One film everyone needs to keep their eye on at a festival near you right now is Barcelona-born helmer, Carles Torrens’ PET.
The film follows Dominic Monaghan as Seth, a solitary outcast who bumps into an old school friend (Ksenia Solo) and forms a rather unhealthy obsession with her before she finds herself caged up and held captive underneath the animal shelter where Seth works.
Whilst the narrative does feel overly familiar at first, DO NOT be put off, or fooled, as Torrens slips in some seriously unexpected curveballs. I wasn’t particularly familiar with Solo until PET, but after this – the best performance I’ve seen thus far in a genre film this year – this breakout role (if you’ll pardon the pun) has her destined for big things some time soon.
Ahead of impending screenings at London’s FrightFest and Sitges, Terror Time caught up with both Monaghan and Solo to uncage a few details as to what kind of serpentine suspense ride festivalgoers can expect…
Terror Time: It’s great to see you going out and about to festivals with the film. What are your biggest hopes and fears whenever you watch a film with an audience?
Dominic Monaghan: I get excited to watch it with an audience. This is kind of the celebration time. You do the work and all that kind of stuff and you want people to watch it now. You want an audience to ooh and ahh and get scared by it so, hopefully, the festivals are the exciting times. PET’s a really fun rollercoaster ride.
TT: Can you tell us how the script reached your hands and how you got your respective parts? Dominic, I think you were involved even before Carles Torrens?
DM: Yeah. I was attached to it when I was inbetween the first and second season of “Lost.” I read the script and really liked it and at that point it was at MGM. I think it was going to be me and Melissa George originally and then it was going to be me and a friend of mine, Shannyn Sossamon. But it ended up just not fully working out and I just said to my agent, “Just keep an eye on it because it’s such a brilliant script.” I’d also met the writer, Jeremy Slater, in LA and we went for lunch and he said that he’d actually written the part for me. I just stayed really close to the project and then I was doing a computer game last year and my agent called me up and said that PET had come back around again. I was like, “Well it’s been like about ten years and that guy is supposed to be in his early twenties.” I knew I could play someone in his early thirties so I asked to meet the director and I gave him my kind of pitch and we moved on from there.
Ksenia Solo: I did an old fashioned audition and, to be honest, I’d not done a lot of thrillers or horror films for a reason: Some of the scripts that I’d read previous to PET, none of them really pulled at my heart strings as much as this film. I think Jeremy Slater wrote an excellent script and when I read it I instantly thought, “Oh my God. I have to play this role.” I just thought it was a VERY unique pyschological thriller and so I put myself on tape and at that time I didn’t really now quite exactly how Carles Torrens had envisioned the role. So I put my own spin on it and then the two of us had a Skype meeting and the rest is history.
TT: Ksenia, given the fact that you’d never really tackled this kind of territory before, how did you go about getting into the mindset of such a complicated character set in such a dark and twisted premise?
KS: It was definitely one of the most challenging undertakings of my career. You are absolutely right that this is a very complex role and I think that’s what is so exciting about it. I think there are so many layers to both Seth and Holly and it was a really tough process but also an interesting one so I was very happy to dive in and discover who Holly was.
DM: I loved the complexities of Seth too. Most human beings have a complexity to their personalities and no one’s really two-dimensional so it was a challenge I was happy to explore. Any time I do a film, I try to have as much fun as I can with a character. Acting to me is all about a play so even if you’re playing a despicable character, and Seth is pretty despicable, to me it’s all about playing as much as I can.
TT: I can’t even begin to imagine how many hours you must have spent cooped up in the cage, Ksenia. Was that a hinderance or a help to you when it came to your performance?
KS: It was physically demanding and I went through quite a bit of pain because I got injured quite a bit from being in there for seven days of shooting. I got two fingers accidentally slammed in the door and dislocated my pinky toe and ended up covered in cuts and bruises. I think that despite as much misery I was in, it definitely helped because that’s exactly what Holly was going through. It was actually as miserable as it actually looks.
DM: I think the cage definitely helped. I also had a little more time than Ksenia as I’d known the project for a while, but it’s very easy to connect to Ksenia. She has a lot of charisma, she’s obviously very beautiful, and I think she’s the most talented ator I’ve worked with up to now. She’s just very smart and just goes for it and makes great choices. It’s very easy to feel a little bit like Seth and kind of be infatuated with her and to adore her. She’s an adorable girl. She’s only like five foot and gorgeous so it was easy for me to feel affection for her. We got on well, shared a lot of music, we had lunch and hung out together so we had fun.
TT: Although there are those cage bars between you both, the barriers are quickly broken down as the two protagonists find out more about each other. This chemistry between the two of you is essentially what carries the brunt of the film and makes it work as well as it does. Did you rehearse a lot beforehand or did you think it was more important to try and come in cold to try and recreate the idea that these two people hardly know each other and are finding out each others’ deep and dark secrets?
KS: Chemistry is a very interesting thing and I think that because either you have it or you don’t, as much as Dominic and I would have loved to have had the time to get to know each other and then work on the material before starting the shoot as much as possible, unfortunately we didn’t have the time. We basically had one meeting with Carles where he went through the script and we talked about our characters and then very quickly after that, we found ourselves on set filming the movie. So whatever chemistry you see is just our luck and I think also a really great intuition that Carles has and I salute him for his casting choices. Not just because he cast me, but I think all the actors in the film have very unique talents and I think we all had really great chemistry.
TT: In an interview, Carles mentioned how he thought PET was devoid of any moral stance. Do you agree with that or did you find yourself questioning your own morals when shooting the film?
KS: That’s a very good question. The script definitely makes you think and question a lot of things. I don’t think I questioned my own morals but I definitely did question the morals of people and our society and what can happen to someone when they are isolated and alone and living in their own world and how that affects them and the people around them.
DM: I think Carles makes a good point there because I think what he’s trying to say there is that we’re not making a statement about how you should behave or how the characters should behave. It’s just a story of their lives. I don’t think Seth is a balanced human being so the decisions he makes are by a guy who’s lived a strange life and isn’t a normal person.
TT: Thank you both so much and I wish you all the luck with the film and the future.
DM: Cheers, mate. Good to talk to you, Howard.
KS: Thank you so much, Howard. All the best.
PET screens at The Horror Show FrightFest this Friday, August 26th and will also screen at this year’s Sitges International Film Festival in October. You’d be barking mad to miss this one…
Dominic Monaghan and Ksenia Solo Talk ‘PET’