Out on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday 7th October I Spit on your Grave 2 is the sequel to Steven R. Monroe’s remake of the highly controversial rape revenge movie from 1978. We got to question British lead actress Jemma Dallender on the role, the film and getting even. Find out more below.
Jemma Dallender Interview
Love Horror: How did you get involved with I Spit on your Grave 2 and I have to ask (having watched the film) why did you get involved?
Jemma Dallender: I got involved in the film through an audition process and I must admit initially I was a bit apprehensive. I did get a chance to read the script in its entirety first and watch the remake as well and I thought it would be really challenging as a young actress who hasn’t done much to take on that role. It’s not often you get to explore so many different kinds of emotions in one film.
Love Horror: The character you play Katie goes through an immensely gruelling journey on every level. What kind of preparation did you do for the role both mentally and physically?
Jemma Dallender: It’s funny because I don’t really think I did anything to prepare emotionally. Obviously I had mapped out where I thought my character journey was going and I had gone through the script thinking about how I was going to play Katie but I think once I was on set and tied up those emotions came freely. Even though it was acting some of the sets where really quite gruesome so I felt even more in the moment.
Love Horror: You spend the first half of the movie naked and being brutalised. How difficult was it to film those scenes?
Jemma Dallender: I’m not going to say they were easy, that would be lying, it was difficult. Everyone has things about their body there not happy about and it was a challenge to put myself out there but it was quite freeing as well because I trusted the other actors. They were all really great to work with, they never made me feel uncomfortable and the director and producer, Steven and Lisa, really helped get the best film we could from the story and our performances.
Love Horror: Katie’s back story is alluded to in the film but did you fill in any of the blanks? From her past growing up that formed her into the woman we see?
Jemma Dallender: I did. I think as an actor you have to think about those kinds of things because they determine what kind of decisions you make with your acting. There were a few scenes at the beginning that actually were cut of me which showed a bit more of Katie’s relationship with Jason which were quite nice and I think should have been included. I know every actor works differently but I like to create a back story it helps me out. One thing I like to do is go through the script and know what everyone thinks about your character, what they say about your character and then answer the questions you need to answer like where did I grow up, who are my parents etc. and all those things just knowing them in your head just helps with where you’re going with your performance.
Love Horror: For me you almost play 2 characters: Katie the victim and Katie the aggressor; The change happening when you are outside the US embassy. How did you see the characters transition and how did you play each part differently?
Jemma Dallender: Personally I have never experienced anything like what Katie goes through but I think that after everything has happened to her she is so broken by the end of it after being raped several times, beaten up and buried alive that there is inner strength that she has that makes her come back and fight. She is definitely a fighter. I wanted her to be strong, I think she has to be otherwise the movie wouldn’t have worked.
Love Horror: You say she is broken, do you think there is an element of her mind that gets broken too? To me in the second half you trod a brilliant fine line between playing Katie as sane and in control and other times completely unhinged.
Jemma Dallender: Yeah, I am quite sure that if anyone went through all of that they wouldn’t be quite themselves the other side of it. I definitely played on that and tried to bring that into it. Not too much though, you still want to see she is sane enough to do these things and get revenge otherwise it would become something quite different. As an actor you have to trust the director really and think you are going in the right direction. Everyone sees the film and has different opinions and different views on it. I just did what I felt was natural for the character.
Love Horror: What was it like performing the revenge scenes where you got to be the torturer enacting your vengeance?
Jemma Dallender: (Laughs) I actually found the revenge scenes harder. I then understood how difficult it was for the guys doing the rape and torture scenes. As a cast we got on really well and I was friends with the guys so it became really difficult then. I didn’t want to hurt them and shove their head down a toilet and shove things in their mouths.
It was hard. I’m not really like that, I’m not somebody who gets revenge.
If you do something bad to me I’m like “fair enough” I’m not going to retaliate I’m just going to leave it. I wasn’t playing me so I had to find a way to get through it.
Love Horror: It would have been a bit disturbing if you had said “I loved torturing them it was such fun!”
