About the Production
Principal photography for YOU'RE NEXT took place over 26 days in and around snowy Columbia, Missouri. The majority of those days were spent shooting at the rambling and somewhat rundown English Tudor-style mansion that serves as both the Davison-family estate and the target of the movie's home-invasion storyline.
"Finding the house ended up being one of the most challenging parts of pre-production," says director Adam Wingard. "We looked at all kinds of places, from really super modern to more 'country farmhouse'-like places. But nothing worked." It was production designer Thomas S. Hammock who kept pushing for the right location. "Every time we would look at a place, he'd say, 'This has this, but it doesn't have that.' We could always tell whether a place was right just by the expression on Tom's face.
"Two weeks before the shooting started, we finally found the mansion that we ended up filming in. But it hadn't been lived in for like 12 years, so there were a lot of things we had to do to update it. Within two weeks, Tom had completely redecorated the whole place. It was amazing, in itself. We certainly couldn't have done it without him."
Once Hammock fixed the mansion up, Wingard needed to figure out how to shoot YOU'RE NEXT without leaving it looking like it had been through a real-life home invasion. "We were in this historic house and we couldn't mess up the walls," he explains. "So we had to create fake walls throughout the house so we could shoot things like arrows and bolts through them in the movie. Every time you see something propelling through the house in the film, you'll know that it required fake walls and a two-hour set up of these crazy cardboard things to make sure that nothing in the house was actually damaged."
Outside of the fake walls, much of the horrifying realism in YOU'RE NEXT was a result of Wingard's shooting and directing style. "It's completely different from any other film," explains Wendy Glenn, who plays Zee in this movie. "The way Adam shoots is all very close and intimate -- and I think that creates the tension for the audience. When you watch it, it makes you feel like you're really there -- and that you shouldn't really be watching. It's so personal and so intimate. That's what makes it scary."
Sharni Vinson, who plays Erin, adds: "Adam Wingard is a genius and his filmmaking is game-changing. He's not afraid to think outside the box, to take risks, to try things that are edgy. And he's such a hands-on director. He really gets in there -- with the steady cam on his shoulder, or on his back with the camera -- and he's moving around the set, sweating with the actors. It's just a dream to work with a director who gets so involved."
That's not to say Wingard doesn't know his limits. On one scene in particular, a basement chase setup, he acknowledges that he had to cede control to cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo. The script called for one of the characters to run through the basement, desperately breaking lights to create darkness and then using a strobe-light camera flash to distract the killers. As good as it sounded on paper, it proved difficult to capture on film. "It was one of the more challenging sequences in the whole movie because of the direction and the lighting," Wingard says. "I had to turn to Andrew and say, 'This is out of my league. I'm going to need your help.' And to his credit, he knew exactly what to do and knew all the right angles in terms of lighting.
"Of course, when it came back to shooting the violent portion of that scene," Wingard adds, "it became a bit more self-explanatory."
Another technical element critical to the success of the film were the masks worn by the killers. "We wanted them to have iconic masks, but it's hard to come up with a horror movie with a masked killer that hasn't been done before," Barrett says. "I'm a huge fan of the film The Strangers, but when you see those masks you can't help but ask, 'Wait, are these people insane sociopaths at night who, during the day, go back to being hipsters who sew elaborate masks?'
"We actually did a lot of design work on our masks," he adds. "But we didn't want them to look that way. They basically look as if you could buy them at the drugstore. I didn't want the audience wondering how much time the killers spent in the basement of an art school building their masks."
From beginning to end, the process of making YOU'RE NEXT was about playing with audience's expectations, Wingard says. "The magic of this movie for me was getting to think about how we could subvert what people think about horror movies, in general. How do we gross them out? How do we terrify them?" And then, perhaps most importantly, "how do we do all of that in a way that they really get them behind the film and wanting to see it again and again?"
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