Back in 2011, I caught You’re Next at the Toronto International Film Festival. I really dug the film, and I’m glad that it will finally hit theaters later this year. The plot centers on a family reunion that turns deadly when the family becomes targeted by masked murderers. Their only hope is Erin (Sharni Vinson), a girlfriend of one of the family members. The film also stars AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Barbara Crampton, Wendy Glenn, Margaret Laney, Rob Moran, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, and Ti West.
The movie recently played to an enthusiastic crowd at SXSW 2013, and I got the chance to sit down with Vinson and talk about the flick. We discussed how festival audiences have responded to the film, turning the “survival girl” into “survivalist girl”, her eagerness to do her own stunts, and more. Hit the jump to check out the interview. You’re Next opens August 23rd.
SHARNI VINSON: Oh, I feel alive today. I don’t know if it’s the espresso, no I think it’s the adrenaline. Whenever you come out of a good screening like last night the adrenaline continues on the next day.
I saw this back at Toronto in 2011. How is it to keep coming back to this film over a such a long stretch and see audiences keep responding to it?
VINSON: I feel like the responses are just getting better. I feel like the response last night was potentially the best we had and that says a lot because the response that we had in Austin for Fantastic Fest and in Toronto for TIFF was amazing in 2011, and the fact that it has been an 18 month gap between then and now and there’s still another 5 months before it officially releases, it’s just incredible. It’s a huge process of building and waiting, which has been such an unusual experience because it’s almost frustrating because you just want the world to see this product that I believe is fantastic. So far the audience response has led me to believe nothing else. I just want everyone to see it and it’s just been hard sort of waiting and siting on it and thinking, “Oh god, we have to wait another five months now,” but I think were on the homestretch now that we’ve screened at SXSW and I think the next few months you’re really going to start seeing a lot more of this movie and then we’ll smash it in August. [Laughs]
VINSON: Yeah and that was the turn on for the role. I read the script and the first time I read the script I like to just read it from a general audience perspective. Then I’ll read it again and I’ll really read it as the character that I would be playing, and I’ll try and visualize myself as the girl as I’m reading it, because then I can really get a feel and a sense of what qualities I, as Sharni, can bring to the girl, and if I’m the best choice. As I was reading it, picturing myself as Erin, I got it, it all made sense. I just wanted to be the girl that had the chance to bring her to life and give her these qualities that are in the script, but you’ve got to transfer what’s on the page to reality. I wanted the chance to bring the qualities in Sharni to Erin and to bring some qualities of Erin to Sharni, and also to be that role model for women. In a horror movie you say “home invasion” and you think girl running up the stairs going to die, this is just so different. Girl goes up the stairs sets traps, runs out the window and comes back in the house to set more traps. She’s smarter than that. I just wanted to be the survivalist that she is. I’m an action girl through and through and this was just that action role that really hit hard. I thought it was a very strong lead female heroine for any movie, let alone a horror movie. Once I went in and fell in love with Adam and Simon from A Horrible Way to Die, and A.J. and Joe, I wanted to work with these people as well. It was a family, it was just a family. I love Erin. I would be Erin for the rest of my life if I could. I just really dig what she’s about and the messages that she has, and to hear the people in the audience also respond for her, chant for her, and really get behind her, that’s justifying for me because that’s telling me that I did my job well and there’s nothing more rewarding that that.
One of the things I love most about this film is how it goes from survivor girl to survivalist girl, that’s the take on it. You mentioned the strong role for women so I wanted to get your thoughts on how this film fits into the current level of the horror genre. Do you think it’s a game changer or do you think it’s a conversation with what we’ve come to accept so far from the home invasion/slasher kind of film?
