Sharni Vinson – You’re Next

August 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

After shooting for 14 straight hours, an incredibly long day which included working through the night in Columbia, Missouri, Australian actress Sharni Vinson never thought she would have to take her role in the horror movie “You’re Next” home with her. In the film, Vinson plays Erin, a young woman who is more than capable of defending herself when a trio of masked men show up and begin killing people during her boyfriend’s parents’ wedding anniversary celebration. During one day in particular in Columbia, Vinson had completed her work on the set and went back to her “dingy motel” to get some sleep, but was woken up when someone started banging on her door.

“Someone was trying to get into my motel room, so I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stood there staring at the door almost challenging the guy to come in,” Vinson told me during a phone interview last week. “I’m so glad he didn’t because he wasn’t aware who he was messing with.”

Who he was messing with was an actress whose character in “You’re Next” is the most badass heroine in horror/sci-fi/thriller movie history since Sigourney Weaver in the “Alien” franchise. During my interview with Vinson, whose very first film was 2010’s “Step Up 3D, we talked about how her background in dance helped her with the more physical aspects of “You’re Next” and whether she could handle herself if put in the same situation as Erin.

You’re such a badass in this movie. Is that what attracted you to the role?

Absolutely. I think it’s time we saw this type of female character, especially in a horror movie. It’s more often than not we see the lead female protagonist in these movies portrayed in an unnecessary, overly-sexualized manner. We were trying to break all barriers in the [horror] genre and really flip the script on its head and give the audience a reason to root for their heroine.

What I found refreshing about the film is that it’s one of the very few horror movies I’ve seen that injects actual logic into the story. Did you feel the same way?

Yes, I really appreciated the sense and sensibility of the storyline. A lot of the time, you are presented with these horror movies and these situations. Even if it’s a wonderful film, if the underlying story doesn’t make sense, it takes you out of the entire believability of the film. I really appreciated that Simon Barrett really thought long and hard when he wrote the screenplay. The backstory that was created as the reason to why all of this was happening made complete sense to me. You can’t just have a great movie. You have to have a great storyline and great actors. I feel we checked a lot of those boxes.

Did your background in dance help you with the more physical aspects of this role?

Absolutely. I grew up dancing my whole life. It’s definitely something, even unknowingly so, that helped me prepare for this exact role. In dance you learn multiple types of dance. For me, especially with a movie like “Step Up 3D,” [dance] also included elements of Parkour, Capoeira, Brazilian martial arts, boxing and fighting. These are wonderful skill sets that definitely come into play when you tackle a character with this type of physicality.

So, what’s more fun – doing a pirouette or kicking someone in the throat?

(Laughs) Great question! How about we do a double pirouette and end with kicking somebody in the throat? Let’s make that happen! That would be awesome!

If put in the same situation as Erin, how do you think you would fare? Would you survive?

I really hope so. I think by playing a character like Erin it gives you confidence. If presented with a situation like this, hopefully I could take care of myself. It definitely opened my eyes up to being more prepared in case something happens and feeling more confident in myself to fight back. It opened my eyes to the importance of learning self-defense, especially for women. If I was ever in a situation like this, I would hope I could borrow from parts of Erin and take care of myself.

What would be your weapon of choice in a kitchen full of utensils? Would you stick to the meat tenderizer?

(Laughs) Anything that was available! You know, the kitchen would be the best place to be. With a kitchen comes a lot of knives. It all comes down to what is available. You just have to grab something and defend yourself. You just want to pick up the sharpest knife possible.

Other than some weird guy banging on your motel room door, what gives you the creeps?

(Laughs) Spiders! The bigger they are, the worse. I’m from Australia, so I’ve had too many situations where I’ve been face to face with Huntsman [spiders] and tarantulas and spiders that are bigger than my face. That’s not OK. There was a time when I was asleep in my bed in Australia and I woke up with a Huntsman spider crawling on my face. If you don’t know what a Huntsman is, please Google it. It’s terrifying. It’s not an average spider. It’s massive and hairy and horrible. After that happened, I had a proper case of arachnophobia.

Are you ever going to be able to listen to the song “Looking for the Magic” by the Dwight Twilley Band again without thinking horrible things?

