Featuring segments directed by Mick Garris, Joe Dante, David Slade, Ryûhei Kitamura, and Alejandro Brugués, Nightmare Cinema is now in theaters and on VOD platforms via Good Deed Entertainment, and to celebrate the horror anthology's release, we caught up with Sarah Elizabeth Withers, the star of Brugués' segment, "The Thing in the Woods," to discuss facing off against The Welder killer, taking a unique approach to the slasher sub-genre, and working with Brugués to created a compelling and kick-ass character.
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, Sarah, and congratulations on Nightmare Cinema! What attracted you to playing the role of Samantha in Alejandro Brugués’ segment, “The Thing in the Woods”?
Sarah Elizabeth Withers: What initially attracted me to the role was the creativity and zeal of the project. Its ’80s nostalgia and campiness were an absolute sell. The short is probably one of the most fun films I’ve ever worked on. So much of that had to do with Alejandro’s vision and the beautiful energy he brought to set.
Brugués really subverts expectations of the slasher sub-genre with “The Thing in the Woods.” What was your reaction when you read the script’s ending for the first time?
Sarah Elizabeth Withers: My first reaction was, “WHATTT?” That response will make more sense once people see the movie, haha. I was insanely excited to see how we would handle some of the more gory bits, and I don’t think we will disappoint!
Where did filming take place, and how many days did you have to shoot this segment?
Sarah Elizabeth Withers: We shot at Canyon Ranch in Sherman Oaks. There’s a fantastic cabin up there that the set decorators absolutely killed, in the best way of course. It looked amazing. We shot there for five days, and then I had two other days of shooting in Pasadena at The Rialto movie theater. It could not be more perfect for a horror film about evil cinema.
What was it like collaborating with Brugués to tell this story? Did you get to add your own personal input or build your own backstory for Samantha?
Sarah Elizabeth Withers: Alejandro is the best. This was my first feature, so the adrenaline was pumping. Luckily, that was perfect for the circumstances of the character! But he made me feel so at ease and welcome. As far as us collaborating on the character, I really wanted to take the direction he gave me and run with it. So when it came to doing a blood-curdling scream, I wanted to make sure it truly came from the depths of hell, haha. He also incorporated this kick-ass line for right before I fight The Welder, “COME AND GET ME, BITCH.” Of course, I was elated to say something like that.
Your character is really put through the wringer in “The Thing in the Woods.” What was it like filming the fight scenes with The Welder?
Sarah Elizabeth Withers: Some of the first scenes I shot were actually with The Welder. I was running from him, and then I trip and fall onto the charred body of one of my friends. I end up sliding around in my friend’s guts, which was a pretty unpleasant experience, haha. The body was covered in glycerin, blood, and intestines! The Welder and I have a great fight scene, too. I had a stunt double, but I shot the fight sequence as well with the general choreography so that there would be shots with my face. It’s a pretty badass scene. I’m super excited to see it.
In addition to Brugués, Nightmare Cinema features legendary horror directors Mick Garris and Joe Dante. Did you have any interaction with them while this anthology was coming together?
Sarah Elizabeth Withers: Mick was on set everyday that I was shooting for “The Thing In the Woods,” and I believe he was on set for every other short as well. He’s such a sweet man, very gentle and kind—and then he has all these gruesome ideas for horror films! It’s this hilarious contradiction that I noticed in a lot of people who’d been working in horror for a while. Everyone said they got any darkness out in their work, and were incredibly light-hearted people as a result. Truly, the directors, producers, crew, and other actors could not have been more pleasant to work with.
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or memorable moment that stands out?
Sarah Elizabeth Withers: One of my favorite moments was filming this scene where I suit up with chains to go fight The Welder. I remember looking at stills after we’d finished, and thinking, “Holy shit—I look so demonic!” It was awesome and frightening seeing how scary I could look, because never in my life had I actually tried to be that dang spooky.
Ultimately, what do you hope viewers take away from “The Thing in the Woods”?
Sarah Elizabeth Withers: I hope viewers have a great time watching it and feel refreshed by the ingenuity of it all. It’s such a fun, gory, entertaining film, and I think it will stick with you for a while.
With Nightmare Cinema now in theaters and On Demand, do you have any other projects coming up that you’re excited about? Also, where can our readers go online to follow your work?
Sarah Elizabeth Withers: You can see me recur on a ’90s coming of age show called Play By Play, in which I play an emo, “dead on the inside” Blockbuster manager! I loved playing the character, since I am a fairly optimistic person, and most movie rental stores are obsolete, so it was a cool time capsule. That will hopefully find a home on a streaming platform this year. You can find updates and a plethora of inspirational quotes on my instagram @sarahewithers!