Back in the late 1970s and early ’80s, when exploitation movies were in vogue, a movie title like Dead Hooker In A Trunk would have fit right onto the marquees of sleazy drive-in theaters and seedy grindhouse venues that played such classy gems as Cannibal Holocaust and I Spit On Your Grave.

Today, however, such a shamelessly tasteless and provocative title is more taboo than ever, but that’s what makes Dead Hooker (currently available on IFC Midnight’s Video On Demand service) so much fun—it’s batshit in ways most modern-day films are too reserved to emulate. Aside from its titular call girl corpse, the midnight-dark comedy features a cowboy pimp, an Oldboy-esque scene in which a guy’s teeth are assaulted with a drill and an icepick, a pipe smashing a girl’s head so hard that one of her eyeballs shoots out, spilled intestines, and a little girl shooting her father to death with a handgun, amongst other insanity.

Now here’s the best part: Dead Hooker In A Trunk comes from the minds of two sexy and morbidly inventive twin sisters, stars/writers/directors Jen and Sylvia Soska. Paid for with credit cards and shot with minimal resources two years ago, the Canadian siblings’ passion project has worked its way up from word-of-mouth buzz to various genre film festivals; last month, Dead Hooker In A Trunk reached its highest plateau when IFC Midnight picked it up for the company’s VOD platform (special midnight theatrical screenings are in the works). Not bad for a super-low-budget and wonderfully insane horror-comedy from a couple of rookie filmmakers.

To top it all off, the Soska Sisters are also really hot. And, as you’re about to find out, they’re quite funny, as well as legitimate gorehounds and promising young filmmakers. Complex recently spoke with the duo behind Twisted Twins Productions about Dead Hooker, skull-fucking, Britney Spears’ awful film career, how they once upgraded Quentin Tarantino’s birthday, and their film’s positive message. Let’s pop the trunk!

Interview by Matt Barone (@mbarone)

Complex: Full disclosure here: The main thing that prompted me to see Dead Hooker In A Trunk was the title. I ended up really digging it, but still—that’s one hell of a title.
Sylvia Soska: [Laughs.] No worries! That means we did our job. When we first came up with the title, Grindhouse was still in theaters, and we were so inspired by the fake trailers. We’ve also always been inspired by Robert Rodriguez, because not only does he make these gritty, cool movies, he also tells you exactly how to do it for super-cheap. So we were walking out of the theater and Jen turns to me and says, “Dead Hooker In A Trunk! That’s the title of what our short film should be, but I have no idea about anything else.” I was like, “OK, Dead Hooker In A Trunk sounds good to me.” And then we just started building from there.

Do you have any idea where that title came from, Jen?
Jen Soska: Well, we initially started off as actors, so at that time, as far as being directors and writers, we were completely unknown, and still are, really. [Laughs.] In this digital revolution now, though, literally anyone can make a film. So I wanted to pick a title that would stand out, be unforgettable, and would instill a strong, emotional reaction, whether it be positive or negative. And I knew it was going to involve a hooker, and, it’s silly to say, but I knew the hooker had to be dead, and the “in the trunk” just sounded nice.

I wanted it to be better than Hobo With A Shotgun. I’m not gonna say that it’s better because I completely respect Jason Eisener [director of Hobo], and he’s such an inspiration to us, but I’m very happy with Dead Hooker In A Trunk.

Sylvia: It’s actually really cool, because we got to screen Dead Hooker with Hobo With A Shotgun at a couple of theaters and that was such a fucking thrill.

Jen: I think I’ve always had a hooker fixation. Have you see that movie Four Rooms? Robert Rodriguez’s fourth vignette, “Misbehavior,” with Antonio Banderas, has a dead hooker in a mattress, and I just thought that was the funniest thing. [Laughs.]

Sylvia: A dead hooker in a mattress is the funniest thing? [Laughs.]

Jen: Hell yeah! We should have done Dead Hooker In A Mattress!

Sounds like you have the sequel all figured out.
Jen: [Laughs.] I think you’re right!

It reminds me a lot of how Roger Corman used to come up with crazy movie titles just to design posters and then worry about writing actual scripts after that.
Jen: Absolutely. All we knew for sure was that we were going to have a dead hooker somewhere, and, at one point, she would have to be in a trunk. We both loved the movie Weekend At Bernie’s when we were little, so we thought this would be Weekend At Bernie’s if Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino made it.

