If you’ve seen Cube or Splice, then you know Vincenzo Natali doesn’t make easily digestible movies. (And we mean that literally.) The director’s latest release, Haunter (available now on demand) isn’t for everyone, but it’s one of the most inventive ghost stories in years, even if it defies conventional descriptions (think Groundhog Day without the comedy and filtered through the spookiness of Coraline and Ti West’s The Innkeepers.) To make better sense of it all, Rolling Stone sat down with Haunter‘s seventeen-year-old star, Abigail Breslin, who shed some light on scary movies and her upcoming role in Ender’s Game.
How did you get involved with Haunter?
I’ve been a huge horror movie fan ever since I was about twelve, so I’ve always wanted to do a scary movie – I just wanted it to be the right one. I got this script and immediately loved the character and story. I also loved Vincenzo’s last film, Splice, so I thought this would be a great project.
What was it like working with him? I just assume he’s mad.
You’d think that, but he’s actually the sweetest, most gentle, soft-spoken director that I’ve ever worked with. It’s surprising to see that when he creates these insane movies. It was pretty surprising.
I picture him as the scientist in the opening of Robot Chicken.
[Laughs] Exactly. That’s what I though,t too. Then I got on the phone with him.
You really own Haunter. What was it like being present throughout the whole thing?
I didn’t realized how much I would be alone. It helped that’s how my character is – she’s isolated and feels very alone in her home with her family. That definitely helped. We were filming in the studio in Toronto and, most of the time, we didn’t even see the light of day. It was all dark and dusty and old looking and I was mostly by myself, so it was definitely an interesting experience. We filmed it out of order and this movie is so. . . you need to know where you are all the time. We had these boards that told us exactly where we were in the story. We filmed three different days in one hour, so it was crazy to try to keep track of it all.
You got to work with the super-creepy Stephen McHattie. Is he just as scary in person?
Vincenzo didn’t want Stephen and I to become friendly while we were filming because he wanted me to still be afraid of him and he didn’t want Stephen to like me at all. So it was kind of difficult to do when I’m in hair and makeup sitting next to him and I’m talking about my boy problems. I’m sure he didn’t like me for most of it. [Laughs] Then, on the last day, we started talking – and he’s so nice! I was like, “Oh my gosh! I’ve been terrified of you this whole entire film and you’re so nice!”
You mentioned that you’re a big horror fan. What is it about scary films that you love?
I saw my first horror movie when I was twelve years old and it called The Haunting of Molly Hartley. I remember seeing the trailer and wanting to see it so badly. I saw it and I was terrified, but I was so excited by it. So then I just started watching tons and tons of horror movies all the time. I just like that you get such an adrenalin rush when you’re watching them, especially going to a theater. Being in a full theater and getting the reaction from everybody. . . it’s such a community experience because everybody is terrified and freaking out. I saw Evil Dead in April with my best friend and we went at eleven o’clock at night in Times Square, and it was just the most insane experience. Everybody was walking around the theater and getting up and screaming and jumping. It was so fun.
Speaking of horror movies, have the Zombieland folks said anything about a sequel?
I think that it’s always been talked about, but I think the likelihood is kind of waning now. It’s been so long, but I’d be down.
What can you tell us about Ender’s Game?
I play Valentine Wiggins, who is Ender’s sister, and I really love her. I think that she’s a rare person because she really is just a good, well-intentioned girl, and she has no ulterior motives. She’s just really wants Ender to be safe and so she kind of his grounding back home.
Is there a TV show that you’d love to get a crack at?
I’ve just gotten into American Horror Story and I think that it’s so good. I’m on the second season right now and it’s just so good. It’s everything that I like – horror and awesome TV. I also love Game of Thrones, but I’m only on season two.
In August: Osage County you get to work with Meryl Streep. What was that like?
Incredible. Getting to work with all of those actors was a complete dream come true. But to do it in one movie was also insane and terrifying.
Did you learn a lot?
Oh yeah. I remember my first day of filming and it was a scene with the whole cast. I just had one line so I thought, “Okay, this is great. Just one line. I just have to get through that one line and I’m done.” I did it the first take and it was fine. I got through it. And then, for the second take, they gave me all these props that I had to hold in the scene. A backpack. Sunglasses. A jacket. A giant Walkman. So I was like, “Oh, Dear Lord.” On the next take I dropped the sunglasses. I just froze and stared at everybody and thought, “Oh, gosh. I’m going to get fired.” But then Meryl Streep walked over and picked up the sunglasses and just started improving with them, and I was like, “Oh, so that’s how Meryl Streep handles a prop dropping.” It was awesome.
She saved the day for you.
She saved the day! Thank God. [Laughs]
Now you have an amazing Meryl Streep story.
I do? I do!