Actor Frank Grillo Talks ‘Mother’s Day’ & ‘My Soul to Take’!

In our interview with Frank Grillo, star of new summer ABC show “The Gates”, we also spoke with him about two of his highly-anticipated upcoming projects, Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street-sounding My Soul to Take and Darren Lynn Bousman’s update of the 1980 Troma exploitation film Mother’s Day. Read on for his quotes about being directed by horror master Craven, his thoughts on My Soul to Take‘s 3-D conversion, and being scared shitless by sociopathic Mother’s Day momma Rebecca de Mornay (in real life).

Frank Grillo has been quite the busy genre actor lately, with no less than three horror projects starring him to be released this year. In addition to ABC supernatural drama The Gates, the actor also talked a little about his two highly-anticipated upcoming feature projects, Darren Bousman’s Mother’s Day and Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take.

Mother’s Day

In Mother’s Day, Grillo plays Daniel Sohapi, who moves to a small Midwestern town with his wife Beth (Jaime King) after the death of their five-year-old son. While hosting a party for friends in their new home, a sociopathic family led by a sadistic Mother (Rebecca de Mornay) return to terrorize the new residents. Grillo told me the producers are currently shopping the film to distributors and if all goes well are hoping to secure a release sometime between September and December of this year.

On a possible release date:

“It has not been sold. Brett Ratner, who is one of the producers of the film, I know is in the process of making that happen. You know, it’s a very specific film so it’s a very specific type of studio that will release it. So they’re in the process actually of figuring that out, and they’re looking to release this film sometime between September and December this year.”

On seeing a cut of the film:

“I was just amazed at what Bousman did, because I only know him from the ‘Saw’ movies. He created such a tight thriller. It’s not a slasher movie. I know people might expect that from him, but it’s a really tight thriller with the right amount of gore and violence mixed in. And it’s really fucking disturbing. You don’t leave the movie with any sense of resolution. You just leave feeling a little icky. Which frightens people away, you know? I kinda dig that. I like leaving the film being uncertain.”

On comparisons to the original Troma film:

“Yeah, you know early on they got the idea from that film ‘Mother’s Day’. And early on the movie evolved into something entirely different, it really did. It’s got a couple of parallel storylines that are similar, but it really stops there. This is really a character-driven piece. And it’s really, really…it’s really tightly made. In other words, the level of suspense never lets you off the hook for a second, cause you never know what’s gonna happen. Whereas the other ‘Mother’s Day’ was truly a ‘B’, gory slasher film. This one has very little resemblance to the other film.”

On the movie’s gore quotient:

“If the ‘Saw’ films are a ’10′, this is probably a ‘5′…but the thing is, the characters are so frightening in the movie, the story sucks you in. You’re afraid all the time, and you don’t necessarily have to see [the gore]. So when the gore is in the movie, it’s really powerful. And that’s a testament to Darren, it really is.”

On working with Rebecca de Mornay:

“You know, to work with her, to watch her evolve, and watch the character unfold…she’s so fucking frightening. When I worked with her, when I would do scenes with her…there’s a scene with her and I, and she scared me so much when I was acting with her that I had to take a break. She gets so deep into character. She scared the shit out of me…what’s great about her is she took it to a level that was almost starting to be a little campy, and then she pulls it back. So it’s like, it becomes more of a character trait than it does like a showy thing. And she’s just brilliant, I can’t wait for people to see her in this.”

My Soul to Take

In My Soul to Take, Grillo plays Det. Frank Paterson, a police officer in a small town who was once responsible for apprehending a serial killer known as the ‘Riverton Ripper’ and rescuing the Ripper’s own baby son from his clutches. Now, 15 years after the date of the killer’s mysterious disappearance, a similar series of murders begins to plague the town, all of the victims sharing a birthday with the Ripper’s now-teenaged son. The film, which it was recently announced will be post-converted to 3-D (groan), is scheduled for release on Halloween weekend. Below you can find a few choice excerpts from my talk with him:

On the connection between the teenage characters:

“The thing is, something happens…when this kid is born, on that day there are eight other kids born on the same day. And so every year, on their birthdays, these kids – because it’s the anniversary of this ‘Riverton Ripper’ – once they become a certain age they kind of like band together, and every year they kind of summon the Ripper, it’s this cool little thing that they do to ward the spirit off. So they do this every year. On the anniversary they get together, they light a bonfire, and to keep the spirit away, you know, it’s kind of this fun thing that these young kids do. And then one year they don’t do it because I break up this little party they’re having, because now they’re getting to be a certain age, and they’re lighting a big fire, and they’re drinking, so I break the party up and they never get to do the ritual. And that’s when the murders start.”

On that eye-rolling decision to post-convert:

“It actually does [make sense for 3-D], it’s interesting. I don’t know if it’s classic Wes Craven, but the movie definitely lends itself to 3-D now that I think about it”, and later, while discussing an ambulance crash that occurs at the beginning of the film: “I gotta tell you, the ambulance [crash], in 3-D this is gonna look cool, cause we did a stunt [where] this ambulance twirls in the air about five times. And I gotta imagine when it lands, it’s gonna look really cool.”

On worries about being released on the heels of Saw VII 3-D and Paranormal Activity 2:

“You know, I don’t know that they’re worried. I think that time of the year, people are kind of hungry for those films. So I think they’re just hoping that they’re just involved in that little tornado of horror films at that particular time of the year. I think that’s why they made it 3-D, I think they needed a bit of a hook.”

On the extensive reshoots:

“[Wes] wasn’t really happy with the look of the Ripper, and how it kind of played. So he made some changes there. And by doing that, we had to make some changes with all the scenes and stuff, to kind of put things together in a different way. So he finessed the movie. We did a fair amount of reshoots about seven months after we were done. So there was something that he wasn’t happy with that he wanted to fix.”

On working with horror master Wes Craven:

“I can’t tell you enough good things about him. I mean, he’s such a great collaborator. You know, he was a French philosophy major I think. The guy’s mind is brilliant. And he’s so soulful, and he’s spiritual…he’s exactly how you would not imagine a guy who makes his living the way he does to be. It’s really wild…when I read with him, and then when I was on set with him, to hear him talk about these characters, it’s almost Shakespearean. It’s not like he’s just got this idea about a plot, and it’s a means to an end. It’s almost Shakespearean the way he breaks down these movies. It’s really phenomenal.”

On creating a new horror icon a la Freddy Krueger:

“I think that’s another reason why we did the reshoots, is…I think the way the Ripper was perceived in the first cut of the film, you know, he was really ambiguous as to what he was, or what it was. And so he changed the look of the Ripper. You never really know, though, if you’re seeing the Ripper from the way the main character…is seeing it in his head, or if it really exists. You don’t know. He keeps that kind of…you’re kind of left to wonder if you’re really seeing what you think you’re seeing…but at the end, I think this Ripper is far more…he could be one of those Wes Craven iconic bad guys.”

On sequel potential:

“It actually is [left open for a sequel]…[but] I have not heard anything [specific]. You know, I think they were really excited to finally get the movie to a place where it could be released, because I know…we had to do some reshoots, and there were things that he wasn’t happy with…and then they started really loving it, did more reshoots, and then this 3-D thing came out, and then we get the Halloween release date. So I think everybody’s kind of like…it was a sleeper for a minute, and now all of a sudden it’s kind of on the forefront. So we’ll see what happens.”