“I was very intrigued by how Kat was basically the odd man out in the film. She was completely unaware of the destruction and the darkness until the end.”
Horror films have always been a highly gendered genre, and depending on whose scholarship you’re reading or whose film you’re looking at it is can either reinforce the patriarchy or subvert it. One thing that can’t be debated is that the horror genre—particularly slashers—largely plays on gender roles as society defines them. Most of these films star women with a male killer and are told to us through the perspectives of men. Everyone knows that if you have sex in a horror film you’re as good as dead. If you’re female your death scene will be significantly longer and with more nudity, and the virgin character—almost always female—is rewarded for their purity by coming out alive. So when I first heard about the new horror film Sociopathia, my interest was piqued for all the ways it went against the grain of most of these types of films. It features two women, Mara (Tammy Jean of Apocalypse Kiss) and Kat (Asta Paredes of Return to Nuke ‘Em High), who harbor a same-sex attraction for one another, as the leads. Mara has deep psychological issues that cause her to live a reclusive lifestyle. She’s an artist that makes props for movies, and while working on a job she meets Kat, a diffident yet outgoing producer who finds herself drawn to Mara’s mysterious nature. What Kat doesn’t know is that Mara has a compulsive desire to kill people, especially when they try to leave her or start turning their attention towards someone other than Mara. As Kat and Mara grow closer, Mara starts killing more frequently, and it’s only a matter of time before Kat gets involved.
View an exclusive scene from the movie. The password is heartbreak
Sociopathia is in the vein of films like Lucky McKee’s May or the 1980 classic Maniac. Jen and Sylvia Soska’s American Mary may be the most appropriate comparison, as Sociopathia is co-directed and co-written by scream queen Ruby Larocca. Larocca is an accomplished scream queen whose body of work adds up to appearances in over 70 horror films since 2000. Some of her most popular titles include Flesh for the Beast, The Lost and Lustful Addiction. Lustful Addiction is of particular note because its director is fellow scream queen Misty Mundane (now more commonly known as Erin Brown). Larocca seems to be following in Mundane’s footsteps, as Sociopathia is Larocca’s debut as a director of a feature film and her first collaboration with fellow co-director/writer Rich Mallery (co-writer of Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance).
“Rich and I have been friends for over 12 years…he went the LA route and I stayed in New York, but he is one of my favorite writers ever. He’s a natural at writing. So when I wanted a partner it was just natural to ask him,” Larocca explains of her enlisting Mallery to collaborate on the film.
Although Sociopathia was initially Larocca’s idea, she is quick to give Mallery much credit in shaping the story and crafting the final project.
“There were at least 13 drafts, so it changed a lot. And then, of course, there is what we want to do and what we can do as far as money is concerned. We didn’t have a lot of money, so that can [change] the script.”
Although Mallery is a credited co-director and co-writer of Sociopathia, the film stands out as a horror film from a female perspective just like the previously mentioned May and American Mary. Its cast and crew is overwhelming female and features cameos from various scream queens, some of whom Larocca has worked with in the past, like Nicola Fiore (Slaughter Daughter). But it also is distinctly a film that has something to say about working in the industry given Mara’s job making props for horror films and Kat’s producing work. Both find themselves working in a male-dominated industry, alongside some pretty lecherous men whom the movie basically gives you no reason to like. Other than Kat, Mara is the only woman we see working at the studio. The men she works with are often watching raunchy videos on their computers and talking about how it’s just a matter of time before they sleep with Mara. Kat’s work environment doesn’t seem much different. When giving advice to Mara about how to design the prop-mermaids for the movie she’s producing, Kat talks about how her director likes his women with big breasts. Given how often Mara and Kat seem to be at odds with the masculine culture that surrounds their jobs, I was more than excited to talk to Ruby and star Asta Paredes about how working with a crew that is predominately female might change their experiences on set. The answers I got really surprised me.
