SXSW Survival Thriller Asks What Keeps You Alive
SXSW Survival Thriller Asks What Keeps You Alive?
Not just another Cabin in the Woods
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
MIDNIGHTERSSaturday, March 10, 11:55pm, Alamo Ritz
Monday, March 12, 10:45pm, Alamo South Lamar
Wednesday, March 14, 11am, Alamo South Lamar