Valerie Jane Parker, known for playing Corrine in this year’s remake of Wrong Turn, has a new thriller out called The Voices.
She plays a blind expecting mother who has to decide if her unborn child is an evil soul waiting to be returned to the Earth.
We sat down with Valerie and talked about all things horror.
“The Voices” is out, so tell me about that film
It is a supernatural thriller, I play Lilly, and she is a pregnant woman who gets the terrifying news that she basically needs to choose the soul of her unborn baby before the first heartbeat. And that if she doesn’t, the other side is going to choose for her and it will not be good. So that’s it in a nutshell.
What attracted you to this movie?
I thought it was a clever script, I think with the horror genre, what you want is both something reminiscent of stories that have come before because we love to play on a theme. So I liked that there were elements of it that reminded me of Rosemary’s Baby and the Sixth Sense. But you also want a new take on a story, and I felt the script was a great merging of that. It was a clever take on an idea that hasn’t been done before, but has enough callbacks to other films that you love and that genre.
At the end of the day, what attracted me to the role was that it’s a horror film with a little bit of hope, which I know sounds strange, but after the bad year we just had in 2020, hopefully we are coming to the end of this pandemic. I think everybody wants the fun of a horror movie, but we need something uplifting at the end of the day too, and this movie kind of does both. You get scared, but then when it’s over, you’re like, “Oh, I feel a little hopeful”, and I liked that. I felt like that was unusual for a horror script.
Tell me about Lilly and how you brought her to life.
Lilly was a really delightful character to get to play. Early in the film, she goes through a traumatic accident where she loses both her mother and her vision. And the challenge of getting to play somebody who can’t see was really interesting to prepare for. I spent about a month watching documentaries on blindness, I got a cane and would practice around my house with blackout glasses – it’s very difficult to do.
I actually worked one on one with a good friend of mine, Bobby, who is blind, and he let me shadow him at his job for several days. We would spend time together and just talk about what he goes through every day. We would go get coffee together and the different challenges of that you don’t think about. It was a fun physical element to bring to it that really made me appreciate all my other senses so much more. It was actually a gift, getting to prepare for the role in that way, because it just made me so much more appreciative of life. I realized that you don’t have to be able to see beauty with your eyes to be able to experience it everywhere, and that was a really cool thing. She has a beautiful, undaunted spirit. She’s a fighter and I love getting to play characters like that.
With the blind aspect of the character, obviously, it’s going to be a lot different and harder to play. But what did you actually get out of being the blind person?
The thing I like about acting period is that it humanizes everyone, like you play characters that are different from you and play characters that have personality quirks that you may not mesh with in real life. This was a physical version of that it just makes you more empathetic to the world around you. Maybe have one on one conversations with Bobby being like, “When I go out with my blind glasses and people are avoiding me, how does that feel. And he’s like, “Oh, yeah, it’s the worst. People either want to baby you or they want to avoid you”. It just let me get out of my skin, experience a challenge that somebody else goes through and taught me how I can walk through that with empathy as a human being in my day to day life.
You mentioned your friend who is visually impaired. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work with the CNIB in the past, so I totally understand how everything works. Did it change being in his position? Do you feel as if you’ve changed?
Absolutely. It made me feel empowered to help. I know that sounds weird, but I think so often when we see somebody that we would label as disabled, it makes us uncomfortable. And instead of having an open dialogue with them, we have to pretend like there’s nothing going on there, which isn’t helpful. Or you do the opposite and you over baby them, which is frustrating when you’re a grown human. So I feel like it gave me an opportunity to open up that dialogue, and to learn how to treat others in my own life who are struggling with that.
Tell me about the rest of the cast. Another aspect of that is how the cast reacted to you acting as a visually impaired person.
They would forget that I could see. But part of that was because in order to do that role correctly, you just stop focusing your eyes on anything. I know that sounds strange, but you just kind of let your vision constantly glaze over. So between takes it was just easier to not pop into it. Plus, you get used to listening to people instead of having to watch them with your eyes – you listen with your ears. But because of that, yeah, they would. They’d be trying to guide me to the car afterwards and things like that. This was their way to help, so they kept forgetting and going along with it.
This is a pretty cool psychological thriller horror, and I love that kind of stuff. With high profile films like this one and Wrong Turn, you’re starting to get a little niche in the horror market, just a little bit. So is horror something you enjoy?
I do. I love it. You know, horror movies are modern day morality tales and a lot of people don’t think of them like that. They think of them as maybe a cheaper art form or trashy, but they’re not. They’re accessible. They tell a thematic story and they always have a purpose to them. They’re entertaining and people love that. I’ve been a horror fan for a while now and especially the way modern horror is going. We’re moving away from a lot of the horror/porn like gory slashers, to smarter, more psychological thrills, and I love it.
As the daughter of not one, but two Pastors, what do they think of your horror films?
We did not grow up watching horror. One of my first horror movies was Rosemary’s Baby and my friend was like, “oh, you gotta check out this movie on TV”. We’d never seen it. My mother comes running into the living room screaming. We’d watched only 30 minutes and she said, “What is this, turn it off, turn it off”, so I had to warm them up to it. That being said, they’re so supportive. They have been the biggest fans of it. Now I actually have them watching horror movies. I had to explain to them that’s it’s not just about a cheap thrill. I finally won them over, but that took a few years.
I was a bit worried originally when I heard there was going to be a new Wrong Turn, and then I watched the film and saw how great it really was. When you signed up, could you tell it was going to be different or did you just think it was going to be another, cheesy remake?
You could tell a little bit, but I knew for sure when I got to the set. This is wildly different. Mike Nelson, our director, is so smart and clever, and he just likes to play. He was changing the script daily just constantly looking to add a big twist to it. He has no fear of playing around with it, and as soon as that energy hits you knew it was going to be good. I was so grateful, because it could have just been another reboot – and that would have been fine – but he made it his own thing. He did a really interesting take on it and I loved it.
How did this contrast with “The Voices”? Were you able to bring stuff to the script and the story?
In “The Voices”, yes. With “The Voices” Nathaniel Nuon, both wrote and directed the film, and he is organized, he had everything plotted out from day one. There’s not a shot that he hadn’t thought about. Normally when you’re going into a situation like that, there is less room to work around, but he’s also such a lovely, flexible human, that anytime we got to a scene where I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if Lilly would do that, I think she would do X, Y and Z’. He let me play with it every time and that was a real gift. So he let me bring a lot to it. Lilly was supposed to be in her glasses in every scene and I was like, I think we’re gonna’ lose a lot if you don’t let me change it up and he trusted me and I’m really grateful for that.
What do you hope viewers will get out of “The Voices”?
I hope they’ll be entertained. I hope they’ll like me. I hope that at the end of the day, it makes them think and it leaves them with a little bit of hope. If there’s any message that they could take from it, it would be that it’s your world, and you may get what you want, and we really do all have that power within us. If your world sucks, you can recover. It’s okay. Everyone’s world sucks sometimes, you just have to rebuild it.