Monica Potter, who plays the vengeful mother in the upcoming The Last House on the Left, walked us through her big scene, in which she exacts bloody revenge against a brutal convict. (Spoilers ahead!)
Moms don't have the greatest track record in horror movies. While chaste young girls are often the heroines, Mom is either a bit part or the surprise killer who gets offed only to have her son take over the franchise.
The Last House on the Left makes Mom and Dad the heroes. When they find out that the stranded family they've taken in are actually the escaped convicts who brutalized their daughter, the Collingwoods make sure the criminals won't harm anyone else.
Monica Potter plays mom Emma Collingwood. With all the horrific murders she enacted on the set, her biggest fears were the rain spiders who lived on the film's location in South Africa. "I heard one of the crew guys, who is, like, a teamster, scream like a little girl," Potter said in an exclusive interview last week in Beverly Hills, Calif. "I looked up, and I'm arachnophobic. I have the worst fear of spiders ever. I looked up, and I saw this rain spider, and I just went, 'Oh, my God.'"
The following Q&A features edited excerpts of our interview with Potter. The Last House on the Left, director Dennis Iliadis' remake of Wes Craven's controversial 1972 movie, opens Friday.
Is it rare in a horror movie for the mom to be a hero?
Potter: I guess so. The reason why I really liked it was because they didn't make the parents background people. They put them in the forefront and made them powerful and strong and united as a team. I love that, because normally you just have someone that's always crying or shying away. [This film is] like, "OK, this has to be done. Let's do it, and let's protect our daughter and our home." To me that says a lot. I didn't realize how big of a role it was until we actually were doing it.
The kitchen-sink kill is a show-stopper. Walk us through that sequence.
Potter: I remember the sequence of events, rehearsing each beat, each section of that, because we had to sort of break it down, if you will. From the time that he comes in to get a drink, the scene with my character and Aaron [Paul]'s character, and going for the knife and the wine bottle, wrestling on the dining-room table and fighting by the sink, each little increment of that whole long scene, I was like, "OK, don't forget, you have to do that, that, that," because it was all connected. If we missed one thing, it would have screwed up the other person's timing. So it was like rehearsing a really long dance.
How many days did it take?
Potter: I want to say two or three. About two or three, maybe four.
Were there master takes, or was it all in sections?
Potter: There was a master take of half of the scene up until John [Tony Goldwyn], my husband, comes back into the house, and I crawl over from the floor. So there's a master take of all that. But then [director Iliadis] had to cut up everything, because there were so many different little hand grabs and thought-behind-the-eyes kind of things. So he had to really take it slowly, because you didn't want to miss any beat of it.
Once blood is spraying, how many times could you do each portion when a reset would need a whole cleanup crew?
Potter: You have to sort of get it on the nose right away. If you don't, then the wardrobe department and the props department, they're a little bummed, because they have to go and reset everything, and you're like, "I'm sorry. I forgot." When I have to stab Aaron in the shoulder, there was a spot that I had to hit so that the blood pack would open up. That was kind of interesting, because it's like, "Where is that gushy part? OK, here." It was a retractable knife, so you have to make sure that looks real, and then I had a rubber knife to use while we were actually wrestling. I had to make sure that I didn't poke it into him, because it would bend. To me that was funny. We did a lot of takes with that stuff.
Should we be satisfied by the parents' revenge?
Potter: I think so. I think that they did everything in their power and then some to get rid of them. I think that the audience is along for the ride, and hopefully it's not too much gore for them just to go along. I don't think it was too much, because if this were happening in real life for me, I would want to make sure that the job is done, like they're not coming back. It keeps people riveted, I think, which is fun.