For any self-respecting horror fan who has not heard of the recent indie horror Twisted Twins production American Mary I would have to ask have you been hiding under a rock? One of the rare films so deserving of its reputation, which I reviewed here, it was the strong cast and excellent scripting which worked to make this film such a hit. I must admit I am a little jaded in my old age when it comes to modern horror and can more than likely be found trawling the annals of 60’s/70’s or 80’s retro titles in the hope of finding something new to watch rather than some of the regurgitated clap trap which seems to saturate the modern day market. However every so often something will pop up, grab me and drag me back to the here and now and American Mary was one of those moments. It is films like this that reassert my belief that horror remains the most innovative genre of film and just when you think you have seen it all there is something else disturbingly brilliant to pop up and entertain. A thrill for my little dark heart indeed.Therefore you can imagine my absolute delight when Tristan Risk aka Little Miss Risk one of the starring members of the cast, who plays the wonderfully bizarre and lovely Beatress, agreed to pop on over to our humble little Gore Splattered Corner of the interweb and answer a few questions.
Tristan as Beatress in American Mary.
This Canadian born and bred Burlesque Queen of the dark and macabre is a very busy bunny indeed. When she is not working with her Vancouver based Burlesque troupe Sweet Soul Burlesque and getting down and frisky with a copious amount of glitter and blood, fire eating, black magic, and all manner of strange and bizarre concepts for her act, she works as a corsetier for Lace Embrace Atelier writes, acts,and talks about everything under the sun on her blog High Barbed Wire Walking from Burlesque history lessons to the origins of the C-bomb. This is when she is not travelling extensively with her extended family the Soska Sisters to meet the fans, human centipeding on the red carpet, or for that matter touring internationally with Sweet Soul Burlesque.
Tristan is currently working on a project with the guys at Astron-6 ,who were responsible for award-winning mentalist titles Manborg and Fathers Day. This latest project The Editor (which is being pitched as a Giallo/ Comedy) looks decidedly intriguing in an absurd and retro throwback sort of way (these being good things at our Gore Splattered Corner).For anyone wanting to check it out click here. With only 6 days to raise funding at the time of writing, pop over and see if you can help these guys out.
With such a busy schedule I am exhausted just writing about it! I would like to thank Tristan from the bottom of my gorestained heart for spending the time chatting to me…
Canada has a pretty strong background in horror, with some of the classic titles of the genre (and a few personal faves of mine) heralding from your native shores; The Burning, Black Christmas, Ginger Snaps, David Cronenberg! My Bloody Valentine, how does it feel to be part of that from your role in American Mary?
Tristan: Humbling. I grew up watching these movies, not so much with national identity in mind, just because they were good movies. Through the Soskas and now hopefully with Astron-6, I’m now affiliated with that, and I can’t express the gratitude I have for that. People work their whole lives for something like that and I feel like I hit the jackpot and lucked out.
What initially drew you into becoming a Burlesque performer?
Tristan: It all started as a joke for a friend’s birthday party, and what was a campy striptease at the behest of my friend’s girlfriend grew into a bit of a thing, then a lot of a thing. I never thought about it as a career but once I got going the passion for striptease and performing took root. I had a friend who recently went to see the Malia Nurmi exhibit in LA and she told me quite a bit about her. It would seem that the character of Vampira started off in the same vein and turned into a career for her too. Sometimes life throws you strange bait and the path that evolves from that turns out to be an interesting adventure if you keep an open mind.
I read on your blog you once inadvertently covered yourself in rotting chicken bones and maggots in preparation for one of your acts, you also practice the body modification technique of waist training, would you say you suffer for your art?
