what don’t I nerd over? I’m probably one of the biggest Golden Girls fans you’ll ever meet, and I actually enjoy watching rerun episodes of that. I’m not sure if that’s really nerdy. I think in my past life I might have been a Sophia Petrillo, or hope when I’m 80 I will be, like something like that? (Laughs). You know what I’m talking about? You know the characters on the TV show?
Oh yeah. I love the Golden Girls as well.
Sophia is my favorite and I hope to one day be an 80-year-old Sophia Petrillo. I don’t know if that’s really nerdy. Other than that, I don’t know what else I nerd out over. That’s the one thing that comes to mind. I don’t want to sound *too* nerdy. Yeah, that’s like my one big thing. I love that. And I love watching, one of my guilty pleasures, is watching political commentary shows. I love them, I’m not sure that’s really nerdy. But that’s one of my favorite TV shows. Just for the sake of what’s going on in the world and then watching some of the antics lately, with the debates and everything. But I don’t want to get too political!
Unnatural comes out October 16th, so get thee to a showing!