SXSW Survival Thriller Asks What Keeps You Alive

SXSW Survival Thriller Asks What Keeps You Alive?

Not just another Cabin in the Woods


SXSW Survival Thriller Asks <i>What Keeps You Alive</i>

There's a reason SXSW saved their Midnighters announcements for last – it's because they are the gems of the festival. Within the past five years, late-night audiences squirmed during Don't Breathe, gasping at every turn in The Invitation, and had pulses racing throughout The Guest. With so many tantalizing options in this year's strong lineup, it's hard to nail down just one, but you'll be dismayed if you miss the creeping dread of What Keeps You Alive.

Director Colin Minihan (Grave Encounters, It Stains the Sand Red) makes his SXSW debut with his fourth feature, a quiet cabin-in-the-woods horror film about a married couple, Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen), celebrating their first anniversary. Solitude doesn't tend to mix well with suspicion, though, and as the days start to slowly creep by, Jules begins to wonder if she really knows the woman she married. It's a commonplace plot, but with the right performances and direction it can be an incredible exercise in tension.

Minihan concocted his intimate thriller after reading a handful of articles about husbands who had murdered their wives. "I just started thinking about psychopaths," Minihan said. "What would drive someone to do that?" I read this book called The Psychopath Test that really motivated me. It was an interesting read. It talks about people in business, people who aren't killers, who are really successful in life ... they're on the next level of the evolutionary ladder in a weird way."

There aren't many opportunities for women to play dark, dastardly characters such as Jackie. In fact, Anderson's part wasn't even originally written for a woman – it was intended for a man. "I always envisioned this psychopath husband, [and] it was later as we were getting closer to actually shooting that it dawned on me the movie would be stronger if it was a same-sex couple," Minihan said. "I'm a real fan of normalizing the idea of audiences seeing just a couple who happens to be a same-sex couple, and not really having that be a factor in the narrative."

"It just came out of the heavens and dropped into my lap," added Anderson. She was connected to the project through Allen, who had starred with Anderson in Jigsaw. "It's the part that I had always wanted to play. I have a fairly dark mind, so I've always been interested in psychopaths."

Jules, on the other hand, was specifically written for Allen. As both Minihan's partner and collaborator, she not only helped cast Anderson, but also executive produced and scored the film. "He knew that the last couple of years I'd been teaching myself music production and writing my own music," she said. "This time I really stayed with the material intensely for a couple of months and really got to know it well."

Allen and Anderson's relationship chemistry is key to What Keeps You Alive's success, and they find themselves in roles perfectly molded to their strengths. With Jules, Allen finds a balance between her love and fear, and in contrast Anderson is ravished by Jackie and is able to savor her dark, refined role. Anderson noted, "What these people [have] in common are their cold, dead eyes – like shark eyes ... they always have this slight smirk, this enjoyment."


What Keeps You Alive

MIDNIGHTERS

Saturday, March 10, 11:55pm, Alamo Ritz
Monday, March 12, 10:45pm, Alamo South Lamar
Wednesday, March 14, 11am, Alamo South Lamar

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
John Krasinski and Emily Blunt on Their New Horror <i>A Quiet Place</i>
Visiting A Quiet Place
The filmmaking power couple on fighting monsters and real intimacy

Richard Whittaker, April 6, 2018

SXSW Film Review: <i>Upgrade</i>
Review: Upgrade
Cyberpunk action thriller has a few hidden features

Richard Whittaker, March 19, 2018

More by Jenny Nulf
My Obsession: <i>Fresh Off the Boat</i>
My Obsession: Fresh Off the Boat
Asian cinema expert calls this sitcom the series America needs right now

June 29, 2018

From Tibet to the Indian Ocean
From Tibet to the Indian Ocean
Indie Meme highlights the diverse visions of South Asian cinema

April 13, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

SXSW, Horror, What Keeps You Alive, SXSW Film 2018, Colin Minihan, Midnighters, Hannah Emily Anderson, Brittany Allen, LGBTQ

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle