Actress Jennifer Titus has never been to a horror film festival. Hell, she’s never been to Columbus, but she’s all set to accompany her new film and enjoy Nightmares Film Festival this weekend.
Titus stars as Ashley, a serial killer’s neighbor with the skills to take care of herself in Tom Holland’s newest Rock, Paper, Dead. The film, which has garnered several festival nominations, will make its world premiere at Nightmares.
A longtime horror fan, Titus was thrilled to be offered a role in the film penned by Friday the 13th creator Victor Miller.
“My very first horror film was Friday the 13th,” she says. “Honestly, I was so honored to be reading this. And it was a page-turner. When I met Victor Miller, he was such a real, down to earth guy and such a calm, beautiful soul. And I thought, I would be honored to do this.”
Acting was not exactly her first career choice.
“When I was about 6 or 7, my grandfather asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up,” she remembers. “I said I wanted to be a professional figure skater, a doctor and a movie star. He told me, ‘Well I have no doubt you will do all three.’”
He was right.
A figure skater throughout her childhood, Titus turned professional at 18, touring the country and the world with ice shows. Eventually, she returned to school, earning a degree from UC San Diego in science and theater, then moving on to medical school.
“Toward my last year I really missed acting,” she says. “I just wasn’t getting that creative fulfillment in medical school, so when I graduated I got right back into acting.”
But her medical degree came in handy.
“I got into a situation where I was acting and they needed a doctor for an emergency,” she says. “We were actually in the jungle and there was a guy who had a bamboo stake driven into his leg underneath his muscle. I jumped right in and did field medicine surgery on the guy and I ended up saving his leg – bamboo is very toxic. When I visited him about three days later, about 30 people there to meet me and thank me. It was so rewarding I just thought to myself, I need to go back, get licensed.”
Titus returned to medicine, completed her residency, passed the board exam, got licensed and returned to acting.
“I always knew I wanted to do these things,” she laughs. “It’s not like I was confused and I was career jumping. I was just knocking them off the list.”
Titus sees a connection among the professions.
“When I was little, I was always interested in blood and guts,” she says. “Honestly, that’s one of the things I always loved about medicine. It never was scary to me or gross to me, it always fascinated me.”
Titus says her character in Rock, Paper, Dead—a black belt in karate—was the ideal role for her.
“My best friend and I, every Saturday night, would go down to the video store and rent one to two horror films. We’d get under the covers, cover our faces with pillows and squeal. That went on for years.”
“I specifically remember Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” she says. “The main character was a girl that took on all the powers of her friends who were killed off by Freddy Krueger. She became just a ninja master by the end. And I thought, oh my gosh, that is just the coolest character I have ever seen in all these horror films. I thought, what a great example, finally, of a strong female who can take this guy on. And when I got this script for Rock, Paper, Dead, I thought, oh my gosh, it’s the dream master. I have to do it. It’s so cool.”
Nighmares Film Festival runs from Thursday, October 19 through Sunday, October 22.
Rock, Paper, Dead, which makes its world premiere this Saturday, October 21 at 8pm, is nominated in the categories of Best Thriller Feature and Best Screenplay Feature.
For tickets and showtimes visit gatewayfilmcenter.org