Chloe Rose doesn’t want to admit being frightened while making her new horror movie, but upon further review, it might be the case.
“I was never scared on set,” she says, sitting down at the Intercontinental Hotel. “Sure, there were some darker moments, like a scene in the basement. That was one-camera and they would shake the door.” Rose pauses and laughs, “I was scared.”
The 20-year-old Torontonian actress stars in Hellions, a supernatural horror that premiered at Sundance before making its way to TIFF and is now opening wide. Rose, perhaps best known for her turn in Degrassi: The Next Generation, finds with Hellions her first lead role in a film. Her character Dora, following the surprise news that she is pregnant, is left home alone by her family on Halloween, soon thereafter plagued by, well, things she can’t yet explain.
While much of it was shot with infrared cameras during the day, as her Dora stumbles into a surrealist nightmare as bedeviled minions seek out her unborn baby, Rose was spurred on by director Bruce McDonald. “Bruce helped me do my best,” says Rose. “When I needed to be stunned, he would do things that were unexpected to freak me out. It created a natural response, that’s the way I did it. It’s more like an adrenaline thing than being scared.”
Rose went to other lengths to get into her character’s mind frame. Ahead of a scene where Dora dials the police, Rose listened to a catalog of 911 emergency calls. “It was fascinating to me,” she explains. “The more extreme the circumstance, the more calm they were. I was curious.” So Rose, when not sleeping on the early morning journey from Toronto at 4am to set near Hamilton, would listen in on those who indeed were plagued and in need. “I’m not usually that kind of person, but I just want to know what other people are doing.”
More so though, Rose found a genuine connection with Dora, one that came with fear all the same, but a different kind. They weren’t that different, though Rose admitted that she could see how Dora would be scared about a pregnancy.
“I loved her in a way because I had an affinity with her, I understand the fears of growing up. I just graduated high school,” says Rose. “What I was doing, where I was going, who I was. I still kind of am, I’m at that bridge between childhood and adulthood that is hard to navigate. I was being true to the deep rooted fears aside from the horror, being honest in that moment but also being aware that this is a manifestation of her physiological issues and fears and being honest with that.”
Seen mostly dressed in her Halloween costume as a pristine angel, Dora occasionally wields a weapon, taking matters into her own hands, while also soliciting help in the form of a grizzled local cop: journeyman Robert Patrick. It’s a delicate balance to achieve to keep the audience invested.
“She’s written in the breakdown as the girl in school you want to be friends with but are too scared to talk to; she’s the brooding, intimating chick. It was flattering to get cast as her,” said Rose, who developed an immense appreciation for every filmmaking department involved. “I think what I brought to it was strength and vulnerability. You have to be vulnerable to raise the stakes in horror. You can die at any moment. I brought as much as an honest performance as I could, that was my only goal.”
Chloe has a bright future, though like Dora, professes still to be traversing the departure of one world before entering another. Following Hellions, Rose is better equipped having led a film that required a lot of trust all around. What’s more, seeing a horror movie made has made her better able to withstand scares when watching movies. Despite her protestations though, Rose relents, “I’m a scaredy-cat.”
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.