Tristan: Let me clarify that: I personally wasn’t covered in them, only my bed. The chicken bones were rotting, they had been boiled but enough material was still on them to entice the baby bugs to make a meal of them. So I felt bad disposing of a generation of critters, but if I’m sharing my bed with anyone, I prefer it to be a biped rather than a nursery of little wigglers… that all aside, I don’t think that I suffer for my art. I think that as part of any craft if there is an effect that you want to achieve, you may be required to push yourself beyond your normal comfort level. I think that’s part and parcel to being any kind of artist and that one’s audience to this tends to appreciate you more for the effort. If it were easy or passive then would it be as interesting to behold? Not likely.
Your stage shows seem to reflect an element of cheekiness, distinct wry sense of humour and a taste for the macabre, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Tristan: My family’s dark sense of humour, British comedies, Edward Gorey and Charles Addams. Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare tour was a HUGE influence since that show was camp, burlesque, shocking (for it’s time) totally over the top… I can only imagine seeing it live in the 70’s, tripping balls, and there’s a huge spiderweb, or he’s tossing a woman around on stage and then this massive cyclops comes out. Everything that’s opulent and over the top like Dita Von Teese’s shows as well as not being afraid to get grimy and dirty and covered in blood and beer. Somewhere between art deco, primal witchcraft, rat pack crooners, myths and legends, voodoo, and cyberpunk… inspiration springs deep from everything and there’s a lot of sources I draw from to stitch together the weird things that grow out of my brain. I’m lucky to spend a lot of time with some incredibly creative people who also invoke strange visions, which I love. I think most artists pick little pieces of things up from their surroundings and experiences and weave them together to make their own distinct visions.
You have done some pretty far out photo shoots, which has been your most memorable?
Tristan: Hmm. A few… Twice I’ve been naked on East Hastings street. Once wearing a bacon bikini and the other time wearing only body paint and kitty ears being led on a leash. Naked, covered in blood with a tentacle stuffed into my mouth which was surprisingly satisfying to draw on, given it’s salty, rubbery texture. Inhaling a lot of pool water shooting underwater… I think each shoot lends itself a few unique experiences. Being covered in goo, glitter and sprinkles for Crystal Precious ‘Apple Pie’ video left me feeling like a participant in a unicorn bukkake.
A self-confessed foodie you once contributed to a cook book with other women in horror, how did that come about?
Tristan: The Soska sisters had put me in touch with Lisa who was putting the book together. It was a benefit for ‘Get Safe’ an NPO dedicated to helping women overcome domestic abuse. It’s available for sale here still as well. I’ve had an interest in food and cooking all my life with my grandmother who was what we in the know call a ‘wisewoman’ from the Old Country (Scotland) to my mother who trained at PCA in Vancouver as a chef, to Watermelon who has her own marijuana cooking show (Baking A Fool Of Myself) and is a avant guard baker of gluten-free products. I’m definitely not the first horror/foodie. I think if memory serves, Vincent Price is the OG in that area having published his own cookbook, titled A Treasury Of Great Recipes. Something in us horror folk just loves to entertain, I suppose. This might be why as much as I don’t care for her as a person, Martha Stewart always has the BEST Halloween recipes and suggestions.
I enjoyed the short you wrote and acted in The Real Housewives of the Magic Kingdom, tell me a bit about how that came about.
Tristan: Sigh. I used to tour with a band as a dancer. The last tour I did was USA/Canada/Europe and was three months long. There were a lot of personal problems within the group at that point and it was the straw that broke this camel’s back. In order to escape the others in our downtime in Europe, Calamity Kate and I would steal away and work on this script. Kate is a director in her 9-5 here at home so after we wrote it, she put on her director/producer cap and got the wheels going. The whole script was basically a snide way for us to flounce off and leave the other three and drain our venom without having to murder anyone when personalities were conflicting, which was often. I won’t lie, there were a few people that came very close to death at my hands on that last tour, but thankfully that script was the thing between me and homicide.
How did you get involved with the Soska Sisters?
Tristan: The Soskas performed a black mass, invoked me, and then gave me false memories. As far as *I* remember, I saw DHIAT at the Rio Theatre and was impressed. They also suggested in those implanted memories that we had a mutual friend named Kevvy Mental who insisted we three meet. We eventually did after much mutual online stalking, and they brought me in to be dance coordinator for Mary.
