Receiving her formal training from actor Clu Gulager (Return of the Living Dead, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2), Los Angeles native Hannah Race was more than prepared to tackle whatever horror movies could throw her way. In her debut Echoes of Fear—read our review here—she does so with charismatic aplomb.
Directed by couple Brian Avenet-Bradley and Laurence (Lo) Avenet Bradley, Echoes of fear is a haunted house horror film about a young woman (Trista Robinson) who must confront the mystery of her grandfather’s sudden death and the evil that hides inside.
Race plays the new age-y Steph, the best friend you want if you ever find yourself stuck in a house with angry specters. Namely, the friend who whips out the candles and incense, ready to exorcise some entities.
With a desire for performing kindled at an early age, Hannah excelled in ballet, figure skating and theatre, with acting being her first passion.
Ready to step onto a larger stage and starring in an already award-winning horror film, Hannah Race sat down with me to talk about the parts of her own personality she brought to Echoes. She also shared some spooky ghost stories, the invaluable lessons Clu Gulager taught her, the killer scream she’s dying to break out for her next horror role and much more.
Mike Napier: It must feel great to see all the attention the film’s getting, racking up all those awards on the festival circuit.
Hannah Race: Oh yeah, it’s amazing. I feel so proud to be part of a project that’s doing so well.
MN: Have you felt embraced by the horror community? They tend to really latch onto something new when it comes around.
HR: Yes, definitely. It makes me feel great. I hope it gathers a little cult following, that’d be awesome.
MN: I hope so. It’s definitely deserving.
HR: Oh, thank you.
MN: Were you fairly familiar with the horror genre previous to this or was Echoes of Fear your first foray?
HR: It was my first horror film. But my formal studying was with Clu Gulager in his film acting workshops, and it’s an on-camera workshop and we do a ton of work in horror. So, I did have a lot of experience in that area. But this is my first film in horror.
MN: What are some of the best lessons you think you’ve taken away from Clu?
HR: Oh, man, I think the way that he differs from other acting workshops and courses is that he really gives his actors a great perspective on all of the aspects involved in filmmaking. It’s really useful to be able to know what the editors are going to do afterward and what their perspective is and what the directors’ perspective is.
It just helps you become really well rounded, and it’s really so valuable. And Clu himself is just a great person. He’s so sweet, so kind, and so good at directing.
MN: Going back to Echoes, what’s your reaction the first time you read the script? What was your reaction to the material?
I was really excited. I really loved the character of Steph, who I played in the film, because she reminded me a lot of myself. She’s a supportive and loyal person. She’s also into the supernatural and she’s really open-minded and willing to seek out things that are beyond what we see in our immediate environment. So really, we’re kind of kindred spirits in that way. I loved the film, just in general, the whole story.
MN: That was something I really liked about your character. Steph really pushes to get to the bottom of the mystery the moment it’s presented to her. There’s that witchy quality about her. It must have been very exciting to get to play a role so active in the plot.
HR: Oh yeah, it was. I’m a little bit like that in my everyday life, so I tried to kind of enhance that before filming; I lit my candles, I brought my crystals out, and I tried to really get in that Steph zone (laughter).
MN: You’ve been interested in the supernatural personally?
HR: Yes, I have had a few spooky experiences of my own.
MN: Do you care to share or are they more personal?
HR: No, I’d be willing to share. I had a very scary experience when I was a teenager, probably 14 or 15 years old, and I was sleeping at my parent’s house—obviously, I lived with them. I woke up in the middle of the night with that feeling that you get when somebody’s staring at you from across the room. You know, you can just kind of feel it.
I woke up with that feeling, which is very scary in the middle of the night. I look up and I see somebody standing in the doorway, and I thought it must have been my dad, although he looked really tall. And I said, “Daddy,” and there was no response, and then it dawned on me, he was wearing a hat and a long trench coat and boots. He was only a silhouette; I couldn’t see very much.
There some moonlight coming from behind him through my bathroom, so I could tell that it was a dense figure. But I just said, “Daddy,” and there was no response. I realized that his uniform almost looked like it was a fireman’s maybe, so I thought something bad was happening and he was there to help me. Still, no response.
And then I started getting this feeling of dread as if something really bad was going to happen. He started to step toward me, and I sat up in bed really fast and he slowly dissipated. I could just see more and more of that moonlight behind him until he was gone. It dawned on me later, my parents had these old beds from a ghost town in that room, and it dawned on me that I think he was wearing gold miner gear.
HR: Yeah, it was very intense. I’ve never since then experienced anything quite that real feeling.
MN: That’s very visceral. I’ve had moments throughout my life, but they thankfully have never been anything remotely close to that.
HR: Yeah, I definitely got a bad, bad feeling from him.
MN: That was the only time you saw that particular apparition?
HR: Yes. But my cousin did come to stay with us a few months later, and it was the weirdest thing. She came down in the morning and said, “Oh, the weirdest thing happened last night, I thought Uncle Rick”—my dad—”I thought he was standing in the doorway for a second. I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought he was standing there, and it scared me.”
