With films like The Signal (2008) and YellowBrickRoad (2011) under her belt, Anessa Ramsey has made a name for herself with smart genre fare. On the eve of her latest film, Rites of Spring (IFC Midnight), Ms. Ramsey took a few minutes to talk to us about her latest work, doing her own stunts for the first time and the perils of shooting in the great outdoors.
Rites of Spring comes out in a week, what can you tell us about it?
It's really two genres combining into one which makes it different from your usual creature feature or kidnapping flick. There's a kidnapping that goes horribly awry and simultaneously there's an event that happens every spring where another pair of girls are kidnapped and the two events converge together and become one horrifying tale. The two events are related. I don't want to give too much away but there are two people involved that know each other and they are involved in the two separate events. When everything converges it comes full circle for the two of them. It is coincidence they run into each other, but not a coincidence that the events are happening at the same time.
You've built quite a nifty resume in genre films with The Signal and YellowBrickRoad. Is there anything about horror that draws you in, or is that what comes along?
I love doing this genre because the good ones have a bit of everything. The really good horror movies have drama, they have a little bit of comedy, they push special effects and who doesn't love being covered in thirteen gallons of blood at the end of the day? There's a little bit of everything and they're a lot of fun.
Plus the films you tend to do are a little smarter than the standard “half naked woman runs from a killer” type of fare. Is there anything in a script you look for?
I hate to say what everyone says, but I look for a script that's going to give me a good challenge. It's not that I only take roles where I'm the smart girl, but I've been luck that I've been cast in that role a few times now. I want it to be something I would be interested in watching and would provide a good artistic challenge. In this last one I opted to do my own stunts for the first time. At first they were opposed to it but I convinced them and it was a lot of fun. That was something I hadn't done before.
What was the craziest stunt you got to tackle?
I think it's a toss up. I got to body check a guy down a flight of stairs and I was pulled out of a car by my hair. Those were some fun ones.
Is that one where you just hope you get it right on the first take?
I'm not going to say it was fun. I'm not going to say it wasn't painful. I definitely walked away with some war wounds that I'm proud of. We had a lot of rehearsals for the car one especially and there's a lot of safety precautions and body gear because you don't want to fall on your neck or anything like that. That's the biggest worry. By the time we were ready to shoot I was hoping we could get it in one or two takes.
Is that one where you look in the mirror later on and wonder if you're missing a patch of hair?
Yes! "Is that real blood? Does it taste like corn syrup?" It's all fun.
It looked like there were a lot of challenges for you from the trailer. I know there's one shot where you're bound and standing on tiptoes. How long do you have to stay like that over the course of filming?
Oh Mike. You don't want to know. I don't even know. They were so nice. They wanted to loosen the ropes for me and it was that tiny twine that digs in and I told them “I know you want to get some really good close up of my hands all bound so why don't you just tighten them up? Just make it hurt” My wrists suffered a bit that day. It's fine, if your hands are turning purple you can see there's some kind of actual tension there.
So no CGI purple hands for you then!
No CGI purple hands!
YellowBrickRoad was one of my favorite films of the NYC Horror Film Fest. How was it shooting outside in a natural setting weeks on end
I'll tell you what, it was very beautiful and I can't complain very much. But in June when we were shooting outside, it actually snowed. One of the biggest challenges was the cold. There was one day I had to suck on an ice cube so you couldn't see my breath, but it brought a lot of reality to our situation. We were uncomfortable and huge jackets in between takes and lots of under armor underneath our some clothes. I got really good aboyt bugs. I was really afraid of bugs and by day three there were spiders on me and my reaction was more “oh” as opposed to “OH CRAP GET THEM OFF”.
Does anyone ever ask about the ending of YellowBrickRoad? That's one where I still scratch my head every time I watch it and think I'm too sure what's going on right now.
Yes. Lots of people ask and I love that the conversation is still going on. I think there it's whatever you want it to be and there's twenty five different answers I could give you. To be honest, every time I watch it I think there's another way of looking at it. I don't even know if there's a correct answer but I do think the conversation itself means the film's a success
Rites of Spring is getting the video-on-demand treatment which is becoming more common with new horror movies now. In the past these little indie films might get lost in the direct to DVD shuffle. But at the same time it means some companies are bypassing theaters. Do you think this way of releasing films is a good or bad thing?
Video on demand is becoming a lot more prominent as a means of releasing films of late and I know I personally take advantage of it. I do think that companies like Bloody Disgusting who put out YellowBrickRoad video on demand and in limited theaters and IFC Midnight and these other companies that are independently focused are great. I love that the horror genre is such a phenomenon that companies are willing to put these films out there when they have just gone straight to DVD. Any kind of exposure is great and we're lucky to have it.
It definitely helps smarter fare like Kill List or Rites of Spring find a home.
Absolutely, I think it's awesome.
So what do you have coming up next?
Well, I just got back from Atlanta for a small part on a new movie called The Devil's Map starring Colin firth and Reese Witherspoon and it's based on the case of The West Memphis Three. They were just released this past September and two of them are executive producing. I'm really excited to see how it turns out. It's getting a lot of attention and I think it's going to be incredible. It was very cool to be out there, and was a lot of fun. It was HOT. I forgot how hot it is out there, and I don't know how I lived out there for ten years.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today and good luck with Rites of Spring.
Thank you and have a great weekend.
Rites of Spring will be available VOD via iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and more on July 27th. The film will also have a limited theatrical run, check your local listings for participating theaters. It stars Anessa Ramsey along with AJ Bowen and Katherine Randolph. Check out the trailer below.