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.