We told her what had happened to me and we were all pretty wigged out. Then two more times we had people spending the night—that was our guest room. I’m not sure why I was sleeping in there that night—but we had another family member and one of my friends spend the night there and both of them, on separate occasions, said that they woke up feeling like they had ants all over them. And when they went to go turn on the light, there wasn’t any in sight.
MN: That’s just weird (laughter).
HR: Yeah. The beds were from Cerro Gordo. It’s a ghost town in the desert here in California.
MN: Oh, wow, I’ve heard of that. That’s incredible.
HR: Yeah, they had been painted bright blue. They were actually from the brothel there. And my grandfather deals in antiques, so he went up there and asked if he could purchase them. The lady let him take them home and he refinished them. They looked all nice, but there was an “H” carved into one of them that kind of always haunted us a little bit after all the experiences.
MN: I’ve been curious, what was it like working with dual directors? Echoes of Fear was filmed in their actual house correct?
HR: Yes, it was, that is their residence and almost the entire movie is filmed there. Even the crawl spaces, everything.
MN: I kind of love that house, honestly.
HR: It’s really cool. It’s this three-leveled tiered house because it’s on a very steep hill, and it just feels like it’s looming over you. It definitely has a creepy feel. It reminds me a little bit of—there’s a window in their house that reminds me of the Amityville Horror window.
And then the crawl spaces are unreal. Under their home, I think they have four or five different crawl spaces. And it looks like a set. It’s amazing when you watch the film that we were able to get in there, and that Lo (director Lawrence Avenent-Bradley) was able to do such a great job with the camera work in those tight, dusty conditions.
MN: I was very impressed with that when I was watching the film. There was a sense of realism, to both the house and the crawl space in the way that it was filmed that actually put me more on edge than what an actual set would bring. A set would be almost too claustrophobic, but this felt more oppressive.
HR: Yes! I’m glad you felt that.
MN: The film actually was very effective for me in the scares department. And I like to think I don’t scare easily (laughter).
HR: Yeah, I mean, some creepy things have happened there. I went back and we filmed a special feature for the Blu-ray and there were some creepy noises going on when we were sharing our personal ghost stories.
MN: So, it’s one of those cursed sets you often hear about with haunted house movies.
HR: Yes, Brian and Lo say that they were experiencing some creepy things there before we started filming, and as soon as we started filming, it all went away. They didn’t experience anything. They were getting great nights of sleep. And then as soon as we ended, it picked back up.
MN: Maybe the ghost was just entertained by the production and was mad it was over. It could be a film fan, you don’t know.
HR: Yeah, totally (laughter).
MN: Obviously it must have been a very interesting experience, with the whole DIY aspect of it being the director’s house, working with such a creative team and this being one of your first roles. What was something you took away from the process?
HR: That’s a great question. I think what I am most impressed with is how amazing this film turned out, considering how few people were on set and how much of a micro-budget this film was. It’s just amazing when you put people together who all have a passion for the same thing that you can create something that’s up there with the bigger guys.
MN: Definitely. What I think is great about Echoes of Fear is it continues a trend of great indie horror movies that’s coming out right now. Of course, indie horror is always pretty good and is often overlooked, but with projects like Echoes you see that you don’t need a lot of resources, you just need ingenuity and a lot of love for what you’re putting out and you can create something really unique and special.
HR: Yes, I completely agree.
MN: Do you have anything lined up next that you’re working on?
HR: I am filming right now. I continue tomorrow, I had a couple days off here. But I’m in the middle of filming a short film. It’s a comedy and it’s also kind of another girl power film, because Echoes has that girl power feeling to it. But it’s a comedy and I’m really enjoying working in that genre, as well.
MN: That’s great. When will we be able to see it?
HR: I know that the producers want in festivals, for sure, but I’m not really sure when that’ll happen. My guess would be next year.
MN: Awesome. And now that you’ve done comedy and horror, what other types of roles do you have a desire to tackle in the future?
HR: I always love working in drama. I just feel like that’s kind of my comfort spot in acting. I feel like I can go there very easily. So, I love working within that genre, but I also have a terrific scream that I didn’t get to use for Echoes! (laughter) I made other noises in Echoes of Fear, but I didn’t get to just let out one of those blood-curdling screams! So, I’d love a role like that.
MN: What a waste. Good screams are hard to come by.
HR: Yeah, right? I had one just bottled up and I didn’t get to use it.
MN: One thing I do want to know about one of your Echoes co-stars, and I think it’s a very important question—was the mouse well behaved?
HR: Oh my gosh, the mouse was perfect. The mouse was very sweet. We all love Tweak. Lo actually trained that mouse to go down the stairs on this little ledge that she had created. I don’t know, the mouse was the best one, the mouse was the one-take wonder.
MN: So where can people find you and follow your career?
HR: Well definitely on IMDb, you can get more information there and see any future reels that I put up. I have one up right now. On Instagram, I’m on there as Hannah Race Official. And on Facebook, you can search for Hannah Race Official, as well.
MN: Thank you so much, it was absolutely lovely talking to you.
HR: Oh, it was great. Thank you so much for having me, Mike.