Since Stranger Things really took off for Netflix and cemented that audiences were keen for throwback 70s/80s television programs and films there has been an increasing amount of new releases that tap into that sweet, sweet nostalgia that we crave.
But, coming out of Grimmfest 2020 is one of the more charming efforts on display in They Reach. This film is about the science loving, angst-ridden social outsider Jessica Daniels and her friendship of fellow outcasts Cheddar and Sam as they attempt to fight off the dangerous advances of an angry demon.
Pitched at a level just above family friendly child horror and jam-packed full of heart, spooks and an interesting narrative upending in its finale, there’s plenty to like from Sylas Dall’s They Reach for genre fans.
But, perhaps the most interesting thing about the film, is it’s strong, independent and resourceful young female lead played by Mary Madaline Roe, who took the time out recently to chat to us about They Reach.
Throwback 70s/80s horror has seen resurgence thanks to Stranger Things. Is being in this kind of retro horror film something that drew you to They Reach?
Mary Madaline: “Stranger Things is great, but that is definitely not what drew me to They Reach. I hadn’t even seen Stranger Things until after filming They Reach. My character Jessica is what made me invested in this film. Jessica is smart, tough, loves science, and is the female hero which makes They Reach different from most horror films.”
Are you a horror fan generally?
Mary Madaline: “I don’t typically watch horror films, but I do enjoy one from time to time. Two of my favourites are Happy Death Day and Halloween.”
Was there anything else that you particularly liked about the film that made you want to be part of it?
Mary Madaline: “While Jessica was the main draw to the film, They Reach’s plot, Sylas’ passion, and the concept trailer were the underlying factors. Sylas’ storyboards, his clear vision and energy made me just as invested in this film as he is. I got very attached to Jessica and all the other characters.”
“The message of “be true to yourself”, friendship and girl power are incorporated beautifully in this film. Lastly, Sylas had made a concept trailer for the Bleedingham film festival, and when I saw it, I thought it was so scary and so cool that I knew instantly that this was something that I wanted to be a part of.”
Did you do any research into malevolent spirts or demons, or did you watch any other horror films to prepare for the role?
Mary Madaline: “I didn’t do much research into demons and otherworldly creatures for the role. This was because I had been allowed in the writers room while revisions and script talks were happening, so I felt like I knew the demon pretty well.”
A big core element of the film is this friendship bond between the three of you, how naturally did that come to you?
Mary Madaline: “The friendship came quite naturally. The first few days of filming we spent getting to know each other and we became fast friends.”
They Reach is a girl power coming of age story where Jessica learns to accept herself by the end of the film, did you see any part of yourself in her as a character, and what does it mean to play a strong and smart female lead in a movie like this?
Mary Madaline: “I was very similar to Jessica during filming. We both love science. I was a part of a robotics club at my middle school, and am currently the CFO of my high school FIRST robotics team. Jessica and I were never part of the “in crowd”. We both had a small group of friends that accepted us for our quirks. We are both determined and studious.”
“I am very honoured to portray Jessica, and I hope that other teenagers my age will learn along with Jessica that you don’t have to change yourself to fit in with others. I know I did. You just have to be who you are and they will learn to accept you.”
Which part of the film do you think scared you the most, even though you were acting in it and knew it wasn’t real?
Mary Madaline: “There’s a moment in the film when Jessica is grabbed by the ankle, slammed on the ground, and dragged backwards. This was scary to watch because of the way the cinematography, music, and sound all blend together to create a suspenseful and dramatic scene. Filming it though, was a lot of fun.”
What was the hardest thing for you about playing Jessica and what challenges did you face throughout the filming?
Mary Madaline: “I didn’t face many challenges while I was portraying Jessica. The main adjustment that I had to make was transitioning into the 70’s. It was fun learning to ride banana seat bikes and work walkie talkies!”
Keep an eye on rising star Mary Madaline Roe to see what she gets up to next on her Instagram @marymadalineroe
Stay tuned for our review of They Reach from Grimmfest 2020