While at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, Dread Central had the opportunity to sit down and chat with You’re Next filmmaker Adam Wingard the day after the film’s hugely successful first screening in Austin.
Written by Simon Barrett, You’re Next (review) centers around a family reunion gone horribly awry after the family becomes targeted by masked murderers who crash the party. As it turns out, their only hope to make it out alive is Erin (Sharni Vinson), the Australian girlfriend to one of the family’s sons whose experience living as a survivalist in the Outback turns out to be very handy against the mysterious killers who will stop at nothing until everyone is dead.
You’re Next also stars AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton, Joe Swanberg, Wendy Glenn, Ti West and Amy Seimetz and will be arriving in theaters August 23rd courtesy of Lionsgate.
During our interview, we heard more from Wingard about how his early career influenced You’re Next, his thoughts on feminism in horror and how Vinson brought her own flavor of badass to the role of Erin, whether or not we can expect a sequel to You’re Next and much more.
Also be forewarned- the final question with Wingard has some minor spoilers in it concerning the future of this story and franchise so if you want to go into the film spoiler-free, just skip that last question as it may or may not seem spoilerish to some.
Dread Central: I’ve been a fan of your films for a while now and I’m not sure if me saying this will make much sense but I really felt like You’re Next was almost like “Early in His Career Adam” and “Adam that Makes Movies Now” got together to make this film. Like I said, I don’t know if that makes much sense but–
Adam Wingard: Kinda like Home Sick? Yeah, I could see that. And with Home Sick, I was working at the time with E.L. Katz who just did Cheap Thrills and we were both just coming fresh out of film school. I was only 19 at the time we were making that film so tonally we just didn’t really have a handle on how to make a movie or anything else; what we did know though is that we liked weird humor and intense violence. We both were really into Italian films and I think we were both a little disappointed because we made a movie that was SO crazy that it’s just completely inaccessible to any sort of normal person at all (laughs).
But I’ve always been drawn towards really violent movies and things with a sense of humor to them so I was actually thinking about that while I was working on You’re Next and that this was going to be the more ‘refined’ version of the kind of violence we first started off making. So yeah; I’m glad you mentioned that because no one has ever really said that before. But that’s also because no one has ever seen Home Sick before (laughs).
Dread Central: I think for me I saw a lot of Pop Skull in this since it’s something I just revisited before coming out to Austin.
Adam Wingard: Yeah, it’s interesting because with those early films, stylistically a lot of the choices we had to make were based on the budgets- even sometimes the subject matter was decided that way. Kind of like, “Okay, what kind of movie can we make for cheap?” so something like Pop Skull, I had a friend to star in the film and act like a version of himself in it because that’s what I had. You know what I mean- I had three thousand dollars to make that. We spent a lot of time on it but it didn’t cost us any money really.
And with something like You’re Next where it’s a different kind of scenario; suddenly now you’re saying, “Now that I have enough money to realize my ideas fully, how do I want to shoot this or approach the story?” A Horrible Way to Die was sort of the same thing where it was shot with the shaky cam- god, I hate that term but that’s what people call it- but anyway, it’s shot in a particular way because that was the only way to make that movie work. I needed all those jump cuts, I needed to find an experimental rhythm to get me in and out of scenes because we didn’t really have time to focus on everything for as long as we wanted to.
With You’re Next, the style was “Okay, this is the story that Simon has written- what’s the best way to achieve this?” and for me I wanted to do something that was a bit more accessible to mainstream audience because ultimately, I didn’t get into films wanting to do crazy, experimental stuff. Like I said, it was more out of necessity even though I do love watching experimental films. So I went into this like, “Okay, let’s do something that the casual viewer can enjoy and people like us who enjoy all these weird, obscure things too.” So doing that meant I had to start using more conventional cinematic language which also meant I was playing by a different set of rules than I was used to. It meant that my coverage had to be more strict, it meant a lot of different things too so it became this whole new challenge that I didn’t even realize was coming.
At the same time, I didn’t want it to be only this straight-forward horror movie and nothing else because that wouldn’t interest me at all. I wanted to find a way to inject my own stylization into this story while manipulating conventional filmmaking approaches.
Dread Central: I want to talk about Sharni for a moment; I loved that you didn’t make her into this character who has to find her inner strength because of this terrible ordeal- she was just always a badass from the start. Oh- and her “warrior woman” theme music, that felt straight out of a Carpenter flick; it made me want to go home and watch Assault on Precinct 13.
Adam Wingard: Simon and I have always thought it was so weird that a lot of movies that people say are feminist horror movies or female empowerment movies. The way the girl usually has to get to that point is that she’s either attacked or raped and her fighting back is her being empowered. That just kind of seems like bullshit to me; that might work a couple of times but I don’t think a woman needs to be raped to be empowered. I think it’s insulting for people to think that’s the only way a woman can be strong is to go through something like that- women are just tough, period.
So going into this, I wanted to make sure that this character was someone who was very interesting, who had her own type of sex appeal to her but it was important to me that Sharni wasn’t sexualized in any way. So working with Emma Potter, my costume designer, she was great about that sort of thing. We wanted to make her look cool and iconic but we didn’t want to do the Texas Chainsaw remake thing where she’s in short shorts and all that. That was the funny thing, in the audition process we had so many girls come in to read for the part and they’d be wearing Daisy Dukes and whatever which was the opposite of what I wanted.
But then Sharni comes in and she just IS that character, she’s just tough and the whole Australian thing makes it all the more believable. Australian people just seem more badass (laughs)- I mean, they are way more badass than us because they have to deal with bigger animals and insects and that kind of stuff. So that was a big thing for me was to make sure that her character really worked and the reason Sharni works so well in this role is because that is her personality shining through in her performance. And I think her prior experience as a dancer really helped her pull off the physicality of the role which was a really huge part of this role. There was never really anyone else we even remotely considered for this part. We got very, very lucky.
MINOR SPOILER ALERT!! Dread Central: Because the way that you’ve wrapped up this story where it’s very inclusive to these characters, I don’t know if there’s even a possibility for a sequel. Do you guys think there could ever be a possibility for a sequel at all to You’re Next?
Adam Wingard: Oh yeah, we already have some ideas for a sequel. I think Simon has a really solid idea of where this could go and I think we both know what we would do if we had the chance to make three of these movies. It really just depends on the success of the film and how it plays theatrically; if it does well enough we would gladly do a sequel and I would love to direct it. If I’m not able to direct it though, whoever we do get would need to bring their own unique sensibilities to it and not just a hired gun.
But yeah, I’d love to direct a sequel to You’re Next; it would just be a lot of fun to revisit that world and figure out how to make it work again because it would be a huge challenge to get back into all this. You’re Next has such a strange tone that really only makes sense if you watch it as it unfolds; trying to recapture that within a different context and way without repeating yourself would be an interesting challenge.
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