Scary’s Voices – Spotlight
Two Blood-Chilling Audio Dramas from Violet Hour Media and Special Guest Interview with Maria Olsen
As a devoted horror fan, I’m in the mood for creepy stories all year long, but when October comes my appetite for frightful things goes into overdrive. Ghosts and ghouls start popping up everywhere from innocent children’s programming to sitcoms – it’s like everyone becomes a horror fan, if only for a short few weeks, and being able to share my love for this genre with even more people warms my cold dark heart.
But one thing in horror, which even die-hard fans often overlook, that harkens back to days long since past is the tradition of orally sharing ghost stories. There’s something special about sitting in a dimly lit room, listening to terrifying tales which ignite your imagination and have you checking dark corners behind you for shadows ready to pounce. If you aren’t a storyteller and don’t have anyone to whisper sinister stories, there’s no need to miss out on the fun as podcasts are here to the rescue.
A fairly recent newcomer to the podcast scene is The Violet Hour, a part of Violet Hour Media, however, its founder and CEO Cassie Jozefov is no stranger to the horror genre, having worked with the likes of Eli Roth, Roger Birnbaum, and Warner Bros. Now, through The Violet Hour, Jozefov is dedicated to producing scripted horror-fiction podcasts, featuring professional actors, sound designers, and audio engineers. So far two distinct series have been released, In Another Room and Between the Devil. Both are phenomenal listening experiences and perfect additions to your Halloween celebrations.
In Another Room
You may recall back in August, when Scary’s Voices began, In Another Room captured my inaugural Scream of the Week – and that was after listening to only 3 episodes! The series only crept further under my skin from there and didn’t let go until the very last words of the finale, “Ep. 08: Lilliana.” Intensely terrifying, with moments of genuine heartbreak, this haunted house story truly captivated me.
Each episode follows Wendy Morrow as she investigates the paranormal activity of different rooms in the infamous house on Harvard Boulevard. “Ep. 01: The House” introduces Wendy and provides background on the tragedies that have plagued the home but avoids feeling like exposition. The episodes that follow focus on different rooms of the house, even going back in time so you can experience the horrors as they take place. Dire warnings on a Ouija board in the 1970s, a tragic gathering of friends for a 1960s Christmas party, a WWII vet trying to make peace with a soldier left behind, Wendy slowly unravels why these spirits have been bound to the foul dwelling, tracing all the way back to its 1870s construction.
Written and directed by E3W Productions, In Another Room was originally presented as an immersive theatre production and has been adapted brilliantly to a podcast you don’t want to miss. Each episode runs about 30 minutes in length and I highly recommend getting comfortable in a dark room without distractions to dive into this story.
Between The Devil
Do you ever wish there were more pirates in horror? I do! These hard-living, booze-soaked marauders, living a life of conflict with their isolated surroundings, and any unfortunate ships that cross their path, just screams horror to me. So, when I read the synopsis of Between the Devil prior to its release, I quickly marked down a reminder to start listening as soon as it was available. At the time of writing, I’m 6 episodes in and am loving every moment.
Like me, young Sammy has a head filled with pirate stories, but, unlike me, stories are not enough for her. Set in 18th century Europe, when Sammy’s father begins a new merchant ship venture, she stows away to experience adventure firsthand, but she’s not the only force tucked away. Soon after setting sail, superstitions and paranoia run through the crew. Ghostly voices whisper of mutiny, and the ship seems to be plotting its own course to an unknown destination.
At the heart of this briny deep tale is a quest of a young girl trying to find her way in a world she doesn’t belong. Similarly, her father, Francisco, is desperate to find his life’s calling. Battered through a string of failed business enterprises, he engages in a last-ditch effort to earn a comfortable living, attracted to the potential riches in the spice trade. As a lifelong landlubber, Francisco stumbles through his role as merchant mariner, but his desperation to provide for his family pushes him forward. The conflicts these two main characters face, with each other as well as with the ship’s crew, results in gripping tension even in the scenes without paranormal encounters.
Tightly written and directed by Justin Jones and Natalie Jones, this series also features impressive voice talents, sound effects and music. Episodes run approximately 30 minutes long, and the finale (episode 8) is scheduled to be released on November 2nd. So, Avast ye, hearties, Between the Devil is a real treasure of a podcast sure to keep you entertained while you enjoy your Halloween loot.
The Scary’s Voices Interview
J.A. Sullivan Talks To Maria Olsen
One voice found in both ghostly tales is the immensely talented Maria Olsen. With over 220 acting credits on IMDB, including Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Starry Eyes, I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà vu, and Paranormal Activity 3, I’m sure horror fans will recognize this South African born actress. Also active behind the scenes, Olsen is an experienced film producer with her company MOnsterworks66, involved in such movies as Our Friend Jon, Way Down in Chinatown, and Life is a Lottery. Much to my delight, Maria was available for an interview to chat about her experiences in the horror genre.