Sylvia: A little bit of a more grown-up one, though. Also, we really hate the term “chick flick,” and we really hated that Britney Spears movie Crossroads; we saw that and both said, “This is a terrible, terrible movie—we need to make a road trip movie with crazy women that do crazy shit and don’t just sit around and wait for a boyfriend.” So, thus, we have a dead hooker in a trunk. [Laughs.]

Wow, I can honestly say that I didn’t expect to hear a Crossroads reference in this interview, whatsoever.
Sylvia: [Laughs.] Yeah, it’s the anti-Crossroads. They play similarly. Maybe we’ll get a double screening somewhere.

Imagine that. Backtracking a little bit, did you two grow up watching all of those old-school grindhouse, exploitation movies?
Sylvia: Absolutely. It’s so funny, back in the day when video stores were still flourishing, we had a local one that had a big horror movie section, and it was all designed like it was Halloween inside of the store, with crazy props and decorations. Jen and I would stay there; that would be our main hangout. We’d go around looking at the cases and seeking out anything that looked scary or gory, and then we’d beg our parents to let us watch it.

 
Originally, because we first made [Dead Hooker] as a trailer, we didn’t even think about how you get from point A to point B; like, 'How do we get to the skull-f*ck thing? I don’t know, but it sure does sound insane!' —Jen Soska
 

The first movie we ever saw was Poltergeist; we made it all the way through, even though we were only 10 years old. And then it was bed-time, so we got scared. The coolest thing was that our mom sat us down and told us what we’d actually just seen, like the prosthetics, the director, the script. She said, “Everything that you saw was slaved at by very talented artists with the intention of scaring you.” And that just blew our little minds. I thought, “Wait a minute, this is all make-believe, and everyone’s in on the joke? That’s amazing!”

Since then, we’ve been horror junkies. We try to see everything that we possibly can. Our favorite kinds of exploitation ones are the Russ Meyer’s ones, with the really sexy women and all of that craziness.

Jen: I heard that Quentin Tarantino bought the rights to Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, but if he doesn’t want it, I’d love to do that. Those movies are fucking insane! [Laughs.] We should get Quentin Tarantino drunk one night and try to get it off of him!

I’d love to be there and see that happen. Dead Hooker In A Trunk seems like a movie that Quentin Tarantino would love. Do you know if he’s seen it yet?
Sylvia: Well, after the movie was done, we sent the trailer to all of the directors involved with the Grindhouse project, just to let them know that their movie had so inspired us to make our own. And we started it as a fake trailer before it ever became a feature.

Weirdly enough, a few days later—we never really expected to hear back from anyone—Eli Roth reached out, told us that he loved the trailer, and asked if he could see a full-length film, so we sent it over, and through that we became really good friends. He gave us a lot of good advice. I think it was last year, or the year before, Quentin Tarantino got Dead Hooker In A Trunk as his birthday present. No idea what he thought about it yet, but I hope he dug it.

Jen: What do you get the man who has pretty much everything?

A dead hooker, clearly.
Jen: [Laughs.] Exactly!

 

It’s been a pretty long process to get the film from post-production to a point where people are actually seeing it now, right? When did you shoot the film?
Sylvia: Definitely. Well, we started shooting at the end of 2007 and we finished filming in February 2008. It was a lot of cutting it together and piecing it together; we had a very bare-bones budget for it. As a matter of fact, you definitely couldn’t buy a used car with the amount of money we spent on this. But it was a great learning experience. After we finished shooting, though, there were some technical issues. We ended up with a first cut that was about two-and-a-half-hours long—it was the Lord Of The Hooker version.

Jen: Oh, yeah—it was epic!

Sylvia: It really was. We still had to learn what to put in a movie; when you’re doing that, it’s only natural that you’re a little precious with the material. As we started getting more used to the whole editing process, we chopped it down a lot. That way, the hooker jokes could fly a little better. [Laughs.]

There was one scenario in particular that didn’t make it into the film because we couldn’t train a bear not to maul an actress. But we had a trained bear that was supposed to rip off one of the character’s arms and race off into the woods with it; then, we were going to chase the bear down, punch it in the face, and say, “Fuck you, bear!” [Laughs.] And that was something that we unfortunately didn’t get to do.