“For me in particular, [the heavy female presence on set] didn’t affect us that much. Except for we were all making sure that we were appropriately nice-looking or appropriately gorgeous. More aesthetics were involved on set. That feminine touch,” Paredes shares.
Larocca agrees with her, “I don’t think it changed the mood at all. We were all there to work. We worked! We weren’t like sharing tampons or braiding each other’s hair.”
Despite not feeling like their work environment changed that much,Paredes stressed how important it was to her that she work on sets that champion the female perspective. Paredes quickly establishes herself as someone with a great deal of integrity and seems to consider roles deeply before accepting them. She explains that she got involved in the project through Mallery. He shared the script with her in an email saying that he thought she’d be great in the role of Kat.
“After that I read through it, I was very intrigued by how Kat was basically the odd man out in the film. She was completely unaware of the destruction and the darkness until the end. I really wanted to play with that.”
As many who might be reading this article know, Paredes has garnered a cult following due to her part in Troma’s Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Vol. 1 which Lloyd Kaufman considers to feature the best cast in over 40 years of Troma movies. Paredes plays the lead, Chrissy, and the film serves as a sort-of reboot of the Class of Nuke ‘Em High franchise. There are very stark differences between the role of Chrissy and Sociopathia’s Kat. Paredes talks about how that was a major part in what prompted her to take the role:
“The funny thing is when I originally auditioned for Nuke ‘Em I kept being geared towards Lauren because they thought I was too pretty and feminine to be in the Chrissy role. They wanted someone with a mohawk or a buzz cut. But in my experience, I didn’t think that that was important, and I was drawn to Chrissy’s assertive qualities. She was only bullied for what she couldn’t express outwardly. I think that it’s the reason why I was drawn to doing the role of Kat. She was very unassured of herself in very obvious ways. She was soft and vulnerable, and yet she was a career woman. I wanted to go in a different direction and Rich gave me the opportunity to explore that. After Nuke ‘Em High I kept getting offer after offer, which were all basically another version of Chrissy without the virtue of the story. ”
It’s established in the film that Kat has an impressive movie collection, though they never quite talk about what’s on her shelves. Paredes seemed to know, though:
“She’s obviously a producer for horror films that she knows make money, but I think she’s really into Italian horror. I think she’s got some Mario Bava [in her collection] and Deep Red. I think she’s into international cinema because she knows the basic aesthetics that work, and European cinema is much more on par with sensuality, color, and gore.”
Larocca vocalizes her agreement; they often seem to be on the same page in the conversation. Paredes playfully adds, “She probably has Rumble in the Bronx in there just because. But, I think she’s into that kind of appreciated cult classic and European vibe.”
Now that Sociopathia is out on DVD, Larocca has started planning her next film.
“I’m making a short on 16mm in black and white, and it’ll be stop-motion animation. It’ll be three minutes long. It’ll probably take many months to actually complete because of the animation. It takes a long time to do 10 seconds. It’s obviously a passion project. No money. No actors. Just shoes actually. It sounds weird but it will make sense.”
When asking Paredes about what the future held for her, she says directing is her endgame.
“I will use everything I’m learning to get in the full director mode some day, and I’m really lucky that my first film projects have all been very hands-on. I’ve been able to have a rigorous film school because of that.”
She comments on Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Vol. 2, saying that she’ll be as surprised as everyone else by the film when it comes out.
“Everything I worked on with that one was two to three years ago. As far as I know it’s been renamed Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High AKA Volume 2, which is probably it’s been so long [since the first one was released]. I think it’ll be out this summer. We’ll see! Other than that, I have one feature I have my heart set on which may or may not happen in the spring. I’m focusing on a few different TV projects and commercial modeling. I just became a rabbit mom this weekend. Learning to take care of an animal has made me more meditative about the projects of what I do and what I put my attention and affections towards. That’s why it was so great to work on a project that had things that I like to be attributed with like lots of women in film, working with people who wear many hats as producers, directors, writers and who are creatively ambitious. Here I’m playing a role that is very much the opposite of what I debuted first. So, we’ll see what the next move is. ” | Cait Lore