Audiences know and love Ayla Kell for a number of roles, including Make It or Break It and Leverage. In Terror Eyes, she’s taking on a completely different character—and that character might not make it through the film. She plays Lisa, one of three friends who set out to attend a music festival only to discover that they’re being preyed upon by the sinister forces behind the titular website, where violent crimes are posted online.
With Terror Eyes now streaming on digital platforms everywhere, I spoke to Ayla about what attracted her to a movie that’s not what viewers might expect from her, the neat aspects that make this film a departure from the countless others in the horror genre, and the awesome part of the movie that you don’t see (literally). Learn more about the film in our interview and then check it out wherever you buy or rent your movies.
Brittany Frederick: What got you to sign on to Terror Eyes at the start?
Ayla Kell: [There were] a couple of reasons I thought this sounded like a good time. It was based around festival stuff, which I think is a really cool concept; we’re on our way to a festival and things go terribly awry. I loved the idea of it being found footage, in a time when everybody can record everything all the time, of course they would find a killer via footage from people’s phones, And I loved that I wasn’t playing in high school. That was a big hook for me at that point. I liked being able to play an adult.
I was really excited to work with Riker [Lynch] as well, because we’ve known each other for a long time and never gotten to work together, so that was really fun. I met [Terror Eyes writer and director] Delaney [Bishop] and was like “Yeah, I’m going to do this one.”
BF: How meaningful was it to you that Terror Eyes enabled you to show more things that people might not know you can do?
AK: It was really great for me to be able to show a different side of my skillset, completely. I think that there were a lot of things in the movie that I am not known for. I was singing several times in the film. I was running around in jean cutoff shorts for a lot of it, which I don’t do every day. But there’s also a lot of me playing an adult, which was really attractive for me, because I’ve been in high school for what feels like 20 years. So it was a different genre choice for me, and I had a lot of fun doing it.
BF: Characters in the horror genre don’t always have a lot of depth. What did you do with your character Lisa to develop her and make her feel like someone the audience could actually care about?
AK: I think that in every project that I do, I try and make my characters as dynamic as possible. Horror stereotypes end up being really flat; if you’re the dumb one, you’re the dumb one the whole time. So something I try and do in every project that I’m in is bring a lot of range to each character to make them a real person.
What drew me to Lisa in the beginning was she’s trying to do the right things. She’s trying to be the responsible one. Her trying to readjust from being a bad person to being a good person again made her a really interesting character in the horror realm. Because generally, if you’re the bad person, bad things happen to you right away. You want to see revenge on that person almost immediately.
But it was a draw for me [that] Lisa’s trying to change her ways, and we see her actually being a better person through the whole movie as worse things happen. Especially when we get in the jailhouse, you get to see a good interaction between Lisa and Bryan for the first time. Bryan has been obsessed with her, and she’s at her break point of, you’re basically having us hunted.
BF: Terror Eyes was not only written differently, but it was shot differently, too. What did that mean for you as a performer?
AK: The way we shot it was so cool. We shot it on phones and cameras that were actually props and then they ended up using a lot of that footage, or we would go back and trace it exactly the same as the motion had done, which I just thought was such a cool idea…I liked the idea of it looking really realistic. And I think that [producer] Felix [Brenner] and Delaney did an amazing job. They colored each of the cameras differently, so every single person’s phone, every single person’s camera, and then all of the web footage was all colored differently. They had a different look for each person, which is just nuts to me.
And we were out in the desert, so it’s not like we had a lot to work with. We did a guerilla crew in Joshua Tree, and we’re in Joshua Tree climbing rocks and doing stuff. We were legitimately out there. That was a crazy filming experience where if you didn’t love everybody you were with, it was going to be a terrible time. But luckily, we loved everybody we were with.
BF: What scenes stood out to you? Either because they were memorable in making them or you just liked the way they turned out?
AK: One of my big ones was probably the karaoke scene, because that was an exhausting day in and of itself, and we worked really hard at it. And then hilariously, we lost the rights to one of the songs that we had done, because it took us a few years to do it. (laughs) But Felix Brenner hit me up and said, “Hey, I know your boyfriend is a composer himself and a musician. Would you guys rewrite a song that fits what your mouth is doing?” So we ended up having to rewrite it in the middle of the pandemic and recorded it at our house. And so much work went into it for something that is maybe two seconds. It was very hard to do.
And then the other thing is, there’s a scene between me and Jen [Blanc-Biehn], who plays Riker’s mom. Her and I have a webcam scene that was really difficult to do, because neither of us were on set for the other person. We had a conversation about it and what we were going to do energy-wise to make sure it would match, but we were both talking alone to a camera, doing a monologue. Which is hard, it’s really hard. I can act to an X; I’ve done that a lot. But doing it to no audio was so hard, because it’s an emotional kind of scene, it’s a discovery kind of scene, and that’s hard to do unprompted. So that was a hard one for me.
BF: Is there anything else you think people should know about the film before they go into it?
AK: The relationship between Riker, Lisseth [Chavez] and me, I think it portrays really well of us being just friends going through stuff, because it really did feel like friends going through stuff. It was very parallel to filming, because we had to be in those experiences. We had to be in the car in the desert. We had to be at Joshua Tree. We had to be running and doing all of this stuff. And so I think it comes across beautifully in the movie that we are just three friends and have a good relationship, completely separate from everything else that happens, which makes me feel good as an actor.
The other thing that I want to touch on is Alex Miller, who played Bryan, did such an amazing job. We don’t really see him the entire movie. He does such a amazing job getting emotion across with almost nothing to do, and I think he should get like tons of brownie points for being so on top of it. He looked up sign language and learned bits and pieces of sign language—to the point where he was signing through the movie, like broken sign language—because he felt as though somebody who lost their voice later in life may not have a full vocabulary. He essentially did the vocabulary of like a five-year-old doing sign language. That’s so much research for somebody to do, and so much time spent, and then you don’t even really see him. So I just want to give him extra brownie points for doing such an incredible job.
I want to give Delaney extra brownie points for keeping track of all of the footage; I wouldn’t have been able to do it. And then who else? [Mustang] was one of our camera assistants; I love her a lot. But everybody did such a good job, and everybody worked really hard on a film where we could have been really up against it. We did a lot of guerrilla shooting. We did a lot of tough situations, and I just was so impressed with everybody every single day. Everybody did such a great job. So I love them all.
Terror Eyes is now available on your favorite movie streaming platform.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.