There’s a lot of crazy ideas like that in the movie and in the first cut. I think one of the first things we came up with was, “Who’s going to be the pimp for this hooker?” And we were like, “Well, we have access to all of these horses—we should make it a cowboy pimp!” So, a lot of ideas came like that.

Jen: The writing process was a lot different for this particular film, because we started with the trailer, and we had a couple of moments that we knew we wanted to keep in the film. But, originally, because we first made it as a trailer, we didn’t even think about how you get from point A to point B; like, “How do we get to the skull-fuck thing? I don’t know, but it sure does sound insane!”

So we did it in the old Robert Rodriguez style, how he describes making El Mariachi in his book, Rebel Without A Crew. He would write out his signature moments on cue cards, kind of like recipe cards. He’d then lay them across the floor and put empty ones in between, and say, “OK, I probably need about ten scenes in between these two parts,” or, “I’ll need a few scenes to get to this,” and that’s how we wrote Dead Hooker In A Trunk.

That’s really cool. Once you had that as a guide, did the script get finished really quickly?
Sylvia: The cool thing is that Jen and I write pretty fast. We have a tag-team approach; we each have our own scenes that we want to write, but if one of us gets blocked, we just tag in the other one so one person’s plugging away on the laptop while the other is playing video games. [Laughs.] We could have a script in a day. If we had to sit there and pump something out, we could. It works a lot because Jen and I are best friends and total nerds, and we always want to make something that would impress us first.

I hate going to the movies and seeing the same horror movie over and over again. Like, “OK, he’s gonna be behind that door. Oh, there he is.” It’s nice to have a little bit of insanity mixed into your horror, and I think we put an abundance of insanity into our film to make up for the insanity that’s lacking sometimes.

Do you see Dead Hooker as a horror movie or more as a dark comedy? Because it can go both ways. And, in that same breath, do you think the horror elements have overshadowed that it’s actually a funny movie.
Jen: I think it’s a dark comedy with horrific elements. I think, no matter what we write in the future, even if we make an animated kids’ movie, a Pixar film, there’s going to be some horrific moments in there.

We started reading Stephen King when we were really little, and he has this amazingly dark sense of humor. Even in the most bizarre, fucked-up situations in his stories, he has these wonderful little moments of levity where you find yourself laughing in spite of yourself. That’s really the way we always see horror—it should have those moments of levity. You should think, “Oh my god, I shouldn’t be laughing about this hooker, it’s a horrible situation.” But it is a little bit funny, because it’s a really awkward thing.

 
[Dead Hooker] was supposed to be this crazy road trip comedy, but then I thought, 'Oh, I guess you can’t knock out a girl’s eye and try to skull-f*ck her and then have it not be horrific.' —Sylvia Soska
 

Sylvia: I also think it’s because prosthetics is such a huge thing that brought us into really liking filmmaking and understanding it, so we never want to shy away from something that’s a little more grotesque. I remember watching so many movies and thinking, “Don’t cut away! Don’t cut away!” And then they’d cut away. In this one, we wanted to make sure that we really stayed with a lot of the action. The overall story was supposed to be this crazy road trip comedy, but then a lot of people kept saying, “This is horror!” And then I thought, “Oh, I guess you can’t knock out a girl’s eye and try to skull-fuck her and then have it not be horrific.”

Yeah, I think that’s at the top of the list when it comes to horror movie criteria.
Jen: [Laughs.] I think we’re a little bit screwed up in terms of what we like, so I always try to show our mom and dad to get their reactions; they’ll watch it, and their reactions will make me think, “Oh, OK—that’s how a normal person would think about this. Got it.” That’s why we added the dog into the movie, so my mom could enjoy it a little more. There’s actually a cat in our new film, American Mary, which we’re going to shoot in a few weeks, and that’s only going to be in there to help people like my mom be able to sit through the movie. Like, “OK, we’re going to eviscerate people everywhere, but what if there’s a cute little pug with a Mohawk? That’ll be OK for people.”

