Wicked Horror recently had the occasion to speak with Jessica Lowndes (The Devil’s Carnival, 90210) about her role in Darren Lynn Bousman’s latest shocker, Abattoir (review). The actress opened up about her working relationship with Bousman, the process of adapting the graphic novel on which the film is based for the big screen, and what draws her to darker roles.
Abattoir began life as a graphic novel co-created by Darren Lynn Bousman and after years in development, has finally been adapted into a feature film. The picture is helmed by Bousman (Saw II-IV) and stars Lowndes, Joe Anderson (The Crazies 2010), and Lin Shaye (Insidious). The film is now in select theaters and is also available on VOD and Digital HD.
The film follows and investigative journalist (Lowndes) as she sets out to solve the mystery behind a house constructed from the remains of violent crime scenes. The closer she gets to uncovering the secret behind the home, the more she comes to realize that she has a very personal connection to it.
Wicked Horror: Prior to Abattoir, you had worked with Darren Lynn Bousman on The Devil’s Carnival. How did the two of you first become acquainted?
Jessica Lowndes: I actually met him before that. I met him through my manager when I was 17 when I first moved to LA. And we always stayed in touch and then I got the opportunity to do Devil’s Carnival which was amazing and a dream come true, because it’s a horror musical and I love to sing. So, we had a great time doing that and then he sent me the script for this and I fell in love. I was initially scared by the script because it’s film noir based in modern day. It was all the 1940s rapid fire dialogue, which was different for me and challenging. Even the lines that my character has were things that I’d never said in my life. And so, I was challenged by that, but I was also challenged by the emotional arc that my character goes through. She finds out that her sister and entire family has been murdered at the beginning of the script and I’m taking matters into my own hands and figuring it out myself. That was definitely challenging but I liked it. And when I talked to Darren, he had such an amazing creative vision. He was like: ‘I don’t want this to be like anything I’ve done in the past. I don’t want this to be like the horror films you’ve seen me do before. I want this to be like an art piece. I want this to be hauntingly beautiful. He wanted my character to be this analog girl stuck in a digital world where everything I wear–my clothes are vintage, my car is vintage, my typewriter is vintage-she’s obsessed with everything vintage. That was really, really cool.
Wicked Horror: The costuming and set design were amazing. Expounding a little more on something you just touched on, I’m curious how you approached the juxtaposition of making a film that was technically set in the present, yet everything about it feels very much like a time capsule.
Lowndes: It was challenging because I still wanted to give her this emotional depth. A lot of the films in the ’40s, women weren’t allowed that emotion. So, it was that fine balance. And I did research, I watched a lot of films from that era, like The Big Squeeze and a lot of Bacall and Bogart films. But I also wanted to be super truthful with those moments, like finding out that her sister has been murdered. Even her love story with Brady, I wanted to give that depth. Even though you don’t know what happened, you know that they were together and now they aren’t together. I also wanted it to come across as if he was the only family that she has left. So, it was emotionally taxing but super rewarding at the end of the day. I just felt that New Orleans was perfect because it’s such a great backdrop. And I feel like the location itself is a prop and it’s super helpful because we’re shooting in real haunted houses and it just gives this eerie vibe.
Wicked Horror: Speaking of research, I’m curious how much did the graphic novel inform your performance?
Lowndes: I think we took a little bit of input from it but this is a continuation from the comic. So, it was its own story. In the original, the protagonist is a man. So, now it’s a whole other ball game. For me, I wanted to make Julia strong. I wanted to make her likable. I wanted people to be rooting for her. And I love that she takes matters into her own hands and she goes all Nancy Drew on her own crime investigation. She keeps taking it upon herself to figure out what happened to her family.
Wicked Horror: Getting Abattoir ready to go before cameras was a long and arduous journey. At what point in the process did Darren approach you about coming on board?
Lowndes: When it actually was happening and set to go is when I got the script. I was super excited about it. I absolutely loved it. I love working for him. He’s so wonderful and great. He had everything feeling like a summer camp. I trust him one-hundred percent. He allows you to try differnt things and learn. It was really awesome as an actress to go through that.
Wicked Horror: You’ve starred in several horror movies throughout your career. I’m curious: Do you find yourself drawn to darker roles when given a choice or do you think it’s just happenstance?
Lowndes: I think it’s both. I am terrified of horror movies. I’m somebody that when something jumps out at me, I scream. So, I feel like that’s why I’m cast in them a lot. But I also feel like when I get these scripts, I love it because it’s so different from me and my everyday life. Being raised in Vancouver, Canada in my little house-I love diving into something that’s completely different from me.
Wicked Horror: Do you not find that horror movies are less intimidating now that you’ve seen them deconstructed and built from the ground up?
Lowndes: They’re still challenging for me. Especially when it takes place over the same day or a week. You still have to reach that emotional intensity every day for a month or a month and a half and that’s so hard. It takes a lot of mental focus and I love it because I just think it’s fascinating.