American Mary, for me as a female viewer, contained a strong sense of the feminine energy, and your role of Beatress was one of the reasons for this. How much of yourself did you bring to the role?
Tristan: All. Of. Me. I don’t like to think of doing anything half-assed and so that means pouring as much of myself in Beatress as I could. So it was a small facet of my mannerisms and such that were magnified and twisted out of proportion, but anyone who knows me well would be able to see that. Beatress and I are both strange, damaged but eternal optimists.
You endured some serious time in make up for your part, how was that?
Tristan: Oh I had the easy job. I just had to sit there and let Amelia and Lori do all the hard work. For the most part I tried not to get in their way. I fell asleep more than once in the chair but they were amazing. Besides, the effect of the make up was so good there were people on set who didn’t know that wasn’t my real face.
What are your feelings toward your character?
Tristan: She’s a a good soul. I like that she’s the bright light that shines onto people and it looks over other people’s own perceptions of themselves. Mary thinks herself dark and brooding; Beatress sees her as a talented artist who needs some life coaching and encouragement. She’s got a positive perspective for all occasions, which I think is an admirable trait.
How was the overall experience, meeting the fans, and attending conventions? Have you found it has attracted more fans to the other aspects of your career?
Tristan: Oh god, meeting the fans has been amazing! Such passion! I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the kind sentiments that come my way. It’s flattering and wonderful and it’s nice since now with this film I have something I can share with these folks. It’s like our own little cabal, which is lovely. I know there’s been a few people who have made an effort to come see my live shows as a result of this, and a lot of my peeps who have been coming and seeing me shake my tailfeathers who checked out Mary who might not have sought it out on their own. I believe the term is ‘cross pollenation’ and I dig it.
You are very outspoken about your love for old school horror, and lament over the overuse of CGI nowadays, do you think Indie Filmmakers like the Twisted Twins are helping to steer things back into the right direction?
Tristan: I do. Not to say CGI doesn’t have it’s place. It does. I think the marriage of both CGI and practical such as Where The Wild Things Are is brilliant. However, I feel the talent that practical effects take to produce and how in film they cause the imagination to evoke wild musings that there is something of a tangible soul to these creations that I’ve not yet seen in CGI. I also feel it’s such a cop out now in filmmaking, which is sad, since it’s like sex: when it’s good it’s the best thing ever but when it’s bad it’s just awkward, unpleasant and you find yourself counting the moments until it’s over, or else wishing you were kind of drunk so you could be a little numb and get more into it…
Horror has typically been portrayed as a male dominated industry, do you think films like American Mary are paving the way for that to change?
Tristan: The film industry in general has been fairly male dominated. Not to say women haven’t been a part of it, but for the most part the traditional role for women in horror was either as the sluts or the final girl. We are seeing s shift now, with both storytelling and roles. Women behind the camera are more prevalent. Characters have depth and vice. Monsters are not monsters. I think the Soskas are very much key elements and will help continue to push and eventually will not just be viewed as really good female directors but just really good directors.
Where is the most interesting place your work has taken you, and why?
Tristan: Castles. Festivals. Rainforest raves. Medieval townships. International travel. Middle of nowhere. The desert. mountains. Conventions. Film Festivals. I follow where prevailing winds take me and give me a chance to go off on an adventure and disrobe in front of new audiences. It’s not for everyone, but it’s been a good life for me thus far.
Finally what is the weirdest situation your career has ever led you to?
Tristan: *cough cough* There’s been a few. Not all of them reputable. But let me say this: I’m always willing to one-up myself when it comes to reminiscences and confessions… but I probably should save those tales for telling in person. 😉
If you want to know more about Tristan’s act check out the Sweet Soul Burlesque Showcase video below.
Categories: Articles, interviews