Movieweb: Stefanie Scott and Rory Culkin Talk About the Horrors of The Last Thing Mary Saw

The stars of the Shudder exclusive discuss their roles in The Last Thing Mary Saw and how horror is leading the way in experimentation.

Edoardo Vitaletti’s debut picture, The Last Thing Mary Saw, is a new religious horror film on Shudder which oozes atmosphere and trembles with dread. Vitaletti and his crew do a great job lighting, editing, and scoring the movie with a poetic sensibility, but part of its subtle success stems from the performances. The film is led by a trio of women well-versed in the horror genre– the young Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan) and Stefanie Scott (Insidious 3) play doomed lovers caught up in the religious fundamentalism of their 1843 household, and the classic horror actor Judith Roberts (Eraserhead, The Heart She Holler) plays The Matriarch, a haunting specter of a woman tasked with breaking and reforming them. Rory Culkin (Lords of Chaos), as The Intruder, enters this family drama like a curious curse, becoming the catalyst for a violent conclusion.

Researching the Role

Stefanie Scot (SS) and Rory Culkin (RC) recently sat down to discuss their roles. Neither of them had tapped into playing such historically distant and distinct roles as they had in The Last Thing Mary Saw, but Vitaletti’s vision guided them toward the characters’ truth. Rory was trained to mimic the culturally specific, colloquial language, saying, “Edoardo sent me an audio recording of a dialect coach, and he was just explaining what the words would sound like, with nice, good references to watch. John Adams, the Paul Giamatti show, he was like ‘that was some top-shelf period piece acting.'” Stefanie was aided by studying some specific material that the director used when conceiving the script.

SS– He sent me some books and stuff, and journals and things that he’d found at the library in New York about like a woman and her life in the 1840s, and just kind of have peaceful [it was]. There wasn’t really much going on around the house outside, so yeah, I guess that book helped a lot. And it was a lot about God, and looking for God and things, and I think maybe in a different way than we would think about that now. Obviously, when you watch the movie, it’s quite tense and [there’s] a bit of a lack of love there […] What he talked about a lot with me, he had a lot to say about the subject and religion, and kind of how [these characters are] brought up and in a very tense environment, how it’s like kind of always walking on eggshells.

That tense environment is certainly manifested on the screen, as the characters navigate an oppressive world in which secrets are forced into existence by the constant threat of punishment and the frequent invocation of God’s wrath. However, the mood on set was sometimes quite different, largely thanks to the chemistry between the actors and the presence of Isabelle Fuhrman, who turns out to be a generative, mood-lifting presence (who is literally lifted by levitation in the film, a suitable metaphor for her own levity). Scott and Fuhrman had acted together in the excellent Good Girls Get High, which is a far cry from their horror pedigrees, and the two have even lived together in an apartment.

SS– [Isabelle and I have] been friends for a really long time when this kind of came about. I don’t know if Eduardo knew that, but yeah, I’d known her for a really long time. We did that movie [Good Girls Get High] together, which was obviously totally different. But it was easy, and we lived together while we made the movie, and we just have a really good friendship. So it was pretty easy for us. It was interesting making out with her. But um, you know, like you got to do what you got to do, right.

Culkin was put into some extremely dramatic situations in the film, as his character does some awful things but is also imbued with a kind of humanizing melancholy and trauma. However, the possible emotional disturbance of this kind of role was mitigated by Fuhrman’s surprising levity.

RC– I thought it would stick with me, because I do something kind of awful in the movie, and […] I went in thinking I’m going to leave with a certain amount of like guilt, but I didn’t feel guilty […] I think it was because Isabel was so great at just keeping it light even when we were doing some terrible things. She was always assuring me that it’s fine, and punching me in the arm and stuff. So I walked away like feeling light, but I don’t know, I probably should have had some weight on me leaving, but Isabelle was just great to work with. I attribute it to her.

Performing in Poetry

Culkin’s performance is a harrowing one but is exceedingly strange. His mysterious character is drawn to the household in an almost spiritual way; The Intruder follows a calling and, fitting with the Calvinist and religious themes of the film, may be unwittingly caught up in the will of God. The film is more poetic and less explicit about all of this, and aside from a stirring and intense autobiographical monologue, very little is known about the character; the word ‘abstract’ springs to mind.

