Stephanie Hodos is remarkably talented. In her latest film, “Unnatural,” a tense creature thriller, Stephanie co-stars with veteran actors James Remar (“Dexter”) and Sherilyn Fenn (“Twin Peaks”). The movie is part of After Dark Films’ acclaimed annual series “8 Films to Die For” (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment).
In the trailer, Martin Nakos (masterfully played by James Remar) recounts the tale of the twenty foot tall “Maneater,” a creature with “fangs and claws sharper than any man-made metal.” The savage beast was born not “from another bear, but from a vengeful spirt,” and it seems to have developed a taste for humans. Specifically, a small crew that has traveled to an isolated location in Alaska to work.
“There haven’t been that many creature films, lately,” Stephanie told Examiner in a recent interview. “I think we got away from that after the 90s. There have been films about some sort of spirit that you’re hiding from, but it’s been a really long time since a really good creature movie came out!”
What makes “Unnatural” so terrifying is the fact that it is grounded in reality. An absurd story wasn’t concocted purely for shock value, this is a horror that could actually happen. Hodos revealed that the frightful, cautionary tale stems from aspects of global warming and genetic tampering.
“One of the many things I loved about making this movie was that it shot on location in Alaska,” Stephanie informed, “Think about the cleanest air you can imagine, air you would never find in Los Angeles. It was just a great experience and a lot of fun.”
“The log cabin that we shot in is a real cabin,” she continued. “The people there are definitely more friendly than most places in the states. We used a lot of local crew members for this film — our crew came from Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Valdez. We were able to involve the whole community and everyone was excited. And, if you’re into cinematography, this film is one of the most beautiful films you have ever seen.”
As far as comfort, Stephanie prefers cold over hot, so the extreme temperatures didn’t really bother her. “I mean, you can only take off so many layers when it’s hot, and you can only drink so much water before you feel like you’re just going to die anyway,” she laughed. “We did have about three days were it was about 50 below, but we were lucky because we were shooting mostly interiors at that point.”
“Admittedly, at around 30 below, it kind of starts to hurt to breathe, but you can layer up. You start with thermal socks and a thermal base layer and then you add ski pants — double insulated. You also have a thermal base layer on top plus a couple sweaters and a vest — so you can move your arms. The gloves were tough because you had a hard time opening things and plugging in the cars at night — if you didn’t plug in the cars overnight, they would stop working.”
“Actually, a lot of us were complaining because everything was heated,” Hodos pointed out. “The hotel was heated, the restaurant was heated, everything was heated and it sometimes got to the point when you needed to step outside just to get some cool air back into your system!”
Regarding local dietary options, Stephanie is obviously an adventurous foodie as she raved about her chance to try such regional delicacies as moose ribs, moose jerky, bear grease, and reindeer sausage.
Getting back to the film, Stephanie plays a production assistant named DeLana. DeLana is really good at what she does and she’s worked with a number of great photographers and directors in an effort to make a name for herself. DeLana has a love/hate relationship for Brooking (played by Ron Carlson), the guy she is currently working for — she respects his abilities, but does not like him as a person. “She’s frustrated. Every time she puts her ideas out there, he squashes them. But she keeps trying, hoping that if she just stays long enough, it will eventually all pay off.”
When pressed, Hodos admitted there was a little bit of herself infused into the character. She actually modeled DeLana’s relationship with Brooking around a real life working situation she’d experienced. “If I had an opinion on what worked best, I could never state it because it would hurt his ego,” she recalled. “Also, if I see something wrong, or I have an opinion about something that’s going to directly affect me, at the very least, I want my opinion noted.”
Hodos told Examiner that she did all of her own stunts — “not that there were any really crazy ones.” In fact, the hardest thing she had to do was run. “You’re stepping into snow that’s really deep! You’re trying to find support for your foot and keep moving, but you end up doing these crazy jumping jacks,” she laughed. “One time, my boot even came off. At one point, someone yelled, ‘If you can’t get there, the bear’s going to kill you!’ And I said, ‘Then I’m going to die!’”
The inside joke of the film was that Stephanie falls a lot. So much that there was talk of adding an outtakes reel to the DVD, which would be comprised solely of a montage of the actress falling while trying to run through the snow.
And that brings up one final aspect of “Unnatural.” “There’s a lot of humor that you probably would not expect to see in a horror film,” Stephanie divulged. “It’s not your typical, gory horror film, ‘Unnatural’ is a creature-driven horror film with a great script and great actors!”
Stephanie Hodos: IMDb • Instagram • Twitter
After Dark Films: website • Facebook • Twitter
“Unnatural”: iTunes • Amazon • Google Play • Vudu • Available on DVD in November