One of the standouts from this year’s Fantasia Film Festival was Thomas Robert Lee’s The Curse Of Audrey Earnshaw a devastating folk witchcraft horror steeped in atmosphere, dread and paranoia as a young witch wreaks havoc on a community of Irish settlers.
Audrey Earnshaw is the young, striking and beautiful woman at the centre of the curse that rampages through the community, having been hidden from the villagers for years by her protective and paranoid mother.
I spoke to Audrey Earnshaw herself, or rather the breakout actress that played her, Jessica Reynolds to talk about the gritty and atmospheric horror film and portraying such a powerful and vengeful young woman.
You can catch our review of the film here – The Curse Of Audrey Earnshaw Review
Folk horror is on the rise at the moment with The Witch and Midsommar, is being in a horror film something that drew you to this film?
Jessica: I don’t think my attraction to the horror genre necessarily came first. I just loved Tommy’s writing in this piece, the numerous sub-plots and the way he described Audrey from the get go. It’s always about character intricacies for me in a script rather than genre.
Saying that, I have grown up with horror movies and have adored them from a very young age. They’re a genre I don’t think will ever burn out. Does that say something about how creepy we are as humans? Maybe.
Was there anything else that you particularly liked about the film that made you want to be part of it?
Jessica: Well, first of all, I felt so grateful that Tommy had written a script lead by females. I find instant gratification in that. It felt so new to me, not only the female-led aspect but the whole concept, strange but captivating, a little bit disgusting at times but incredibly truthful through its character development.
I think the nature of Audrey’s character and her need to fight against the village put a very relevant spin on the film, which really drew me in. It went beyond being a supernatural horror or possession movie for me.
The character of Audrey Earnshaw is impetuous, fiercely independent and deeply angry at the people that have wronged her, what is it that attracted you to the character, and do you see any similarities between yourself and her?
Jessica: Audrey is brought up amongst very absurd circumstances and she endures so much pain in her young life. The pain of being a woman in such a condemning society, an abnormally close yet suffocating relationship with her mother and the pain of being a teenager with too much power. To me, it is a coming-of-age movie as well as a folk horror, so I definitely identified with her on that level; her rage and her wrath. I think it’s easy to be angry in today’s society.
Did you do any research into witchcraft or curses to prepare for the role?
Jessica: I read a wonderful novella by Arthur Machen called ‘The Great God Pan’ which my director sent me before the shoot. It’s where he got a lot of his inspiration for Audrey’s character. It’s about a woman full of mystery who causes anyone that comes in contact with her to go mad or get sick and die. It had an inexplicable atmosphere filled with dread and curse but also an exciting enigmatic quality through the main character which I think I tried to hone for Audrey
What was the hardest thing for you about playing Audrey Earnshaw and what challenges did you face throughout the filming?
Jessica: It was my first ever time on set in an acting role so there were obvious challenges for a first timer. But I think the hardest part of playing Audrey was knowing when to allow her to give into her emotions and knowing when not to. As the film progresses, something otherworldly comes over her and obviously no one really knows what that feels like. So, I had to conjure a sort of coldness and distance from the Audrey we see at the start of the film and that became quite complex but also lots of fun.
The finale (where Audrey kills her mother) is particularly intense, what was it like filming that scene?
Jessica: People ask me if I was scared on set filming a horror and I can honestly say that the one time I felt a little disturbed was during that scene. I think Catherine’s performance was just so gripping that it really got to me, I actually had to look away during the takes. She is so brilliant!
What lessons did you take away from the film and what lessons do you think people should take away from the film?
Jessica: Never underestimate a woman who can think for herself.
The early reviews for the film from festivals are full of praise for your performance, how does that feel?
Jessica: It feels lovely. It’s very kind. I learnt so much from the rest of the wonderful cast.
Is there a question you wish I would have asked? And if so, can you answer it!
Jessica: “Was Audrey’s path of destruction always inevitable?” That’s definitely a nature vs. nurture debate. I’d like you to answer that!
Very good question! I’ve always been a glass half full kind of guy, so I believe that had Audrey’s mother of treated her less like a monster or something to hide that she would have understood the world better and would’ve been less vengeful and rash. However, it’s clear there’s a dark force/group behind Audrey that was quite happy with the dramatic outcome so it’s possible things went exactly how they planned!
The Curse Of Audrey Earnshaw will be in select theatres on October 2nd, and then will be released on VOD October 6th! I’d recommend definitely checking it out!