Poster design by artist Jeanne D’Angelo

For the release of the occult horror film, PYEWACKET, Shannon had the chance to speak with actress Laurie Holden (“The Walking Dead”) about her latest role. The film, which centers around a teenage girl who performs an occult ritual to evoke a witch to kill her mother, stars Laurie Holden as Mrs. Reyes, the target of her daughter’s anger. During the interview Shannon and Laurie talked about everything from loss and grief, what interested her in Adam MacDonald’s film, and her history of taking on roles that showcase strong female characters.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Laurie, thank you so much for speaking with me today! To start things off can you tell us a little bit about your character in PYEWACKET? 

Laurie Holden: I play Mrs. Reyes, a mother who’s having a really hard go after the death of my husband a year prior. I’ve fallen into a tailspin of depression and have been hitting the bottle and have not really been my best self. My daughter is also grieving and she’s mixing with the wrong crowd and smoking pot and dabbling in the occult. Basically my character decides enough of this narrative it’s time to change our lives, she wants to be a better person and a better mother, so she decides to move her daughter up north to have a new shot at life. The daughter things of this as a form of treason and emotional abuse and lashes out, casts a spell, and the rest is history.

Nightmarish Conjurings: What was it about Adam MacDonald’s script that interested you in the film? 

LH: I loved the dynamic between the mother and the daughter, they both have such strong points of view. There’s no good person / bad person, you understand the mother because she’s doing the best she can, she’s a flawed human being but she’s grieving. You also understand the daughter, she’s doing the best she can and she’s also a flawed human being. They both want different things in their lives that conflict. I also really liked the fact that it was kind of like a dark fairy tale, because that’s always been very attractive to me. Like the Grimm Fairy Tales, where they’re timeless and it doesn’t matter if it was from centuries ago or based in modern day time. There are certain things that are very iconic – witches, woods, isolation – and the horror elements of that really resonated with me. I also really like the message of be careful what you wish for because someone might be listening. We live in a time where what you put out there comes back to you; you become what you think about but you also attract what you think about. In this particular movie my daughter, through her anger, brings something in that she can’t take back and that’s a serious entity of evil.

Nightmarish Conjurings: The film hit me really hard because when I was 17 my father passed away and I was a monster, I was awful, so I was able to relate to the movie, unfortunately. However, I did not cast a spell on my mom so there’s that (laugh)!

LH: But you could have though!

Nightmarish Conjurings: Was there any research you did to understand your character more or were you able to naturally understand the character based from your own experiences in life? 

LH: I think what attracted me to the film was the theme and the ideas, but in terms of the character, she just resonated with me. I’ve lost people I’ve loved in my life, I’ve encountered grief, and I know what that is. It was kind of similar with what I did on “The Walking Dead”, Andrea was not her best self for a very long period of time until she was finally to tired of being a sad sack and wanted to get her life together. I felt like my character in PYEWACKET was very similar to Andrea in that regard, of someone who was immersed in an inordinate amount of grief, who decides they want to change their life for the better. Unfortunately, her daughter doesn’t want the same thing. It was the humanity of it that I responded to.

Image Courtesy of IFC Midnight

Nightmarish Conjurings: The film does deal with a lot of occult imagery and spells. Did anything weird happen when you were on set? 

LH: I heard that the crew was worried about that and I know that there were times when [actress] Nicole [Muñoz] was like, this isn’t an actual spell right? I think that the spell was actually a mishmash of a couple of different spells that Adam had researched. He did a lot of research of all that black magic so there was an authenticity to it, but no it was not an actual spell, we aren’t that crazy (laughs).

Nightmarish Conjurings: What was your experience like working so closely with director Adam MacDonald and actress Nicole Muñoz? 

LH: It was great, it was effortless! I think we were all just very passionate about telling the truth and doing something honest. I can’t speak for Nicole and her own personal life but I know she has experienced loss as well and we both just really understood the story and who these people were. I hate to use the word easy because when you use that word people just assume you show up and that’s it, there’s a lot of work that goes into making a film. In terms of the fact that the writing was flawless and that it was honest and all we had to do was tap into our humanity. We really trusted our director and we knew that he had class. I watched Adam’s previous film BACKCOUNTRY before this and I really respected the fact that he didn’t fall back on typical cliches. I liked the fact that his style of filmmaking is, as one of the reviewers put it, “making Hitchcock proud”. I like the idea of the slow burn, not knowing what’s behind the door, but knowing it’ll terrify you.

Nightmarish Conjurings: There are a lot of themes that are played out throughout the film, most dealing with loss and grief. Is there anything you wish for the audience to take away from the film? 

LH: Everybody is going to take away what they take away. Everyone has their own unique experience watching it and I think the people who like horror are going to like it and I think people who are not even interested in that genre are going to like it because it’s a think piece. What attracted me to it was that message: be mindful.

Nightmarish Conjurings: You’ve been in some of my favorite horror films, including SILENT HILL and THE MIST, as well as being an integral part in “The Walking Dead”. What is it about this genre that keeps you coming back? 

LH: To be honest, it’s by accident. I never went into this thinking I wanted to do something that has a horror thing to it, I’ve never manifested that. I think what I’ve manifested, if we are talking about manifesting because that’s kind of what attracted me to this film, was that I like playing women that face adversity. I love playing women who are struggling to survive and if they have to die, they are going to die standing for something. There’s a theme with Andrea (“The Walking Dead”), Cybil Bennett (SILENT HILL), Amanda Dunfrey (THE MIST), and even Mrs. Reyes in PYEWACKET, of women who are trying to embrace the good, who are trying and fighting for something noble and they don’t quite get it but at least they go down fighting for something good in what they believe in. That resonates with me.

PYEWACKET is now available in select theaters, VOD and via digital platforms in the U.S.

Image Courtesy of IFC Midnight
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