RC– Yeah, that was the word I was going to us, even our discussions, the discussion with Eduardo about the character was kind of abstract in itself. Just the idea of waking up and just having this feeling to be drawn in a certain direction and going in that direction, physically, then actually an event happening in that direction that you were just felt the need to go in. And yeah, that was just really interesting to me, just this […] intruder, or this wanderer, being drawn to this one point, and why, and wanting to know more about it, and sort of being this dumb moth drawn to this flame that he doesn’t even know what it is. Even our discussions were kind of abstract and interesting, and got me excited.

Scott’s character may be less abstract but is just as mysterious. She opens the film with an incredibly memorable sequence during which, tied to a chair with blood dripping behind the blindfold tightened around her head, she is forced to recite The Lord’s Prayer at gunpoint. The audience has no backstory, and the one which is gradually filled in is more poetic than concrete, but the actor is very good at locating her character’s motivations, fears, and drives in accordance with the themes of the film, though she credits the script for this.

SS– It was kind of all in the pages, you know, her relationship with Eleanor, the secrecy, and having to walk on eggshells around her family. And always hiding, whether that is with Isabel or with anything, it felt like you had to hide your emotions, your thoughts, anything, because anything feels like it could be threatened or threatening or, you know, an act to be punished for, you know, not that any of it really feels justified to be punished for.

That’s where the horror is drawn from in The Last Thing Mary Saw– the unuttered secrets behind the veil, the terror that goes unsaid, and the silence of families and possibly God as well. Culkin describes this beautifully:

RC–I think it’s what freaks me out about [the film] is the that there seems to be so much depth that is behind this veil, that maybe you get a glimpse behind once or twice in the film, but there’s so much that’s unexplained in there. Whatever this higher power is that sort of surrounds this house is just, you know, we just catch a glimpse of what this is and there’s so much more to it that seems to be this sort of timeless abyss that we only catch a glimpse of. So, I just think that the scope of whatever it is, is kind of unsettling to me.

All Aboard the Horror Train

The presence of Judith Roberts surely helps. The actor brings a genuine spookiness to the part, the way she has in James Wan’s Dead Silence and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here. “Yeah, I was intimidated by her,” Culkin stammers. “Just this, like this otherworldly being, especially in wardrobe and makeup. Yeah, she’s pretty intimidating.”

SS– I mean, it was wonderful working with her. I don’t really know what else to say other than it was really awesome working with her, and yeah, she’s great. She’s super creepy in the part, especially the stuff within the barn. Yeah, she was very, very creepy to watch and be there [with her when] it was all dark and spooky.

Though she has obviously been talented in her roles outside of the genre (such as her work as Kimber Benton in Jem and the Holograms) Scott has also appeared in the horror films Insidious 3 and Mary, and will be in the upcoming Hell House and They Who Walk Among Us. She agrees with Culkin that it’s an exciting time to work in the genre, saying, “I think that people are experimenting a lot and coming up with a lot of really fresh new things, and it’s quite leading edge. So it’s interesting that [experimentation] found itself in like a horror genre, but it’s also really entertaining to watch, you know, keeps you gripped.”

RC– I like that it’s sort of becoming elevated in the past few years with, you know, Ari Aster and other people. I like the fact that we’re starting to meet in the middle for, you know, other genres. So, yeah, I just really like the direction [that horror] is heading. Stay on this train.

“This train” may go in strange, unsettling, and unexpected directions, but with The Last Thing Mary Saw, Hellbender, Fear Street, and countless other horror films leading the cinematic conversation and being lauded by critics, it is surely worth the ride.

Source: movieweb.com

Articles & Interviews - The Last Thing Mary Saw

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Welcome to Stefanie Scott Fan, the latest online resource dedicated to the talented actress Stefanie Scott. Stefanie has been in films like "Insidious: Chapter 3", "First Light", "Good Girls Get High" and "Girl in the Basement". She has also been in TV Shows like "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit", "A.N.T. Farm" and "The Girl in the Woods". This site is online to show our support to the actress Stefanie Scott, as well as giving her fans a chance to get the latest news and images.
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They Who Walk Among Us
Stefanie as Isabel 'Izzy' Grant
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A young musician must utilize long-buried clairvoyant powers to find her missing teenage sister and save her from an ancient supernatural force that is terrorizing their small town.

Hell House
Stefanie as Dawn Ferguson
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The film follows the complicated relationship between small town high school peers Dawn and Makayla in the Deep South, on the eve of a religious-themed Halloween attraction or "hell house" grand opening, and the various townspeople who try to keep the two apart, with disastrous results.