Jemma Dallender: (Laughs) Yes exactly! It wasn’t nice especially the last scene with poor Joe (Absolom who plays the leader Ivan) in the um…
Love Horror: Yes, that scene is very disturbing, especially for male viewers. But let’s not spoil the particularly horrific revenge you get on him for everyone!
Jemma Dallender: No, okay, but safe to say it was really uncomfortable for him filming that bit because he was strapped to that table all day and it was cold and it was wet and there was this drip that kept dripping on him. It wasn’t nice. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
Jemma Dallender: Yeah I saw both of them. They were hard to watch. I’m not very good with revenge and blood and all that sort of stuff, I’m a bit squeamish so it was difficult to watch them. I think they are both individually very good movies. I really liked the remake. I thought that was really, really good and the actress was brilliant and the story was great. Steven did a great job with that film. Considering I am squeamish I had to watch most of it with the duvet across my face.
Love Horror: Rape revenge movies are some of the most controversial films in horror. What do you think of the genre as a whole and people who are going to be critical of it some without seeing it?
Jemma Dallender: I think if you make a film which everyone has no opinion of its pretty pointless so the fact that everyone has an opinion on it is something that I love because it’s great that people are talking about it and discussing it. I know not everyone is going to like it and some people will find it uncomfortable and disagree with it but each to their own. I knew that there was always going to be mixed opinions on it. I am always reading reviews and seeing what people think and it’s interesting, much more interesting than if it was just okay or no one had any opinions. I like the fact that it pushes the boundaries. It’s not every day you get to make a film like that.
Love Horror: In her brilliant book ‘Men, Women, and Chain Saws Gender in Modern Horror Film’, Carol J. Clover believes that rape-revenge films are designed to align spectators not with the male tormentor, but with the female tormented. What do you think of this idea in relation to the audiences watching this film and what do you want people to experience through your performance?
Jemma Dallender: I can understand why audiences would favour the female character because it’s almost like she is innocently stumbled across something and had things happen to her that shouldn’t and therefore it almost makes the revenge seem right in some ways if you believe in that. It’s not my opinion but I can understand why people side with her. I wasn’t thinking about what people might think, I was just trying to stay as true to the character as possible and then leave it up to the audience to think what they like. The audience aren’t stupid. I don’t like it when things are too obvious, it annoys me when I see films that are very obvious. As an audience member you should go into something with an open mind and take what you want from it. I don’t like to be forced to think something when I’m watching a film. The film as a whole will make people ask questions as to whether its right or wrong and that’s the most important thing to me.
Love Horror: You said earlier that you’re a bit squeamish. Do you enjoy horror films or is it a genre you’re happy to be in but not happy to watch so much?
Jemma Dallender: (Laughs) Yeah, I do watch horror films now and again. It’s more about the stories for me. I don’t like the typical sledge hammer horror scenes where it’s just endless killing, I’m not very good with that but if it has a good story line I’ll watch it. Like I said I like things that divide opinions so if there’s something a bit controversial I’ll watch it to see what I think.(Laughs) I haven’t watched many horror films recently, I think I have had my fair share for a bit!
Love Horror: Fair enough. You were at FrightFest this year with the film. How was the movie received by the audiences and how did you find the festival?
Jemma Dallender: I loved the festival. I was so chuffed that they had me there, everyone was really nice. Did the audience receive the film well? I think so, it’s hard to tell. There was some cheering at some points especially at the end which was nice. I spoke to some people after and it seemed to go down well. It was a great experience for me. I enjoyed being there. I hope I get to go back if I do another horror.
Love Horror: What’s next for you?
Jemma Dallender: I have just finished filming an episode of Casualty and I’ve done a couple of short films in between for me it’s auditioning and looking out for American stuff and seeing what happens really.
Love Horror: Well your accent is pretty flawless in I Spit on your Grave 2. I was shocked to find out you were English.
Jemma Dallender: Cheers. I love doing the American accent. That and Australian.
Love Horror: Well Jemma thank you for talking to us.
Jemma Dallender: Thanks for watching the film.
I Spit on your Grave 2 out on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday 7th October