Horror Movie Vet Jane Levy On Her Experience With The Rape-In-Horror Film Trope
While Jane Levy is no stranger to horror film rape scenes, her feelings about them are mixed. In the handful of films Levy has been involved with, she says she's had to act out rape scenes in about three or four of them. While she understands the trope and its use in horror storytelling, she's also so over it. Not just because of its intense nature, but because of how such sensitive material can be handled behind the scenes. There's a twist on the rape scene in the psychological thriller Don't Breathe , however, it's one that Levy can actually appreciate. And because of her experience with these difficult scenes in the past, she doesn't take them lightly.
"Sex and violence [are] a part of life and definitely a part of storytelling. But I also have noticed that it is this cheesy trope, especially in horror films," says the 26-year-old, speaking to me in support of Don't Breathe's Nov. 29 Blu-ray and DVD release. The amount of women who are raped in horror films is overwhelming compared to men who are raped. There are only a handful of popular films that depict male rape, such as American History X (1998) and The Hateful Eight (2015). Some films that portray women getting raped include: Levy's scene in Evil Dead (2013), Camp Dread (2014), I Spit on Your Grave 1, 2 (2010, 2013), The Last House On The Left (2009), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Horns (2013), The Crow (1994), and The Entity (1982) — just to name a few. It's no wonder Levy finds the trope tired.
She feels especially strong about depicting rape scenes because of an experience working on a film in the past, when she didn't see eye-to-eye with her director:
I’ve actually been in a movie before and I won’t say which one, where the character gets raped and [on the rundown of scenes that are being shot for the day], it was like ‘so-and-so kisses so and so’ instead of ‘so-and-so is raped.’ I remember the director... didn’t see that scene as rape.
Levy says this initially had her feeling worried about the rape scene in Don't Breathe, particularly because of the blind man's line, "I’m not a rapist." He says this when he attempts to force a turkey baster filled with his semen inside of her. "It’s really dark and a really, really f*cked up, traumatic thing," says Levy. "He most definitely is a rapist. Just because he’s using a turkey baster rather than his own body doesn’t make it any less bad... I’m glad it’s a scene that’s hard to watch because it’s a f*cked up event."
And although it "was not a fun scene to shoot" — clearly — Levy's comments aren't all negative. "I appreciate the way it was shot and the way it was put together. You never even see us touch one another, it’s psychological," she says. Plus, there's an empowering twist in the scene when her character fights her oppressor, ultimately defeating him by shoving the turkey baster down his throat. "It’s like this crazy release for the audience," she says. "Maybe there’s a little bit of humor in it, too. That’s what horror films are for."
I tell Levy that as a viewer I can't even imagine what it's like to shoot such a devastating scene. From her voice alone, l see how incredibly challenging and heartbreaking it is for her as well. Yet ultimately, this time around, it was worth it.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly implied that Levy saw a rape scene as "necessary" in one of her films.
Images: Sony Pictures (2)