Sylvia: We knew that Dead Hooker was taking a really dark turn towards the end, with the torture scene, the flashback of the dead hooker’s demise, the guy getting set on fire, and, of course, the penis inserts, so we knew we needed something that would throw a bone to any audience members who were growing tired of the gore. So we threw in a very little pug.

I’ll be honest, with every scene that was the dog was in, I was expecting it to die in some gruesome way. I was shocked that it survived.
Sylvia: [Laughs.] As soon as we introduced the dog in the movie, my mom looks over at me and says, “You’re not going to do anything to that dog, are you?”

Jen: She probably would have disowned us if did anything to do the dog, or the horse, too. The horse just magically walks away for that reason.

During the horse scene, specifically, there’s some pretty intense stunt-work and physicality, which you two do yourselves. You both take a beating throughout the movie—that’s really impressive. In one scene, Jen, you catch a wrench to the back of the head and your eyeball flies out; in another, Sylvia, you’re dragged around by a horse. It’s crazy.
Sylvia: Oh my gosh, we had such a blast doing all of that, too. We were training in martial arts at the time, and we were planning on taking a total step away from acting and just do stunt-work. The cool thing about Dead Hooker In A Trunk is that we got a bunch of actors who’ve done professional stunt-work already, so, that way, we could really beat the shit out of each other. I hate choreographed fights, when you’re like, “OK, there’s the punch, there’s the block”; this way, it’s grittier. It makes the viewer feel like they’re watching this really weird home video that they shouldn’t be watching but they are, anyway. [Laughs.]

Jen: It was so funny during the drilling scene, where we’re drilling into the guy’s mouth, because I love being covered in blood, so the whole time I’m getting covered in blood I’m smiling, but I’m supposed to look horrified. So I just had to keep from laughing.

I mentioned Dead Hooker In A Trunk to a friend recently, and when I told them that it was made by two women, he seemed surprised that women would make a movie with that title. It’s unique to have a film made by women that could be interpreted as pretty misogynistic by those who haven’t actually seen it and just react to the title. Have you two come across any reactions of that nature?
Sylvia: The interesting thing about the film is that it is satire; to make something that’s totally hateful about a dead hooker in a trunk would be absolutely absurd. What we wanted to do with a lot of the violence was have it be fun, and off-the-cuff and kind of cheeky. But when we had the scenario where we show what actually happened to the dead hooker, I wanted that to be completely serious. I wanted the viewer to be forced to watch the complete taking apart of this human being as she fights for her life, because it is a horrible situation.

We didn’t create Dead Hooker In A Trunk jokes—they’ve been around forever. You can do a Google search and a million little jokes will pop up, and it was really cool to kind of play with that. You’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but you’re trying to play with things that are already out there in society, ideas that people already have.

People always think that we’re guys, and when they hear that we’re girls, they’re like, “Oh, they must be really sick girls.” And when people find out we’re making horror movies, they’re like, “Oh, no—you’re probably so talented. Why would you waste your time on horror? You could do a nice romantic comedy or something else.” It’s interesting to see how people react to it, but that’s the nice thing: People are reacting to it and causing a dialogue.

Jen: I think people are, for the most part, pleasantly surprised when they find out that we’re girls who made Dead Hooker In A Trunk. Before we even start making a film, it’s never been about, “Oh, we’re girls making horror movies.” We’re just horror fans trying to make good movies.

The funny thing is when someone comes up to us thinking that one guy made the movie, and they come with this feminist approach, like, “Oh, how could you make a movie like that?” It’s like, “No, we’re girls, and I think it’s very empowering.” When we wrote Sylvia’s character, Badass, we wrote it as if she was Ellen Ripley [in Alien]. That role could have been played by a guy or a girl; we just wanted it to be an ass-kicking character.

Sylvia: It’s so funny, we filmed a big portion of it at our church. The congregation actually came to the screening, and I was like, “I don’t know about that.” [Laughs.] But once the film was done, there was this big group of church ladies waiting for me at the door. So I go over there and one of them says, “Hey, were you Badass in the movie? Oh, I just loved it, dear. I wish that I could be like her some days and just go around punching people.” I was so blown away by that. It was the best compliment I could ever hear about the movie. No one can ever say that our Dead Hooker isn’t uplifting.

Interview by Matt Barone (@mbarone)

</objec