I caught up with actress Samantha Mathis of Pump Up the Volume (a masterpiece celebrating freedom of speech) and Mary Harron and Bret Easton Elliss's American Psycho (a masterpiece of satire and parody), to chat about the significance of those two films as they near major milestones, the craft of acting, film, influences, and her newest, a unique little horror flick directed and written by Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans) called Boarding School.

When troubled 12-year-old Jacob Felsen (Luke Prael) is sent away to boarding school, he enters every kid's worst nightmare: A creepy old mansion, deserted except for six other teenage misfits and two menacing and mysterious teachers (Will Patton playing the one who is most pivotal to the story). As events become increasingly horrific, Jacob must conquer his fears to find the strength to survive and re-unite with his mother Isabel (Mathis).

Boarding School has a pleasantly surprising amount of twists and sub-textual mysteries going on with in it to keep the most astute and demanding horror, thriller, and mystery fans engaged. It will keep you asking questions and (if you're like me) really enjoying the twist at the end.

Boarding School really is a effective piece of film in that mystery/thriller regard and makes for a fine weekend viewing at the movies. Catch it in theaters and On Demand and Digital HD now.

Enjoy the interview below.

Hello Samantha and welcome to the 405.

Hi Wess! How are you?

Fantastic. How are you?

Oh I'm good! So are you out of California? Is that why you're called "The 405", with the highway and all?

Oh I am actually not in California. The 405 itself is in London, but our contributors and writers are from all over the world, so... Yeah, I think "The 405" refers to a UK road, so you're not really far off in asking that.

Oh I see. Yeah I'm familiar with “The 405” as in the freeway in Los Angeles called "The 405"...

I was hoping we could start with a question I like to ask most everyone, favorite films and performances? Which have really stuck with you and influenced you as an actress?

Oh my God there's so many to mention! It's so hard...

Yeah, it's a big question.

That's such a tough, tough question to answer.

I would say that when I was a young woman – before acting professionally – I remember it was the summer between sixth and seventh grade, and a little station called "HBO" premiered.

They ran Dog Day Afternoon and Scarface in heavy rotation and I watched those two movies. I couldn't believe it was the same person...

Pacino is pretty incredible at what he does. Can't wait to see him in Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood next year.

Oh yeah. Al Pacino is just so able to transform himself into two very different characters. When I think about the first time I really stood up and took notice of a great actor.

Yeah.

I mean, I had grown up with others, but that was the first I stood up, took notice and went, 'wow! That's craft! That's magic! That's phenomenal!'

So, those have really stuck with me.

Great choices. That's the way Pacino was with The Godfather for me when I first watched that in its entirety.

Right. That came a few years before, but those were definitely the first for me.

Absolutely. What makes a great film?

[Laughs]

[Laughs]

I mean if we could definitively say... what does it take to make a great film? Or what makes a great film when the process is done there?

I like to keep that kind of open ended when asking, but I suppose the latter would be a bit more toward the spirit I'm asking the question in.

To make a great film, there's gotta be a certain amount of fairy dust involved. It is alchemy. When you look at a set, and you see how many people have to come together – for everything to align – to get the right take – and the writing works and the sound department got it, and there's not a hair on the lens...

Certainly. I think many lay people not somehow in the industry tend to forget about the army of people it really takes to make any movie. All the behind-the-scenes work that has to happen too.

...and that the editing comes together, and the music comes together. There's so many things that have to come together – to conspire if you will – to create magic in the movie, that I feel there is a certain amount of fairy dust involved.

Absolutely.

But, as a viewer, what I think makes a great movie is something that travels with you to another place.

I certainly know for myself that if I'm not noticing the film-making, than I'm watching a really good movie.

Samantha Mathis as Isabel in the horror/thriller “BOARDING SCHOOL” a Momentum Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

Couldn't agree more. Suspension of disbelief is vital.

Switching gears just a bit before getting into the Boarding School questions Samantha. You have quite the variety of performances under your belt. Do you find the roles are easier or harder by genre, say comedy versus horror like Boarding School? Or is that not really an issue? I just find myself getting very curious when I talk to actors like you who I think thrive well in them all.