J. A. Sullivan: In Another Room was initially staged as an immersive theatrical experience, which you also acted in. What drew you to the script?
Maria Olsen: I really enjoy exploring and creating complex characters who deal with real issues, and, as you may remember, my segment of the story deals a lot with love and loss and pain, regret and guilt – to name only a few of the emotional factors! I connected with the role deeply even during the audition process and performing it has never failed to bring out a very strong emotional response. When the brilliant Katie Peabody and I performed the role in New Orleans at the Overlook Film Festival – we are the same character, just at different ages – it was extremely emotionally strenuous for us as we had to ride the same emotional rollercoaster that the story compels us to do approximately 15 to 20 times a night. The difference between those performances and when we originally performed the show in Los Angeles was that there was no gap between our performances in New Orleans – it was just round and round this insane emotional roundabout for what seemed like forever. But we lived!
JAS: You also appeared in Between the Devil as the narrator, and I wonder if you have any additional audio dramas in the works, or are considering taking on more roles as a voice actor?
MO: At this point, I do not have any additional audio shows in the works, which is a pity because I really enjoy recording them. It is, moreover, extremely difficult to get roles as a voice actor – I have had a wonderful VO agent for many years, and they have only got me a few auditions. One of the factors that work against me is that I have a very rare accent (at least in Hollywood) – there are almost no VO roles for people with South African accents. Sure, I can try out for American VO roles, but it’s almost a guarantee that I will never be cast over someone with a natural American accent.
JAS: Having performed on stage, on film, and in audio-only productions, which format would you say challenges you most as an actress?
MO: Although stage, film, and audio each have their own challenges, I think that stage – live theater – has the most risk. In audio, if you flub a line, you just re-record. In film, if some disaster strikes, you just yell “cut” and do another take. But in theater you need to be 100% concentrated on what you’re doing at all times just to get out alive, lol! There are no do-overs in theater, and you have to make quick fixes instantly so that you can move forward and hope the audience didn’t notice what just went down. Several years ago, while literally performing a play in an Off-Broadway theater, the cast – myself included – were also trying to apprehend the sneak thief who had snuck into the theater and was busy stealing our backpacks… Fortunately, we all made our entrances on time, and our director didn’t even notice how frazzled we were.
JAS: Most of your career has involved projects in the horror genre, was that intentional? Are there any other genres you would like to break into?
MO: Yes, it was actually intentional. When I was just starting out in film, I realized how very intense my on-screen persona was, so I made a decision to submit for projects in those very specific genres where intensity is an advantage: horror, science fiction, fantasy and heavy drama. I also enjoy working in all of those genres, and I think they’re all very under-rated, so it has been a happy coincidence.
As for genres that I’d like to break into, I honestly don’t see myself working in romantic comedy or action or anything more mainstream. I would like to do more work in horror-comedy, though, and that might be my favourite genre to work in!
JAS: Of all the projects you’ve acted in, have there been any scenes which genuinely frightened you, either while in production or in reviewing the finished product?
MO: No, nothing about the storyline/topic etc. ever frightens me, although the choreography of a scene may sometimes make me think twice! Doing stunt work as I did in Percy Jackson is always a challenge, but, if stunts are choreographed correctly, all will be well.
I do have to say that watching Mark of the Witch (aka Another) is extremely unsettling, though. Jason Bognacki, our director, just did something to that film that makes it a very disturbing watch. There seems to be a kind of energy associated with it…energy that I cannot explain. Or maybe that’s just a by-product of amazing sound design – who knows!
JAS: Since you began acting what positive changes have you seen specifically for women in films? What roles for women would you love to see more of from Hollywood?
MO: I’m seeing a few more high-profile films, like the latest version of Little Women, being directed by women, which is obviously a step in the right direction. The playing field is far from level, though, and I think that all I would really like to see is both women and men being treated fairly, and in the same manner, by the industry.
JAS: If you were magically granted rights and an unlimited budget to remake any horror movie, which would you choose? And if you were to cast yourself in that film, which character would you most wish to play (feel free to gender-bend roles)?
MO: I would love to do a remake of Phantasm, and, of course, I would like to play “The Tall Man.” The only problem is “The Short Woman” doesn’t sound nearly as intimidating, lol!
JAS: What upcoming projects are you most excited about?
MO: The one that I’m contracted to not mention 🙂
JAS: I’d sincerely like to thank Maria Olsen for taking the time to speak with me. I hope you enjoyed this interview, and if you would like to know more about this talented actress and her works, feel free to connect with her on the following social medial platforms:
FB Fan Page: MariaOlsenFanPage
IMDB: Maria Olsen
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan