By Andrea Warner
She’s played the ingenue (Electric Dreams), the sexpot (Third Degree Burn) and the scream queen (Candyman). But it wasn’t until her Oscar-nominated turn in 2004’s Sideways, as wine-loving waitress Maya, that Virginia Madsen finally proved herself a major player in Hollywood.
Now, the honey-blonde starlet is indulging her love of horror and the paranormal with The Haunting in Connecticut (opening March 27), based on the alleged true story of a family terrorized by ghosts.
What attracted you to this movie? Do you like horror films?
Madsen: I do. I’m a huge fan. And I’ve been looking for a good horror script for years! Literally for years. Sometimes they’ll have a good idea or an okay story, but not a good ending, and a lot of times the horror films being made right now aren’t character-driven; they’re just the gore-fest thing, and that’s okay — they’re lucrative, fun, campy. But [with Haunting], I knew by page three that I really cared about this mother and child, and I was intrigued by that, and I found that the story was about the whole family, and I really loved that.
Candyman scared the pants off of me when I was younger.
(Laughs) What I liked about Candyman, and what I like about this movie, is that they play on our most basic childhood fears: what’s behind that mirror; what’s down that hall; what’s under the bed; is someone watching me while I’m in the shower. It’s all the stuff that naturally frightens us around the house. Even as grown-ups, there’s that half a second between where you hear a noise outside the window and you know that it’s just the wind — there’s a half second there where I think, “Monster.” (laughs) You know, it makes no sense at all, but you still do it because you have that basic instinct of fight or flight. You know that’s probably your cat under the bed, but you look and (in a scary voice), “THERE’S THE CAT UNDER THE BED! OH MY GOD!”
So you like being scared?
I love being scared in movies, and I’m a great fan of the genre, but I’m also a great fan of the whole hunt for the proof of the paranormal. There’s just such cool stuff on YouTube — like, really, really great-bad ghost footage. But there are some things on there that you can’t explain. And, I mean, just as when we look into space, we know that it’s naïve at best, arrogant at worst, that we think we’re the only living things in the universe, because of all that we know that we can’t see, much is the same as our life on Earth. There’s so much about our perceived existence that we don’t even know about. So, how are we to just discount all of these experiences as “fake” or “just their imagination.” I’m fascinated by all the different experiences people have had. It’s a scientific fact that there’s cell memory, but what if there’s DNA memory?
Like past-life flashbacks?
Our basic DNA connected to our great, great, great grandmother, and when we see a “ghost,” what if something just goes ‘flash’ in our brain from that ancient DNA memory, and what if we’re actually seeing what our great-grandmother saw when we see a ghost? It’s fascinating stuff, and there’s some investigation about that. Because you can’t just say that millions and millions of people that have experienced something paranormal are just lying or just imagining. But then, how much can we manifest with the power of our own fear?