I love that song. I actually downloaded it to my iPad mini. I think that song is so brilliant. It complements the tone [of the movie] we were trying to get perfectly. I listen to that song almost every single day. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to it and not think of “You’re Next.” It’s taken on the sense of being the “You’re Next” theme song. I’ll always associate it with the movie, but not in a terrifying way because I really do enjoy that song.

What are horror films in Australia like today? Are there any that are exclusively Australian, or do you basically get whatever the U.S. produces?

We make some wonderful Australian horror movies. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen “Wolf Creek.” It was a very terrifying film. I have to also mention in 1978, one of our cult classic movies “Patrick” came out and we recently remade that movie last year. I had the opportunity to star in the movie opposite Charles Dance and Rachel Griffiths. It’s a horror/psychological thriller that involves the concept of telekinesis. It was very much a new subject back in the 80s, but in dealing with the remake now, we’ve really been able to take the advances in technology and put that into this film to hopefully provide the audience with a wonderful film. We’re screening the movie at Fantastic Fest this year, so I’m very excited to be there and prove to America that we can make great horror movies as well.

You’re Next

August 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg
Directed by: Adam Wingard (“V/H/S”)
Written by: Simon Barrett (“V/H/S”)

When it comes to elevating the standard slasher movie into something more than just a series of cheap thrills and gory kills, “You’re Next” hits the nail on the head by adding just the right amount of wit and peppering the story with enough tossed-off bits of backstory to ground the proceedings in at least a twinge of believability. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t talking about an intricately-plotted puzzle of terror and dark comedy here, but when it all wraps up the audience should be satisfied with the circumstances behind the protagonist’s deft handling of knives and meat tenderizers in the heat of battle.

After a bloody prologue kills a couple post-coitus – leaving a bloody calling card on a window featuring the title of the film – the story shifts to that all-too-familiar of settings: a creaky old house in the middle of nowhere. Fresh into retirement, Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) arrive on the eve of their anniversary party. While cleaning, Aubrey hears a strange noise coming from upstairs, convinced there is someone else in the house. As Rob ventures upstairs to check things out, he’s surprised by his son Crispian (AJ Bowen), who has just arrived with his girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson). The rest of the family trickles in with spouses and various significant others in tow, kicking off the anniversary festivities. Soon, though, dinner devolves into a family squabble, the arguments only broken up when a hail of deadly arrows begins raining down on the dining room. As attackers sporting creepy barnyard animal masks, jam cell phones and drive hatchets into skulls, staying alive is all that matters to the family now. It’s opportune, then, that Erin spent the first 15 years of her life living in an Australian survivalist commune and is startlingly capable of fighting back.

Director Adam Wingard (“V/H/S”) marshals his cast of relative unknowns into what feels like a mildly-quirky indie drama for the first 45 minutes (prologue notwithstanding, of course) before springing the trap with a bolt from a crossbow making its way through a character’s skull. Wingard also handles a second act plot twist with calm restraint, where a lesser movie would have stuck it smack in the middle of the climax. And while Sharni Vinson’s Erin owes more to horror-movie heroines like the “Scream” series’ Sydney Prescott than to put-upon reluctant heroes like the “Evil Dead” series’ Ash, it is refreshing to have a female lead survive a horror film because she’s a bona fide badass, not simply the beneficiary of good luck and bumbling bad guys.

Step Up 3D

August 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Rick Malambri, Adam G. Sevani, Sharni Vinson
Directed by: Jon Chu (“Step Up 2: The Streets”)
Written by: Amy Andelson (debut) and Emily Meyer (debut)

It may be the best movie of the street-dance franchise, but “Step Up 3D” has to face the same facts its two predecessors did: great chorography and dance sequences might be enough for dance enthusiasts to gravitate toward, but without a sensible script and at least a smidgen of acting ability from the cast, what’s really the point?

It sure isn’t the 3-D technology that merits another return to the series, which started back in 2006 with Channing Tatum in the lead role. The 3-D only works when the dancers are incorporating hand movements into their performance and when the camera is at eye level, but much of the ploy is merely added to keep up with the money-making trend most summer movies are forced to invest.