VINSON: I think it’s a game changer. I said that the first day on shooting the movie two years ago and I would never go against my word because I really believe that in that moment when I was standing on set, day one, watching Adam shoot a very simple scene of Barbara Crampton washing the dishes in the kitchen; nothing to it. He just dollied out very, very slowly and he held the camera for about 30 seconds. I was thinking, “Why hasn’t this man yelled cut? He’s never going to use this all this footage. What a waste of time.” Then I was thinking, “Actually I’m freaking out because he’s still holding on this shot and now I’m expecting something to happen.” My heart beat was getting faster and faster the longer he held on it. I was just looking at it thinking, “Oh my god, that’s genius.” I turned to I think Jess Wu our producer and I looked at her and I said, “He’s amazing, that shot is absolutely brilliant.” I said to her, “I feel like Adam Wingard is going to be the person that’s going to change the face of the horror genre.” I said it in that moment on day one of this movie on the shoot and I won’t go back on it. I really do think he will and I think this movie might be the one to do it. I’m so proud of it. I’m so proud of it. I’m so proud of everybody’s efforts in it. Everybody did their job to perfection and that is the final product. Even the wardrobe ladies, the set designer, everybody had their work cut out for them and we all went in on an even level playing field as this indie movie that we just wanted one result, the best result. So everybody did their job well and we have this product is just magic. Then we pick a song that’s called “Looking for the Magic” to be the theme tune to the movie and I think it’s just so appropriate because I feel like we found the magic in this movie.
It’s really interesting what you said about how he held that shot, what was his approach when working with your scenes? They’re more action oriented, they have to be a little faster paced, so what was it like for you doing the action side of your role?
VINSON: Love it. That’s what I look for in a role. It was all the action stuff that went along with Erin’s mentality. I enjoy training. I grew up very much an athlete and very much a swimmer and a dancer and a horse rider and surf lifesaving club, you name it I’ve probably done it. I just find so much gratification in being physical. I get bored on a set if I’m just sitting there waiting around all day to get up and deliver a few lines. That’s not enough, I need more. The action parts of this and the training that I had to be Erin with knife twirling skills and picking up a fire poker and just walking around the house constantly twirling it. Just becoming really physically familiar with what she would be familiar with. I wanted to do all- I mean I did do all my own stunts except for the jump out the window and I begged them, I begged them that I could do that. “Let me do that.” “No, the window’s this big.” And really it was this big, to get through it you would have had to gone like this and then come out the other side. I said, “I can do that, and I know I can do that.” But they wouldn’t let me do it. [Laughs] So I was like “dammit!” and we had this fight that day for that, but I was like, “You know, I am jumping out the window in the next one. If there is a next one, I’ll be doing that.” I love the whole physical thing. It keeps me on my toes, it keeps me awake, it keeps me alive. If I’m going to be shooting a movie from 7pm to 7am six nights a week, I best be as physical as possible because then I’ll never get tired. Otherwise you sit down, it sounds really weird, but that’s the part that wears you out.
One the other things I like about is that even though you do a lot of the action the film throws a lot of obstacles at you, it’s interesting balancing the predator and prey side, because you still are being hunted in this house it’s just that you’re the only one who can fight back. From a performance standpoint what was it like balancing those two sides?
VINSON: Yeah, and you need those two sides to have the interesting parts to what she is, because I feel like the actions of fighting back that’s just second nature to what she has been taught as a child. These are the skills she has learned in case this situation ever did arise. She has been taught these things. So I feel like she’s potentially never had to actually utilize the skills before, this might be the first time she’s ever actually had to do it. She’s shocking herself as she goes. So I tried to keep the tension there in the realism of the fact that this is a female, this is a young girl, she’s not in her familiar surroundings, she’s in her boyfriend’s family reunion so it’s not even his house, it’s a house she’s probably never been to before. You would be very uncomfortable. You’re not even familiar with the house to know where all the things are. Where’s the circuit box? It’s in the basement. She doesn’t know, so she’s just going to go down and figure that out as she goes because it’s all new. So I was trying to definitely keep the truth of the element that this is scary, what’s happening, and it would be for anybody. That people are trying to kill you and come into a house, that is horrific, but at the same time she’s been taught on another level how to deal with that fear, and how to reel it in and survive. So I think that’s the balance I was trying to find. You are scared, but it doesn’t matter because this is more important. Now this is what has to be done, otherwise I’m never going to make it.