Female directors in the horror genre are a hot topic recently, stirring conversation in the indie scene. This was great timing for Unearthed Films’ purchase and distribution of American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice as part of the infamous Guinea Pig franchise. Not only is this film an intense work of horror worthy of the Guinea Pig title (read my review of the film here), but it serves as the directorial debut of Italian model, body builder and actress Poison Rouge. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing this talented woman in horror about the genre and this controversial feature!
PopHorror: Are you, personally, a fan of shock/extreme horror films?
Poison Rouge: Not necessarily shock horror. I’m more of a fan of good cinema rather than one genre. Sacrifice is very different from simple extreme horror. In fact, there is only 1 liter of blood and only 5 gore scenes in the whole film. It is effective because we concentrate so much on the performances to create emotions.
PopHorror: It seemed like more gore, but I do agree. The performances amplified the intensity of the film immensely! Have you always wanted to direct?
Poison Rouge: Directing was never a goal of mine. I’m an actress and model. Domiziano Cristopharo asked me to direct it because he was busy on the set of the feature Torment, and Sacrifice was delayed due to actresses and actors quitting before production. Before asking me to direct, he actually asked me to replace the lead character. Yes, the lead was originally a woman.
PopHorror: That’s very interesting! Recently, Jason Blum from Blumhouse made the news with comments mentioning that there are not many females interested in directing horror films. Having directed your first feature, what are your thoughts about this topic?
Poison Rouge: I think this shows only that there is little knowledge and a lack of communication in the world of cinema. I’m sure mainstream filmmakers would be very surprised if they discovered indie talents.
PopHorror: I completely agree. Are you familiar with the original Japanese Guinea Pig films, and have you ever seen them?
Poison Rouge: Yes, I’m familiar with them. My favorites are He Never Dies, which served as inspiration for Sacrifice, and, of course, Mermaid in a Manhole.
PopHorror: Having seen the originals, I think it’s safe to say that you had an idea of the subject material. Were there any surprises in regards to Sacrifice after completion?
Poison Rouge: The response was a big surprise. I wasn’t expecting all this love and support! I also received some aggressively negative feedback in private, but this is the sad part of the internet world nowadays.
PopHorror: The negative responses are unfortunate, but I’m glad the film has seen a wave of support! What interested you about taking on this project?
Poison Rouge: Me and Domiziano collaborate in everything, and it’s a pleasure to work with him. When he asked me to direct Sacrifice, I didn’t have to think too much about it. Originally, it was written as a comedy horror, and I changed the comedy elements into a dark tale and the lead actress into a male role. The nude scenes with Roberto Scorza created many scandals and stirred many negative reactions. I wonder why horror fans don’t have those problems with female nudity? A bit hypocritical on their part, no?
PopHorror: I completely agree, and I think we’re starting to see less of this hypocrisy in the indie horror world. Was Sacrifice as difficult to film as it was to watch?
Poison Rouge: Filming Sacrifice was actually very easy and smooth. Roberto is amazing actor, and he understood everything that was needed for the role. Domiziano is a fast director of photography and makeup artist. Every day of filming was quick and easy.
PopHorror: How did you make the body horror and special effects, from toe nails being ripped off to genital mutilation, look so real?
Poison Rouge: Domiziano is a very talented special effects artist… also, if you watch the extras in the DVD you will get some of our secrets, too!
PopHorror: I do intend to add this to my collection, so I’m excited to see the additional material! What was your favorite part of production?
Poison Rouge: Filming was, by far, my favorite, as well as the location tour. Finding the right places was fun.
PopHorror: What was the biggest challenge of production?
Poison Rouge: There weren’t many challenges for me, personally. Everything was well prepared, and Domiziano is a perfect organizer… everything went smooth and without stress! We even had time for a nice day in the beach where we filmed the cave… no stress and no rush at all!
PopHorror: That sounds like a great way to wrap filming! Have you acted in any film that is close to the extreme of Sacrifice?
Poison Rouge: I’m in the underground cult film House of Flesh Mannequins and in the horror film Hyde’s Secret Nightmare.
PopHorror: I’ll have to check those out! Would you ever consider directing another Guinea Pig film?
Poison Rouge: It doesn’t necessarily depend on me. For now, I’m just directing short films and videoclips. I prefer acting, and I must say the stressful backlash received after the film was released wasn’t worth the experience. I received quite a bit of positive reactions. But, sadly, the rare negative reactions were very deep and aggressive. Some were even threatening. So… this is not for me. We do movies for fun. Not to create destruction.
PopHorror: It’s always ironic to hear about people who express real life threats over fictional films and artistic expression that depicts violence, and it’s always uncalled for. Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to talk about?
Poison Rouge: I’ve directed the music video “No, Not In My Mouth” for White Gardenia and a segment in the collective project, A Taste of Phobia. I’m working on a new segment for another collective film, but it’s too early to speak about just yet.
Seeing the work Poison Rouge did with the dark and twisted story of Sacrifice, I cannot wait to see more films with her touch, whether it be in front of the lens or in the director’s seat. This surely is the beginning of something bigger for this artist who proves the genre is not lacking an interest or talent among women in horror.