Interview with “LVRS” Star/Writer/Director Emily Bennett

In the midst of Women in Horror Month, we were introduced to a terrific short film titled, “LVRS.” Not only did we get a chance to review it, but we also got to talk with its writer, director, and star Emily Bennett. Find out about her love for horror, learn about her new film, check out her thoughts on WiHM, and more below…

-PH: Many people know you for shows like “The Blacklist,” “Chicago Fire,” and “Chicago Justice.” However, you’re no stranger to horror so why horror? What is it about horror that you like?

-Emily: I’ve loved horror since I was a kid. It was always a little taboo in my house, so that made it even more interesting to me. I’m generally a pretty anxious person. I overthink things, I’m a perfectionist, and I’m always stressing about something (a new story idea, a script, a role, etc). Funnily enough, horror is actually the perfect antidote for me to calm down. It gives me a villain to fear. It’s tuned in to audiences’ anxieties and it plays on them, creating tension and delivering cathartic scares. I’m sure it makes sense psychologically, but horror calms my nerves. It’s also the perfect vehicle to explore real issues in allegorical ways. And frankly being scared is just really fun. 

-PH: Now you’re bringing horror fans “LVRS,” can you tell us what it’s about?

-Emily: LVRS is a nightmarish exploration of why a woman might choose to stay in an abusive relationship. 

-PH: How did you come up with this story, and also the title?

-Emily: I was in an abusive relationship, I ended that relationship, and that night I had a nightmare about the experience. That nightmare was, more or less, the film LVRS. The title used to be LOVERS, but it felt too complete. Too normal. In my relationship, the other person took things from me constantly, without me knowing. So I took letters away. I wanted the title to be a little confusing, jarring, and reflect that sense of loss. It’s almost love, but it’s not real love. 

-PH: The movie is almost dialogue free, and built on a lot of imagery. What was the reason behind that? Did that make the film easier, or harder to pull off?

-Emily: I had more dialogue in earlier drafts, but I felt it robbed the audience of having their own experience with the story. So I took most of the dialogue out. I think it makes the film more universal for sure. And it absolutely made filming it easier. So that felt like a win win.

-PH: For you as the actress in the movie, what was it like not talking and focusing more on the physical aspects of what’s happening?

-Emily: I’ve always loved silent films, and this felt like an opportunity to tell an emotional journey without the hinderance of dialogue. I just had to make sure the images I was creating with my face and body were telling the overall story I was hoping to convey.

-PH: The man with the mirror on his face, where did that idea come from?

-Emily: Again, it was in my nightmare. But I think it honestly comes from my obsession with Rene Magritte’s paintings. His most famous painting SON OF MAN, with the man and the apple in front of his face, was inspiration. I actually had another painting of his in my room for years called MAN IN A BOWLER HAT. The man has a dove flying in front of his face instead of an apple. You never see his face. You just assume what he looks like. And he changes, depending on your mood. I think Magritte got into my head that night and gave me some inspiration. The mirror felt like a perfect metaphor to use as a centerpiece for this dark story.

-PH: And the little boy, can you explain a little about his role in the film?

-Emily: I don’t want to say too much about him. He means so many different things to so many different people, and I don’t want to take their interpretations away from them. But I will say he represents innocence in the midst of abuse and chaos. And in the end, he might be slowly turning into the monster he’s been observing. I think that’s a chilling final image and it breaks my heart that that cycle of abuse continues in reality all the time. 

-PH: While the message of the film is important there is horror in the film. How did you go about picking how the woman was going to be tortured, and then bringing that to the screen?

-Emily: I wanted to start with something the audience has probably felt before and can relate to. We’ve all stubbed our toes. We’ve all lost a toe nail at some point (hopefully not by someone pulling it out with pliers!). Since the audience will likely know what that feels like, they will actually grimace when it happens on screen because of their sense memories. I wanted to start with relatable pain and move towards unimaginable pain. Toenails and fingernails are expendable to a certain degree. Hair is for vanity, but losing it typically doesn’t mean you loose a sense of yourself. But then he takes her eye. That’s horrific. That’s really moving into the horror genre much more. And when he cuts her tongue, I just wanted to put some of my Shakespearean influence in there. In TITUS ANDRONICUS, Lavinia is raped and then her hands and tongue are cut out. That image has always stayed with me. That act of silencing a woman was so horrific that I had to use that and have that be the final piece of violence the man inflicts.

-PH: Speaking of the message, what’s the most important thing you want people to get from it?

-Emily: I want people who have been in abusive relationships to feel seen. It’s hard to put those experience into words, and I didn’t know how. So I made a (mostly) silent film about it. I hope the film can reach them emotionally. I hope it can answer the question “Why did you stay?” This film is my answer to that question. And I hope women and men survivors can feel seen by this film. 

-PH: You’re writer, director, and star in the film. What was that experience like? In the end, which of those roles do you enjoy the most?

-Emily: It was a juggling act for sure, but it felt appropriate. It felt right to fill each of these roles in such a personal project. I don’t plan on doing all three roles in multiple future projects. If/when I do it again it will be because I have to. And there’s no way of choosing which I love the most. Just when I think I love one more than the other, I change my mind. Being able to jump from writer to actor to director keeps me on my toes. Keeps me active. And that’s the most important thing for me. 

-PH: What does it mean to you that the film has been made available for fans to see during Women in Horror Month?

-Emily: I’m so honored to be part of this incredible community. Women in horror are some of the most exciting, dynamic, kind hearted people I’ve met and I’m just humbled by the whole experience. 

-PH: How do you feel about Women in Horror Month, and your place as a woman in horror?

-Emily: I think it’s great! Women have such a unique perspective in the genre and they frankly keep it fresh and interesting. I’m not sure I can pontificate about my place as a woman in horror yet. I’m at the start of a (hopefully) long career. But I hope I can continue delivering stories that reach people. Stories that can be horrific on many levels, not just because there’s blood on screen. I hope to really disturb people and give them nightmares. I hope that doesn’t sound too sadistic haha.

-PH: We got to talk with Sarah Wisner about Women in Horror Month, and she mentioned you’re going to be in her new film “The Thaw.” How did you get involved with that film?

-Emily: I love Sarah!! I met her at Horrible Imaginings Film Festival in California, run by the amazing Miguel Rodriguez. That man is the sweetest, most passionate programmer I’ve ever met. But I digress. Sarah and Sean (her husband and filmmaking partner) approached me after LVRS premiered at this festival. We exchanged cards then talked on the phone a few weeks later when I was back in NYC. After a while, they asked if I’d star in their next short film. I was so flattered and honored. They’re such wonderful filmmakers, and Sarah has such a keen sense of dialogue, story structure, character and tone that I was thrilled to be asked. We will film in Vermont next month in association with Wild Obscura Films, which is run by two more incredible women – Nora Unkel and Devin Shepherd. I couldn’t be more excited. 

-PH: Here’s your chance to promote anything we haven’t talk about. Let us know something more about “LVRS”, other films, future projects, or anything else you would like to mention.

-Emily: I have a few projects lined up, but most importantly a feature film that I’ve written with my partner Justin Brooks called KEPT. We will co-direct this film later this year with Andrew Corkin and Theo James of Untapped Productions producing. I hope to have some more exciting news to share soon, but I’ll leave it at that for now 🙂

We would like to thank Emily Bennett for taking the time to answer our questions. Hopefully you got to learn enough about the film to check it out, which you can do HERE for a limited time. Again we definitely recommend watching it, and be on the lookout for “The Thaw,” “Kept,” and more from Emily in the near future!

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