Home invasion films aren't normally fun and exciting to watch. There are either uncomfortable to watch like “Funny Games” or feature a not-so-happy ending like “Them.” However, “You’re Next” takes that sub-genre and turn it on its head by injecting some much needed humor in movie that features some brutal kill scenes.
Crispian (AJ Bowen) takes his girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) as a guest to his family’s annual reunion. As the Davidson family reunion is underway, a gang of masked killers crash their party as they dispatch each family member one by one. Utilizing her background as a survivalist, it is up to Erin to rise to the occasion in order to save the remaining family members, survive the night and fight fire with fire. I had the opportunity to interview Vinson last week when she was in town promoting the movie as we talked about her first reaction to the script, finding a connection with her character and the closest she came to being severely incapacitated.
How did you get to do this project?
Sharni Vinson: This was bit of a different lead way into a movie than before. Usually, you get a call from your agent or manager, then you go in for an audition and you try to do the best you can do. For this one, I had a phone call from a friend of mine who is a stuntman in the industry. He was friends with the producers and was very aware that they were trying to cast this cool, physical, action-esque dramatic role. They have been struggling mainly in casting someone with the physicality that could step into the demands of the role. That’s when my name came up and they starting looking through the stunt industry and go in that direction. I haven’t been a stunt girl before, but it’s been a big passion of mine to always pursue stunts and I’m friends with a lot of stuntmen in the business. Thankfully, that’s how mine was brought up. I went in and read with AJ Bowen and the rest is history.
What was it about the script that caught your attention when you read it?
Vinson: The first time I read it, I tried to read it from a general audience perspective and not with the character in mind or me in mind as that character. I just wanted to feel how I would react if I was watching this movie as an audience member. I really, really enjoyed the script. It was unlike any script that I read before. The second time I read the script, I really tried to visualize myself as the character and I already started to decisions that I would make as the character. I felt such a passion to want to portray this character and be this girl. There were so many similar parts between me and the character that I felt like I was this girl. Anything I couldn't relate to, I wanted to able to by exploring within her. At the end of the day, it was the character and the challenge of reading the script and knowing that whoever had the pleasure of doing this role, also had the challenge of knowing this movie was solely going to rest on that person’s shoulders.
Was it intimidating for you to have role like that knowing that you will be carrying this movie?
Vinson: I wouldn't say it was intimidating. It was challenging. I’m always looking for a new way to challenge myself and for this role, that’s the way it was going to be. I never carried a movie to this degree of the way Erin steps up to this film and take charge.
You’ve done physically-demanding work before in other movies whether it was dancing in “Step Up 3D” or surfing in “Blue Crush 2.” Was working on “You’re Next” as physically-demanding those other films?
Vinson: “Step Up” was the most physically-demanding. It was a five-month shoot and we had five weeks of boot camp and rehearsals before we shot the movie. It was so grueling. We were given 14 hours a day of pure physical exercise. Out personal trainer for that movie told us, “Athletes that preparing for the Olympics don’t train as hard this hard. Once you get through something like this, there’s nothing you can’t do afterwards.” That is almost how I feel with how demanding the physical aspect of that film was. It prepared me for those other roles.
What would you say was the most challenging scene to shoot?
Vinson: For me, I was really concerned in putting sharp objects in proximity to actors’ faces. I really wanted to get the realism across. Having to stab people in the eye with knives and break glass across their faces and beat people repeatedly with crazy objects was kind of the scariest and challenging thing because I just didn't want to injure anybody. I have this known history of injuring myself on my movies and I break something on every film I ever shot except for this one. My aim for this was not to break my own body part and to not injure another actor. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I did.
Were there any close calls on the set?
Vinson: Yeah. I had multiple bruising and things like that in the preparation of diving through thresholds, crawling under tables and doing your own falls in order to make it look believable as possible. There were so many moments like that, but the closest call was during the dinner table scene where we had the full cast at play as the drama was unfolding. I had to dive underneath the table and fast crawl under there. I ducked under the table and Amy Seimetz was still under there with her 6-inch stiletto sticking straight up in the air and it went straight into the corner of my eye. It drew blood instantly and swelled up to the point where I did have a bit of a black eye. We couldn't do anymore close-ups for the remainder of the day, which was okay because we got through it super quick. I still have both eyes so at the end of the day, it wasn't too bad.
“You’re Next” premiered two years ago at the Toronto International Film Festival. With the movie finally getting a wide release, what was the journey like for you from the film premiering in Toronto to opening nationwide next week?
Vinson: It’s been a journey like no other I have been on. This is my first independent film. Coming from a more studio-based background, you are aware when you are shooting a movie; you already have a release date. You have a plan and the plan is set in stone. With this movie, there was so many question marks. I got to be involved with the process from script stage to finishing the movie to screening it at festivals to having it picked up by Lionsgate to having it shelved momentarily while we figured out the best time to release it. If that meant delaying it a little longer then what we initially hoped, it also meant it would come with some frustrations and not knowing when we were going to have it out. It gets a bit scary when you are thinking, “What if it never comes out?” In the meantime, there’s all these different kind of screenings where we get the opportunity to test the movie. It’s so bizarre to think we shot this movie two years ago and it’s only coming out next week. We still haven’t got there yet, but we are finally at the home stretch. It’s going to be such a rewarding moment when we finally release because of the fact that the journey has been such a long one.
Without giving too much away, what is your favorite death in the movie?
Vinson: I think my favorite death is one of the very last ones, which takes place in the kitchen. It was for me because I got to work with two actors in a three-way fight scene that takes place in a very small setting. We had to choreograph some of these intricate moments of attack and revenge. I also get to shoot that scene with one of my friends and roommate at the time, Wendy Glenn. It’s not often you get to do a cat-fight with one of your best friends. I just really enjoyed the fact that within that scene, we would grab any object that is not usually deemed weapons, but in the moment, you’re grabbing anything to make it work. I think that is what plays out to the audience is the element of surprise, especially when it involves one object in particular that leads to one amazing and memorable death scene. It was cool because I got to work heavily with the stunt coordinator and I really enjoy any moment when I get to do that. The other two actors involved were so willing to have doors slammed in their faces and frying pans slapped across their heads. It was also a good moment for me because I get injured in the scene too. I get stabbed and choked. There are moments where you are fearful for her. I didn't just get to be the one in charge. I also got to cop it a little bit in that scene to.
This movie has a strong filmmaking ensemble within the cast including Ti West and Joe Swanberg. Did you kind of feel like your character in terms of feeling sort of like an outsider who is getting to know these people for the first time?
Vinson: It’s funny that you said that because it does play a bit into reality. Those guys are so talented and they have worked together numerous times before. There was an amazing chemistry on set and it actually plays out in the movie. I feel like I quickly grew that chemistry as well after spending some time there on the set with them. We’re family now, but initially, I did feel intimidated and felt like the one fish out of water among these genius filmmakers on set.
“You’re Next” opens in South Florida theaters this Friday. Click here for showtimes.