After the original movie hit theaters four years ago and turned Tatum into a hot commodity in Hollywood (the guy has four major movies opening next year), the story hit a plateau with “Step Up 2: The Streets” despite having more characters and imaginative moves. Still, it maintained its priority for energetic dancing techniques, which has really been the franchise’s only strong suit. In this round, “3D” follows Moose (Adam G. Sevani) as he joins up with a new dance crew after he enrolls at New York University to study engineering.

Heading the group is Luke (Rick Malambri), a dancer and aspiring filmmaker, who recruits kids from all over the city who have the talent it’ll take to help him defeat the their rivals in the New York City dance world. The antagonists are known as the House of Samurai, who are always the favorite to win the big dance competition of the year.

This year, however, it’s about survival for Luke and his crew. They need to win the $100,000 prize money so the bank doesn’t foreclose on their dance studio and sell it to the highest bidder at auction. With Moose and new exciting dancer and love interest Natalie (Sharni Vinson) in Luke’s lineup, the group must work towards the big hip-hop showdown against their nemesis if they want to keep the crew together.

If all you’re interested in is the frenetic footwork of the dancers, then by all means see “Step Up 3D.” The talent these dancers have is fantastic and worthy of an audience. The same can be said, however, about the number of reality dance shows on TV right now that highlight different dancing styles.

Reality dance shows are an easier pill to swallow, however, because they don’t include the ridiculous storylines movies like “Step Up 3D” flash around so it can call itself a movie. Watching these kids flip and kick and defy gravity with their dancing abilities is impressive. Everything else is a collection of inept sub-cultural afterthoughts.

Sharni Vinson – Step Up 3D

August 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

Australian actress, model and dancer Sharni Vinson has only been living in the U.S. for two years, but she already landed her first lead role in a major Hollywood movie.

Vinson, 27, who moved from Sydney to L.A. in 2008 to pursue her career in the entertainment industry, stars in “Step Up 3D,” the third installment of the popular street dance film franchise that started in 2006.

In “Step Up 3D,” Vinson plays Natalie, the newest addition to a New York City street dance crew who hopes to win the prize money in a dance competition so their studio won’t be shut down.

During an interview with me, Vinson talked about the long tradition of dancing in her family and the challenges she faced learning new dancing styles.

What is your earliest memory of dancing?

I’ve been dancing my whole life. I’m a third-generation performer. My grandmother was a ballerina. My mother was in musical theater. I remember watching my mother perform when I was young and thinking, “That’s what I want to do.”

You must’ve seen a lot of yourself in your character.

Yeah, it hit close to home. She is a dancer and her life revolves around it. I stopped dancing for a while a couple of years ago and I was lost during that time. There is a passion that dance brings out of you. That is what Natalie is all about. I connected to her through that.

You moved to L.A. from Australia only two years ago. What did your family think when you told them of your decision?

They were supportive. They knew it was something that I’ve always wanted to do. It wasn’t a shock. It was planned out. My mom flies out as much as she can to visit me. They are happy that I’m living the dream.

“Step Up 3D” is, of course, the third installment of this franchise. What is it about the dancing techniques that make it stand out from the rest?

These moves are ones you’ve never seen before. We brought in the best dancers that exist at the particular styles they excel in. [Director] Jon [Chu] has captured everything in this film. There are so many new styles that aren’t in the other two. Everyone will be able to relate to a lot of the different dances.

With your background in dance, how challenging was this style of dance compared to your experience?

It was challenging for me because I grew up a ballerina. Many of these styles are more hip-hop. With each choreographer comes a different style. The most challenging things are the most rewarding when you get them right. It’s been a pleasure to watch it all unfold and see the finished product.

Do you have to be open to different dance styles if you want to be a professional dancer?

Yeah, you have to expand with the amount of different styles that come in. Some of these dances come about because one day someone decided to express themselves to music in their individual way. Shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” are introducing all these different styles of dance and taking these dancers who may only know one specific style and making them broaden themselves and learn more. It makes you a better dancer. It’s important to embrace it all. But at the same time, everyone is special because of their uniqueness. You should never lose that. It’s cool to learn all these styles that you’ve never heard of before. Expression through music is the best part.