Well, you know, I haven't really done much comedy, although I would say I think comedy is quite a bit harder because of timing. I think you would find that that is what most people would say.

That has been the consensusmore or less – with those I've talked to.

...That said, drama is challenging in its own way too. I don't know that different genres are necessarily more challenging than the others. But every job is challenging in a different way.

Theater is challenging in different ways than television or movies... so...

At the end of the day, they all require you to be honest.

Totally. That gets the best performances as well, in my opinion. That said, what initially attracted you to the Isabel role in Boarding School?

I think what intrigued me about playing Isabel, was that she was this sort of fragile woman who is coiled very tightly and has a lot of anxiety and is very sensitive and has this aspect of rage inside of her. She's not totally sure where that was coming from.

I was very intrigued by those aspects of her character.

What was it like getting into her head-space?

It's always interesting and challenging to get into someone else's head-space. It requires a certain level of disbelief to convince yourself you are becoming that person and that you would know how they would respond at any given moment.

I definitely had done research on children of Holocaust survivors and what dynamics those now grown adults had experienced in their homes with parents who were deeply scarred from what they've gone through and has effected them in certain ways.

So, it was interesting – especially with the research.

(L-R) Samantha Mathis as Isabel and Luke Prael as Jacob in the horror/thriller “BOARDING SCHOOL” a Momentum Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

That is interesting. I read a study recently by the Claims Conference that was highlighted in the New York Times, that said 41% of Americans do not know what Auschwitz was. Which is just horribly, horribly sad and pathetic.

Yeah.

Switching gears a bit to something not exactly lighter. But I would be remiss if I didn't ask, American Psycho has left quite the indelible mark on pop culture. Any reflections on it as it nears twenty years old?

Oh my God, has it nearly been twenty?

[Laughs]

I guess it has.

I'm just so proud to be a part of that movie. I think Mary Harron did an extraordinary job adapting it. I think that it strikes such a bizarre, perverse cord between terror and comedy.

That's a great way of putting it.

The use of music was extraordinary – and of course those references came from Bret [Easton Ellis] but I thought she made something really special...

She absolutely did.

...I feel like that was a huge turning point in Christian's [Bale] career. He did something quite extraordinary.

He certainly did. That film and 2004's The Machinist I think are the ones of his that have most blown me away.

If you don't mind my asking about one more Samantha, how about Pump Up the Volume nearing thirty?

Sorry, what do I think about it now that it's been nearly thirty years time?

Yeah.

That movie will always be near and dear to my heart. It really was my first movie and launched my career.

So, it's always going to hold a very special place in my heart.

As the quality of it alone would merit. I consider it a great film.

...it was such a special experience making it. People still ask me a lot about it and I think that for that time and that generation, it really left a mark on young people – feeling more understood, that it was OK to be different. It was a very different time for people in their teen years.

It's always going to be a very special movie. It really changed my life.

Samantha Mathis as Courtney Rawlinson in this still from 2000's AMERICAN PSYCHO.

Samantha Mathis as Nora Diniro in 1990's PUMP UP THE VOLUME.

It kind of did mine too. I always thought of that movie as a love letter to freedom in its own right, especially related to radio. It kinda kindled a fascination in me for the medium although my time at a station in college was short-lived. I often think about going back to it.

Our last question Samantha: what is next for you?

I did a movie last year with Jim Gaffigan and Anna Gunn called You Can Choose Your Family and we premiered at the Austin film festival SXSW in the spring. I don't think we have distribution yet but I imagine it'll be coming out in some capacity.

I did another independent movie, the same... at the same time I shot this movie, I did another movie called The Clovehitch Killer. That's going to be coming out some time in September. It's with Dylan McDermott and Charlie Plummer. It's a twisted, dark little movie about the coming of age of a young man who suspects his father may be an infamous serial killer.

Wow.

Yeah. Interesting little movie.

Enjoy the trailers for Boarding School, American Psycho, and Pump Up the Volume below.

BOARDING SCHOOL (2018).

AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000).

PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990).