Lydia Hearst has rapidly become a fixture in genre filmmakers, appearing in thrillers and horror movies such as The Barber and Cabin Fever 3. She’s been selected as this year’s ambassador for Screamfest – referred to in the publicity materials as the Sundance of horror – which started Tuesday and runs through the 27th of October at the Mann’s TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood. In an exclusive interview with the Sci-Fi Movie Page, Hearst talked about her role in the festival and the horror genre in general.
Question: When did your association with Screamfest begin?
Lydia Hearst: My first association with Screamfest happened last year. I was in one of the films being screened at the festival. But I was aware of it before now. It’s one of the longest running horror festivals in the world. It’s just a fantastic way to give up-and-coming directors in the field a shot, and give the rest of us a look at what the genre is capable of. If you look at the Festival in the past few years, it’s really been a bellwether. You’ve seen films like Paranormal Activity and Let the Right One In here before any others. It really gives you a look at where the genre is going.
Q: You sound like a hard-core horror bug.
LH: Definitely! I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have that background. I’ve always had a morbid curiosity about being shocked. Being scared. That comes from being surprised, and that’s one of the things that horror movies can do better than anyone else. Hollywood can get pretty clichéd, and horror movies can be clichéd too. But they also have the possibility to catch you by surprise. I think some of the horror movies that fans really love are the ones that came out of nowhere and showed us something really different.
More importantly, horror movies let you face your fears and confront them from a place of safety. There’s no real threat, but your body thinks there is. It triggers that fight-or-flight response. I’ve worked on a lot of them in my career, and you can tell when they’re working. I’m also a collector of horror props.
Q: What kinds of things do you collect?
LH: Heavy things. [Laughs.] I have a lot of old props from old movies at home. I love them. I have a full-sized replica of Linda Blair in The Exorcist! I have original moldings from The Howling and Wolf.
Q: Where do you think the genre is going in the future?
LH: Well again, that’s one of the great things about the genre. You never quite know where it’s going to go. Movies like Psycho, Halloween, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity… they all kind of snuck up on people. I don’t think anyone can see where the future is going because it will likely be driven by a movie like those.
I do think we’re seeing women take on a stronger role, both in front of the camera and behind it. Movies like You’re Next and The Babadook… they’re moving women from scream queens to something much stronger. We’re really kicking ass in them these days.
Q: What’s the benefit of having an actual film festival in these days of instant streaming and digital downloads?
LH: It’s certainly important from the filmmakers’ perspective to come out and meet the fans. Not just get emails or chat on Twitter, but really talk to them and hear what they think about the state of the genre. And fans get a chance to talk to the filmmakers face to face. Online contact is great because it connects people from all over the world. But nothing beats that kind of personal connection: just shaking someone’s hand and talking with them for a few minutes. That’s really important, especially with horror films whose fans are always so passionate and dedicated. Those interactions are the lifeblood of the genre.
Q: Are you appearing in any films at the festival this year?
LH: Not this year, though I did appear in a film called Swing State, which you can get on iTunes and On Demand the day after Halloween. But I won’t stay away from horror too long!