Women in Horror Month Interview: Leigh Janiak

For our second to last interview for Women in Horror Month, we spoke with horror director Leigh Janiak about her hit film HONEYMOON, why she loves the horror genre, and what it's like to work within the genre.   

Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Leigh!  It's such a pleasure to be speaking with you today for Women in Horror Month!  To start things off, what does "Women in Horror Month" mean to you? 

Leigh Janiak: I love that there's a spotlight on us!  I think any time you add a new or underrepresented perspective on a genre, exciting, crazy, great stories end up getting told - so highlighting these films and drawing more attention to them I think is really important.  It helps open up the world to young people by saying it doesn't matter who you are, you can tell the stories you want to see and ultimately all of us will benefit as audience members! 

NC: Have you always been a fan of the horror genre and if so, what is it about the genre that you love? 

LJ: I grew up in the 80's watching horror movies at sleepover parties.  Classic slashers, but also like Hitchcock.  PSYCHO was the first one I was allowed to show at my own party because my mom didn't love the blood or gore of things like NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or CHILD'S PLAY. Looking back, god, PSYCHO is so much scarier and traumatic to a 12 year old!

I love being scared.  I love thinking about the craziest, worst things that can happen and whether or not I would survive.  As a filmmaker, I love that it's one of the few genres where you can aspire to reach a wide audience, but without a budget of $100 million dollars. 

NC: What initially sparked your interest in creating a science fiction-themed horror film for your first feature? 

LJ: My writing partner and I were thinking a lot about identity - how well can you ever really know the person closest to you, how well can you ever know yourself?  I love that INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a story that we seem to reinvent on film generation after generation and so that's the lens that we started to view our ideas - a kind of intimate body snatching story. 

NC: We loved your film HONEYMOON and felt it contained excellent qualities that portray a great written story, such as foreshadowing and clever symbolism.  What inspired the story for this film? 

LJ: Thank you! I think I kind of already stepped on this question but I think everyone has had that moment in a relationship or with the person that they think is closest to them where the other person says or does something and suddenly it's like all of reality shifts.  It can be a small thing - a reveal that they vehemently dislike, though it's something you love, or just the way they pronounce a word, but in that moment you're left wondering - Who are you?  And so that was kind of the jumping off point for HONEYMOON and then we just carried the question to a very genre, heightened place. 

NC: Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway did a great job in the film and were incredibly believable through the progression (and downfall) of their character's relationship.  Did you have them in mind to play these roles from the beginning? 

LJ: I didn't! Rose was at the top of my list as we started casting, but not from the script stage. I had seen her in "Downton Abbey" and a few other things and her character Ygritte on "Game of Thrones" (which I knew from reading the books) had just been introduced.  Harry, I had seen in countless great films - and I think most recently then, Andrea Arnold's brilliant FISH TANK. He submitted a tape and I saw it and then there was no question.  His talent just oozed off the screen and I needed to work with him. 

NC: You've also directed a few episodes of MTV's "Scream: The TV Series."  What was that experience like? 

LJ: "Scream" was awesome!  They shot the series down in Louisiana and you have to deal with insane weather, but the cast and crew are like no other.  Working against all kinds of obstacles, a short schedule, etc, they always were ready to work hard and get it down with an amazing attitude.  I had a blast working on it and with them. 

NC: Last but not least, what can fans of yours expect from you in the future? 

LJ: I'm working on a witch movie that started as a reboot of THE CRAFT for Sony right now. Hoping to get that into producing this year!  I'm also working on an amazing film based on these great YA novels called "The Young Elites" for Fox.  I'm starting to work on another original project, too, and also supporting my husband's show "Stranger Things" (he's one of the Duffer Brothers).  Because of my other commitments I wasn't able to direct an episode of Season 2 which KILLS me, but I'm super excited for it to come out!